The daily preview takes it to the rim with NBA tips for Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Finals between Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics.
11:00 (AEST), Fri 3rd Jun @ Chase Center, San Francisco
History: Played 369: Celtics 224 V Warriors 145
Last meeting: March 16, 2022: Celtics 110 d Warriors 88 at Chase Center
Final Thoughts: After two seasons in the wilderness, Golden State Warriors return for their sixth NBA Finals appearance in eight years. They face Boston Celtics, who took out the Eastern Conference title for the first time in 12 years.
It was a relatively smooth path through the Western Conference playoffs for the Warriors. They beat the Nuggets 4-1, outlasted the Grizzlies in six games and rebuffed the Mavericks’ challenge in five. The Warriors’ four wins over the Mavs were by margins of nine or more, while Klay Thompson dropped 32 points in their series-sealing Game 5 victory.
But Golden State unsurprisingly still revolve around the incomparable Steph Curry, who averages 25.9 points and 6.2 assists. Jordan Poole has developed into a key performer off the bench, while big man Kevon Looney and forwards Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins flesh out a formidable starting side.
Celtics do it the hard way
Following their First Round sweep of the Nets, the Celtics’ path through the post-season has been far more gruelling. Boston came from behind three times to win their series against the Bucks in seven game. They trailed the Heat twice in the Conference Finals and failed to capitalise on a 3-2 lead at home, before winning a tight Game 7 in Miami.
Jayson Tatum, averaging 27 points and 6.7 rebounds, is the Celtics’ spearhead, but fellow starters Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III have all been intermittently outstanding through the playoffs.
Williams and Smart have been carrying injuries of late. Williams is listed as day-to-day, but Smart’s ankle is reportedly good to go. The Warriors are hoping to have role-players Andre Iguodala (neck), Otto Porter Jr (foot) and Gary Payton II (elbow) for Game 1.
Few clues from season series – but home court key
The Celtics have won six of their last seven against the Warriors, but the teams’ home-and-away encounters this season were split. The Warriors snatched a 111-107 victory in Boston in December, with Curry and Wiggins combining for 57 points; Tatum (27 pts) top-scored for the beaten hosts. The Celtics turned the tables in San Francisco with a 110-88 in March as Tatum (12 reb) and Brown both posted 26 points and Marcus Smart chipped in with 20 points and 8 assists. Poole scored 29 points for the Warriors with Curry only playing 13 minutes.
The Warriors are 40-10 at home this season (30-18-2 against the start, second in the league) – including a perfect 9-0 record in the playoffs, with seven of those wins coming by margins of nine or more. The Celtics are 30-20 on the road this season (an NBA-best 33-16-1 ATS), but more impressively they are 7-2 away during the playoffs.
These teams were the top-two defensive outfits of the regular season. The Celtics rank second defensively in the playoffs with the Warriors in sixth. Golden State tops the offensive ratings in the post-season with Curry firing on all cylinders.
These Finals loom as a new challenge for Curry: he’s won three Championships but never the MVP gong, overshadowed by the likes of Kevin Durant and Iguodala. But Curry is unmistakably the player who needs to step up and control the Warriors’ destiny.
That said, the Warriors’ experience on this stage is a major advantage against the Celtics. Through Curry, Thompson and Poole, the Warriors have a clear edge in the back-court, but the Tatum-led front-court is where the Celtics will make up that deficit.
While Boston have had a few days to recover, they will be weary from a couple of taxing series back-to-back. Golden State have had a week to recalibrate and should take the 1-0 lead – relatively comfortably, too, despite a fairly small line.