It is official, the NBA Finals is set as the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics are set to go to battle after the Celtics dismantled the reigning number one seed in the East, Miami Heat, in Game 7. Boston certainly had moments of excellence during the Eastern Conference Finals but also had moments where they almost blew their chance at making the Finals. But the Celtics survived Jimmy Butler’s late-series onslaught as they place themselves against the Golden State in what should be an absolute thriller.
Golden State finished with a strong seeding in the Western Conference this year, ranking 1st in defensive rating. Led by All-Star-caliber players including Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, the Warriors were one of the best teams in the conference all year long. They even managed to have a strong regular season despite the early season absence of Klay Thompson. After making quick work of the Dallas Mavericks and ending their playoff run in 5 games, their next target is the talented Boston Celtics squad led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
It is expected that this series will go the distance because both teams are strong on offense thanks to All-NBA Team scorers and also exceptional on defense thanks to All-Defensive Team performers. The Celtics have all the momentum in the world after finishing off the Heat in 7 games, and Golden State has had plenty of rest after making quick work of Dallas. With the Finals around the corner, it is time to delve into the ultimate team comparison between the Warriors and Celtics as they strive for the 2022 NBA title.
Warriors Starting Lineup: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney
Celtics Starting Lineup: Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Robert Williams III
Golden State’s starting lineup has been consistently great, mainly because the core trio of stars won 3 NBA championships in 5 Finals appearances. After making yet another Finals appearance, the Warriors are full of confidence. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green have all been in the trenches with each other before and will be hungry to win their 4th NBA title together. Steph is the best shooter in the world, Klay is a two-way star, and Green has been at his best on the defensive side of the ball and with his playmaking.
Andrew Wiggins has been key in the postseason with the Warriors and is growing in confidence thanks to his offensive firepower, defensive presence on the wing, and elite athleticism. We are finally seeing the best of Wiggins’ path to becoming a perennial All-Star, and he will be forced to defend Tatum and Brown tightly. Kevon Looney has been a role player for most of his career, but he brings size and plenty of experience to the Warriors' mix of stars.
Boston’s starting lineup is close-knit thanks to supreme chemistry. Marcus Smart has proven to be one of the most underrated players in the NBA over the past few years and has proven to be the well-deserved Defensive Player of the Year. Smart’s defense has been invaluable throughout the postseason, and he has set the tone for this Boston Celtics squad whenever he has played. Without Smart on the floor, Boston looked like an entirely different team on the floor. Of course, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are simply unstoppable when they get going on offense.
Tatum and Brown’s ability to create their own shots will be huge, especially when the team plays fail thanks to the elite defense from Golden State. Jayson Tatum might be the most talented player in the series because he brings elite size and scoring along with improved playmaking ability. So far, Tatum is averaging an impressive 27.0 PPG and 6.7 RPG in the playoffs, while Brown is chipping in 22.9 PPG and 6.8 RPG.
Finally, Al Horford and Robert Williams III are certainly a talented duo that can control the interior with size and skill. As great as Draymond Green is in the paint, he cannot make up for Kevon Looney’s lack of offensive firepower while he lacks his own. Horford and Williams are slightly bigger and should be key in the series as well.
Overall, both teams’ starting lineup is deep in every position and each player has had big games in the previous series. Golden State’s experience matches up with Boston’s energy, making this an even playing field.
Warriors Playoff Rotation: Gary Payton II, Jordan Poole, Damion Lee, Moses Moody, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Jonathan Kuminga, Otto Porter Jr, Nemanja Bjelica
Celtics Playoff Rotation: Payton Pritchard, Derrick White, Nick Stauskas, Grant Williams, Daniel Theis
There is no doubt that Golden State’s bench is deeper and more talented, especially when Jordan Poole has been on fire for most of the postseason averaging 18.4 PPG off the bench mainly. The shooting guard’s ability to create his own offense has been key to Golden State’s Finals run this year. Not to mention, the rest of the Warriors’ bench players all know their role and are willing to take backseat roles to make open shots and hustle for loose balls.
It is likely Gary Payton II will be back, and he will add to the elite defense that Golden State employs. Kuminga and Porter Jr can be trusted to play significant minutes as well because they can switch positions on defense and provide hustle and athleticism to go with outside shooting. The Warriors are stacked, and it will show in the NBA Finals.
Boston’s bench is not very deep, as they mainly relied on three players to come off the bench in Payton Pritchard, Derrick White, and Grant Williams. All three are hustle-first players that can make open shots, but none of them are on the level of Jordan Poole in terms of offensive firepower. Unless Grant Williams can hit 5-6 three-pointers in critical games and White plays like he did in Game 7 against Miami, Boston will likely lose the bench battle.
Overall, the edge has to go to Golden State, and that is because of their big names including Jordan Poole, and the versatility of Kuminga and Porter Jr. Boston will need to hope that Grant Williams has a big series with his shooting because they will sorely need him to perform in order to keep up with Poole, especially.
Advantage: Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors: Steve Kerr
Boston Celtics: Ime Udoka
Steve Kerr has been leading exciting postseason battles ever since he became the full-time head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Kerr deserves a massive amount of credit for making the Warriors so dominant over the past few years, and he has 3 NBA titles to show for it. The coach employs one of the best offenses in the league and has found a way to make every player scramble in defensive situations.
Most importantly, the players love and respond to Kerr. The former Chicago Bulls guard has his rotation down to a science because he can throw on the right players in the best situations. He has proven many times before that he knows how to win and how to motivate his players. Luckily for Boston, the team has an elite coach to counter what Kerr can bring in terms of motivation, team chemistry, and game plans.
Ime Udoka has blossomed into an excellent head coach in his very first season. The Boston Celtics ranked first in the Eastern Conference in defense and surely looked like it in the playoffs. Marcus Smart played the best defense of his career, shutting down opposing guards and also leading the pack in hustle and hunger to win. Udoka has also won over the team’s stars in Tatum and Brown because they are buying into the system that involves sharing the ball and competing on defense.
Overall, there is no significant edge on either side. Kerr has the experience, and Udoka has the momentum. The Warriors know how to win in the big games, but the Celtics are performing at an exceptional level throughout the year. Things might change, but so far, the coaching department is even for both sides.
Golden State Warriors Advantages
The Golden State Warriors have championship experience, something that is not taught or coached. Curry, Thompson, and Green are one of the best trios in NBA history in terms of success, and they are still all in their prime (assuming Klay is more or less healthy). Golden State knows how they play, and their identity keeps them on a playing field beyond anyone else. The fact that Gary Payton II could be cleared to play will motivate Steve Kerr and the Warriors’ lineup very well.
The Warriors also have the best shooting in the league, and shooting is dictating how teams play in the modern NBA. Curry, Thompson, and Poole are undeniably great at shooting, meaning Golden State will most likely shoot a higher percentage from the three-point line. That is an automatic advantage for a team that will live and die by the three-point shot, similar to the Boston Celtics.
Stephen Curry will also have heightened motivation to win his 4th ring and 1st Finals MVP award to solidify himself as one of the all-time greats. There is no question that doubters exist because Steph has benefited from the presence of Kevin Durant during the 2017 and 2018 championship seasons. With the best player motivated, the Warriors will play the best team basketball.
Boston Celtics Advantages
The Celtics just completed a dramatic 7-game series that went their way after their defeat of the Miami Heat. They have the momentum and teach chemistry at an absolute 100 at the moment, and the stars certainly performed in a critical Game 7 Sunday afternoon. Marcus Smart is back to playing his best basketball on both ends of the floor, and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were firing on all cylinders.
Derrick White and Grant Williams also had important performances in Game 7, mainly due to their hustle and defense. If they keep it up, Boston’s stars will have plenty of help on both ends of the floor. The Celtics also have the advantage of having Horford and Williams III, two bigs that can defend the rim and also utilize their size to make a significant impact.
If Tatum and Brown play at their best, the Celtics will realistically have the best duo in the series. Klay Thompson is not 100%, although he has looked at it at times. Green is not an offensive firepower, even though he does not need to be. But Tatum and Brown are elite athletes and scorers, and if the role players show up, they can win the series for the Celtics.
Motivation Is At An All-Time High For Both Teams
If there is one thing going for both teams, it is motivation. The Golden State Warriors might not have a lot to prove, but Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson do. Curry famously does not have a Finals MVP, basically indicating that he has been outplayed by Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant in his championship seasons. Also, there are doubters as to where Steph ranks all-time among the best players ever. If Curry can win his 4th ring and 1st Finals MVP, his resume will look significantly better as he looks to climb the all-time rankings as a point guard. While Magic Johnson will never be reached, Steph can firmly hold the number two spot.
Meanwhile, Klay Thompson will be hungry to prove he is indeed a top-75 player of all time and that he can return to his All-Star form. There are doubters about his health, but Thompson wants to prove he can return to his best level and also quiet the critics who slam him as a “shooter” other than a superstar perimeter player.
For Boston, the idea of winning a record-breaking 18th championship is the ultimate motivator. The Celtics have endured a tough season and a tough road to the Finals, and losing would be a disaster for their players. After starting the season at a .500 record, they were the best team in the league after the All-Star Break and also had to take on elite teams. Led by their superstar Jayson Tatum, the Celtics had to endure Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the first round. Yikes.
After dealing with Brooklyn, the Celtics ran into reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks led by the best player in the world, Giannis Antetokounmpo. But they handled business, only to run into the first-seeded Miami Heat. Once again a difficult matchup, the Celtics survived and find themselves in the Finals against 3-time champion Warriors led by Steph Curry.
Jayson Tatum has a chance to be mentioned among the all-time great Celtics players if he wins the chip, and if he does indeed win his first title, he would have completed one of the most impressive postseason runs in NBA history. Motivation is at an all-time high for both teams, a reason why the Finals will be one for the ages.
It Will Be Hard To Stop The Celtics From Completing History
This series will be one of the most exciting in these playoffs so far. Both sides have elite defensive players that are not afraid of playing aggressively and scorers that are capable of taking over games with shooting ability. Obviously, both teams are not completely 100%, but that is normal for a long season that ends in the Finals. The matchups with Wiggins and Klay with Tatum and Brown could decide the series, especially since Smart and Curry will be locked in their own battles.
In the end, through a Game 7 victory, the Boston Celtics will make history by surviving Golden State’s elite offense. The Warriors are a great team in big moments, and could easily win the series if Curry, Thompson, and Poole get hot from deep. But the Celtics have come too far and have developed elite team chemistry, meaning they will not let the Warriors get easy shots. Tatum and Brown are an elite duo and will do just enough to deliver the city of Boston their record-breaking 18th NBA title.
Prediction: Boston Celtics vs. Golden State Warriors 4-3