The 75th season of the NBA is nearing its end, with the NBA Finals starting on Thursday. The Warriors, for the first time since their tough 2019 loss to the Warriors. Their 2022 Finals appearance will be their sixth trip to the Finals since 2015. This is the Boston Celtics’ first title series appearance since 2010 when they lost to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
Boston enters the Finals after beating the Nets, Bucks, and Heat, who each beat the Celtics during the last three postseasons. The Celtics were able to make this run despite a slow start to the season. Boston went .500 over the first 50 games of the season but won after 26 of their last 32 games, finishing the season with the best defensive rating in the League.
The Warriors beat the Nuggets, Grizzlies, and Mavericks during their run to the Finals. They finished the regular-season with a 53-29 record, good for third in the West. They’ve had a season of triumph with Stephen Curry breaking the all-time record for made three-pointers and creating the 3k club and the happy return of Klay Thompson following 942 days away from the hardwood.
They also had to deal with injuries to Curry and Green that almost knocked them off the top of the West, but the emergence of Jordan Poole and some timely big games from Thompson helped them stave off any trouble.
The regular-season series between the Warriors and Celtics ended in a 1-1 tie, with both teams winning their home games; Boston won the last matchup 110-88, but the Warriors were missing Andrew Wiggins, and Curry suffered a foot sprain that night that sidelined him until Game 1 of the first-round after colliding with Marcus Smart as the two fought for a loose ball.
Can Golden State Solve Boston’s Defense?
Boston has the top-ranked defense remaining in the Finals and is designed to stop the chaotic motion offense of the Warriors. The Celtics’ ability to wear teams out physically and their switchablity is why they became the best defense in the League.
On the other side, the Dubs are the top-ranked offense in the playoffs, scoring 116.1 points per game—up to four points from what they scored during the regular season. The main question will be, can Golden State rely on their typical offensive actions going against a defense that’s been excellent at stopping superstar scorers like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Golden State will have to exploit Boston’s mistakes whenever they can, shooting if Boston plays drop-in pick-and-roll, taking advantage whenever Boston blitzes off those same actions, or making the most of cross-matches whenever they present themselves.
Can Brown and Tatum Limit Their Turnovers and Tatum Exploiting Mismatches
Boston struggled when Tatum and Brown were flimsy with the ball this postseason. The All-Star duo committed 54 turnovers in their six losses, turning the ball over a combined 5.9 turnovers per game. A team like Golden State will take advantage of those mistakes.
On the other end, Boston will continue to thrive on Tatum hunting mismatches against the Warriors, mainly when Curry or Poole are switched on him whether it’s shooting over defenders or whipping the ball around so that Boston can attack Golden State when Boston has a 4-on-3 advantage.
Coach Steve Kerr’s solution may be to mix different coverages against Tatum, likely doubling, switching, and mixing in some zone looks like the Warriors used against Luka Doncic. The question will then be if Derrick White, Smart, and Brown can knock down the shots Tatum creates for them.
Golden State’s biggest x-factor will have to be the two-way play of Andrew Wiggins. As a member of the Warriors, Wiggins has emerged as an All-Star after thriving as a third option scorer. His shot creation, defensive versatility, and offensive rebound make him one of Golden State’s most indispensable players. Wiggins will have to take on Tatum on one end and then make the most of his opportunities against a physical defense that thrives at reducing ball movement and forcing some iso play.
Robert Williams occupies the other x-factor spot. The Time Lord’s shot-blocking at the rim and perimeter has been invaluable when healthy. Against the Warriors, Williams will have to stay engaged against the screening, cutting, and direct handoff actions from players like Green, Looney, and Payton. On the offensive end, Williams is a primetime lob threat.