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Ranking of the top 15 Celtics and Warriors ahead of the NBA Finals

The Celtics and Warriors are two of the strongest teams in the NBA. But which roster offers more top-end talent en route to the NBA Finals? We have put together the 15 most important players in an exciting battle of strengths. (Author: Gardener)

15The Celtics defeated some serious talent en route to the 2022 NBA Finals. But Boston has yet to face a team as strong as the Golden State Warriors. The Western Conference champions offer a strong mix of veteran stars - Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green - and young talented role players like Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole. Golden State has four players averaging over 15 points per game this postseason and has the best offense in the playoffs at 114.5 points per game. To get a feel for who's coming out on top in this series — which concludes Thursday night at the Chase Center — we examined both rosters and ranked the top 15 players overall based on their importance to their team's success. Pritchard fell out of Boston's rotation in Games 5-7 against Miami, and he's not a great defensive matchup for Golden State's deadly backcourt of Curry, Thompson and Poole. But the Celtics will need attacking in this series and Pritchard is capable of heating up from deep. It would be a great development for Golden State as the 29-year-old winger is an excellent full-back who could help limit Tatum and Brown. He also hit six of his eight 3-point attempts in the postseason before going down with an injury against Memphis. White has been either solid or hungry offensively throughout the postseason, but he's a versatile player whose strong defense could help contain Curry, Thompson and Poole. He's also been a lot more aggressive on offense lately, averaging 14.3 points in Games 4-7 against Miami. If White's aggressive version shows up against Golden State, it could put a game or two in Boston's favour. Williams' performance has declined a bit since playing Game 7 Hero against the Milwaukee Bucks, and he's only made two of his last 10 3-point attempts. That versatility will be valuable against Golden State's balanced offensive attack, but Boston needs Williams to rediscover its outside shot if it wants to keep up on offense. Looney was instrumental in the Warriors' WCF win over Dallas, with a near-average double-double (10.8 points and 8.8 rebounds) and a Game 2 win by 21 points. The 26-year-old big man will face a much tougher test on the Boston apron, but the Celtics still need to consider the young big man at both ends to ensure he doesn't become an X Factor. When correct, Time Lord is an elite Lob threat and shot-blocking threat that can also defend the 3-point line with its incredible range. However, Williams has struggled with knee pain throughout the postseason and looked severely handicapped in Game 7 against Miami. The Celtics need that to change in the NBA Finals — especially on defense. He shoots a remarkable 43.2 percent from 3-point range and leads the team in postseason blocks with 27. He played excellent defense at Durant, Antetokounmpo and Bam Adebayo and has hit clutch shots whenever the Celtics needed them. The question is whether Horford has enough left in his 35-year-old legs to continue his impressive game, but the limited time schedule for the NBA Finals could work in his favor. Wiggins reignited his career at Golden State by scoring excellent secondary points and emerging as one of the team's best defensemen. Head coach Steve Kerr even called the Wiggins trade the "key move" that helped bring the Warriors back to the NBA Finals. Wiggins' defense will be especially important against Tatum and Brown, and if the All-Star starter can put the brakes on Boston's Star Wings while racking up 15 points a night, the Celtics will have a hard time winning that series. Smart remains as bewildering as ever, shooting under 40 percent in the postseason and missing seven 3-pointers in Game 7 against Miami -- but also scoring 24 points in this contest while hitting key shots when it mattered. Smart is the Celtics' best defenseman and top facilitator, and when he plays offensively, Boston is hard to beat. There's a case for Wiggins and Smart ahead of Poole here based on their defensive skills. But the team with the most points wins, and Poole was an absolute slob in the postseason. The 22-year-old has scored at least 20 points in seven of Golden State's 16 playoff games and shoots nearly 40 percent from 3-point range. His offense was immensely valuable as teams Curry and Thompson can't help too much without risking a Poole takeover. Keeping Poole from getting hot should be one of Boston's top priorities this series. Thompson is a three-time NBA champion and a deadly threat, as he reminded everyone by drilling eight 3-pointers in Golden State's clincher against the Mavericks. But he lost a significant defensive move after missing two full seasons through injury, and that Game 5 outburst was the only time he surpassed 20 points in the WCF. There's a decent chance we'll get a "Klay Thompson Game" this series, but Poole's emergence means Golden State doesn't need Thompson to score to win games. Filling every other part of the stat sheet, he will be central to Golden State's defensive efforts against Tatum and Brown. Brown has been a threat to himself and others this postseason, averaging nearly 23 points per game, but struggled heavily with turnovers (3.0). Brown saved Boston multiple times during the playoffs by creating his own offense when Tatum was out of his game. He needs to limit turnovers against tough defenders like Wiggins and Green, but if he and Tatum can consistently add up 20+ points a night this series, Boston will be hard to beat. The 34-year-old is still at the top of his game, leading Golden State in the postseason with more than six points per game while posting nearly four 3-points (3.8) per game. Curry is a master at moving off the ball and getting the defense to take away his deadly 3-point shot. Boston has passed every defensive test so far this postseason, but Curry makes for a vexing final exam. Tatum was named First-Team All-NBA for a reason. The 24-year-old has blossomed into a jack-of-all-trades superstar who can pick up 46 points in a competitive game 6 on the road or finish an assist just short of a triple-double in a crucial game 5 at home. He's also one of Boston's top defensemen, sharing the team lead in steals with Brown. There are many talented players on both sides that could affect the balance of this series. If Tatum plays like one of the top five players in the NBA, there's a very good chance Boston will raise Banner 18.

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Keys to a Celtics win over Warriors in the NBA Finals

In order for the Celtics to beat the Warriors, they must play near-perfect basketball. (Author: Gardener)

KeysBOSTON -- The Celtics finally broke through, reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in a dozen years. Playing for their first NBA title, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart aim to raise the 18th banner in Celtics history. Standing in your way are the Golden State Warriors, who know a thing or two about raising banners. They've done so three times in the last eight seasons and are making their sixth appearance in the Finals in that span. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are as experienced at the Finals as they can get, and head coach Steve Kerr has a wealth of Finals knowledge from his days as a player and coach. The Celtics, meanwhile, have zero Finals experience on their roster. He owns an 89-32 postseason record and is 17-11 in the NBA Finals. Experience is just one of the many factors going into this matchup, and while the Warriors are slight favorites, the Celtics certainly have a shot at defeating them. Will the Warriors reclaim their place at the top of the NBA, or can the Celtics launch their own little dynasty? If the Celtics want to beat the Warriors, they have to play near-perfect basketball. Here are some keys to an exciting and exciting NBA Finals matchup. The Celtics need to win a few games along the way if they want to become NBA champions, which hasn't been an issue this postseason. Boston is 7-2 away from TD Garden in the playoffs, which is the most away wins of all time for a team going to the Finals. Boston's average win margin for those seven wins is 10.4 points. Even if you carve out their 25-point blowout win in Game 2 in Miami, the Celtics still won those other six playoff games by an eight-point average. The Warriors are 9-0 at the Chase Center this postseason, but that undefeated record isn't safe against the Celtics. Boston is actually undefeated in Oakland/San Francisco for the past four seasons, winning every road tilt by averaging 16 points. If the Celtics can win one of the first two games of the series, it would drastically improve their chances of winning the title. When they don't blow out opponents, the end of games was an adventure for the Celtics. That can't happen against Golden State, a team full of closers. When the Celtics have a slim lead, they can't milk the clock and play "not to lose." You can't let the Warriors double up on Tatum and settle for Smart pulling up the last five shots, which seemed like the plan by the end of Game 7 against the Heat. Jaylen Brown needs to move without the ball to find a better view closer to the basket instead of just relying on three-pointers. We could have reached the basket and not relied on the three-point shot. The Celtics must be ready to play 48 minutes because the Warriors were nothing short of exceptional in the fourth quarter of this postseason. They have a 133.9 offensive rating in the fourth quarter and outscored their opponents in the final frame by 25.4 points per 100 possessions.This streak will pit two of the best defenses in the league against one another, with the Celtics and Warriors ranked #1 and #2 in defense efficiency.One area where the Celtics need to improve a lot is their turnovers.Boston has averaging 14 turnovers per game this postseason, which climbs to 16.3 losses Against the Warriors, turnovers in a rush turn into transition threes, so they'll have to protect the ball a lot better. Golden State has averaged 6.8 steals, with opponents turning against them 12.8 times per game. The Warriors offense hasn't had many problems this postseason, but turnovers have been there and one of them. They average 14.8 per game, which is the fifth worst among the 16 playoff teams. The number jumps to 16.3 turnovers, which in turn turned into 20.8 points for opponents, in Golden State's four playoff losses. Defense will go a long way in this series. It's a wild concept because the Celtics have been incredible on defense this postseason. But they haven't seen an offensive that works like the Warriors. Granted, the Warriors aren't the Warriors they were a few years ago, and Golden State has yet to come up against a defense like Boston's. The matchups will be fascinating, especially watching Smart Hound Curry whenever he touches the ball. And even as Smart shuts down his man, Boston's shifting defense has made life miserable for almost everyone. Brown can slide over and take Curry in a switch and it will be interesting to see if Robert Williams can parry his three-point attempts. Boston's defense has been phenomenal all season, and they need to be at the top of their game to bring home a title. The Warriors defense is damn good too, but the Celtics can - and should - take advantage of some players on that end. Curry can hold his own at times, but he should be chased into switches every chance Boston gets. The same goes for Jordan Poole, who should be in Tatum and Brown's crosshairs throughout the series. And Klay Thompson has lost a step on the defensive, which is to be expected after missing the majority of the last two seasons. There are matchups that the Celtics will have to take advantage of in the upcoming games. There's a lot to be said about Boston's team approach. Smart is a big part of what the Celtics do at both ends, Al Horford is the glue that holds it all together and Derrick White and Grant Williams both have their roles. But this series will come down to the star power of both teams. Tatum and Brown can't have many (or any) nights off against the Warriors. Tatum has been incredibly solid over the past four years facing Curry's Warriors, averaging 27 points down 50 percent on shooting and 43 percent off downtown. In his last seven games against Golden State, Brown has averaged 18.8 points from 46 percent shooting and 43 percent from three-point range. But Boston has an extremely difficult battle when one of them is out, so the C's star duo can't afford many bad nights in the future.

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Expert picks for Warriors vs. Celtics series that could become an instant classic

Our experts disagree on who wins, but everyone expects a very competitive finale (Author: Gardener)

The 2022 NBA Finals matchup is set and has the potential to become a classic series between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics. Personally, I believe the Celtics are so well equipped to defend Golden State's movement-based offense that they will be victorious in a seven-game war. You certainly can't fault anyone leaning towards a Warriors team that has appeared in six of the last eight NBA Finals and won three championships with the Stephen Curry-Klay Thompson-Draymond Green core. Golden State has recaptured its championship mojo, a renaissance that will continue in a hard-fought series that will see Steph Curry & Co. claim a fourth championship. Yes, the Celtics have world-class defense -- one that has made Kevin Durant look like a pedestrian so far this postseason, has made two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo significantly less efficient, and has at times turned the Miami Heat's offense into an embarrassment. But the Warriors have the answers in Steph, Klay, Poole and Wiggins -- players firing an offense that will find its way through and through Boston. Throw in a Golden State defense that was the best of the regular season, and the most impressive championship in Warriors history is just weeks away. Quinn's Pick: Warriors in 7. The defense that succeeds against Golden State is the one with no weak links. If Boston was afraid to go on switches at Bam Adebayo, Draymond Green will avoid it like the plague. Boston isn't recovering well enough to force Golden State to play big when it doesn't want to. The return of Gary Payton II will result in plenty of turnovers that Miami turned into easy points last round, but the Warriors, like the Celtics, have a frustrating ability for nonsense and will give many of those points back to Boston. Golden State gets Game 7 at home. Golden State starts this series with three additional rest days. Golden State has by far the best player in the series. I give Golden State a small advantage. Ward-Henninger's Pick: Warriors in 7. The Warriors have yet to see a defense like the Celtics. The Celtics haven't seen an offense like the Warriors. At the end of the day, I have to give Golden State the advantage in crunch-time execution based on how they've both played in the playoffs so far. I might overstate experience, but the "championship DNA" cliché has shown itself multiple times for the Warriors this postseason. Add that Gary Payton II could be sane for the Finals to make life hell for Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Celtics offense and I think Golden State has a slight advantage with home court. On the other hand, Robert Williams' health is a huge wildcard, but it's pretty clear he's not at 100 percent, which makes things a little more manageable for the Warriors' offense. Either way, I'm predicting a long streak with some big leads on both sides, especially in the early games. Maloney's pick: Celtics in 6. This series really seems to be a toss-up, with most leaning towards the Warriors based on their experience and home field advantage. At the same time, this Celtics team has responded to every single challenge thrown their way over the past few weeks and months, and is the only team with a winning record against the Warriors since Steve Kerr took over in 2014. The Celtics have just the personnel needed to slow down the Warriors' offensive attack, and their defense, which has been spectacular all postseason, will put them at No. 18 Banner. Wimbish's Pick: Warriors in 7 They haven't seen an offense that comes close to the Warriors. On the other hand, the Warriors have never faced a defense as versatile and varied as the Celtics. You really can go either way in this matchup as there are valid reasons to pick each team, but I have faith in Golden State's ability to step in when needed and quickly place points on the board. Botkin's Pick: Celtics in 7. The Celtics are perfectly equipped to defend Golden State's off-ball movement and they can beat the Warriors on the offensive glass, especially when Golden State isn't playing Kevon Looney, which is reflected in the Run of sums a series. Golden State is prone to turnover, and Boston could cause a bunch. Golden State won't put the same kind of perimeter pressure on Boston's ballhandler as Miami, and Steph Curry will be defensively chased. Jayson Tatum has become excellent at making plays from doubles teams, so chasing this matchup should produce plenty of open 3-point looks for the Celtics. All of this will just barely be enough for Boston to defeat the Warriors in my opinion. And yes, I understand that prediction means they have to win a Game 7 on the Warriors' home ground. Herbert's pick: Celtics in 7. In the regular season, these were the top two defensive teams in the league. Elite also on offense when their best players were on the pitch. However, both teams, for all their offensive talents, can be sloppy with the ball and go cold for several frustrating minutes at a time. And once the Celtics have the ball, will their matchup chase be as effective as in previous rounds? Golden State is proficient with teams chasing Stephen Curry and there won't be many other targets when Gary Payton II, Andre Iguodala and Otto Porter are available. I'm leaning towards Boston a bit, mostly because I picked them to beat the Warriors in the finals six weeks ago and it feels like I should stick with that. But also because Jordan Poole, a crucial part of Golden State's offense, is under relentless attack and Boston's playmakers won't have that problem. Kaskey-Blomain's Pick: Warriors at 7. Both teams are deep, well-trained, and trailing defensively. During the regular season, the Celtics had the highest-rated defense in the league, while the Warriors were right behind them in 2nd place. Therefore, the difference in the series could be on offense, where the Warriors seem to be slightly better. Golden State have more offensive threats, including one of the most difficult-to-protect players in the entire league in Stephen Curry. Boston's offense isn't battle-hardened at the highest level like Golden State's, which brings us to the issue of experience. Five players in the series have Finals experience and all five are at Golden State.

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The Celtics' leap calls back to the dawn of the Dubs dynasty

One of the first things that comes to mind when I think of this solid, stylistically intriguing endgame is the coaches. More specifically, first-year coach Ime Udoka and the Celtics appear to be largely following in the footsteps of Steve Kerr and the 2014-15 Warriors, who won the NBA... (Author: Gardener)

first-yearOne of the first things that comes to mind when I think of this solid, stylistically intriguing endgame is the coaches. More specifically, first-year coach Ime Udoka and the Celtics appear to be largely following in the footsteps of Steve Kerr and the 2014-15 Warriors, who won the NBA title in Kerr's first season at the helm. Like most coaches who made it to the second round of the NBA playoffs, Kerr and Udoka played for Gregg Popovich, now considered the most successful coach in league history, and coached under Gregg Popovich at one point or another . Her time with Popovich probably instilled the paramount importance of good, selfless ball movement on a team's offense. For Kerr, that meant preaching the importance of more passing and constant movement — even if it doesn't stem from the basic pick-and-roll that so many teams use from one game to the next. The Klay post-ups that had been such a staple under Mark Jackson quickly faded on Kerr's offense, taking the Dubs from last at 243.8 passes per game in 2013-14 to ninth in the association at 306, 6 passes per night upgraded next year. It's a style so unwritten that most of the time opposing defenses don't know what to do: jump to the periphery and stick with Stephen Curry at all costs, or stick with a roleplayer like Kevon Looney, who's on end poses as much of a threat as the star if left wide open in the alley. Just as the Warriors experienced a boost in ball movement with Kerr (they led the NBA in assist percentage that year), the Celtics also experienced a sizeable leap in their offense after Udoka begged them to throw the rock about better to share the season in the middle. Udoka was often public with his criticisms — especially after Boston gambled away big leads and then lost the contests — sparking minor media firestorms. The team wasn't used to this kind of blunt honesty. However, Udoka believes the direct conversation, coupled with hours of one-on-one film work, created a new level of accountability among his players, particularly Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who moved the ball with urgency rather than constantly trying to score it themselves. The result: Brown and Tatum increased their assist percentages from 14.4% and 18.3%, respectively, before the All-Star break to 20.2% and 23.8%, respectively, after the show. (Tatum now throws a few passes in every game that will leave you in awe.) Likewise, the club's support rate ahead of the new year was 57.9% (20th in the NBA) and rose to 63.1% (8th in the NBA) after that . in the league). All Star Break. The Celtics' offensive rating prior to the All-Star contest was a meager 110.3 points per 100 possessions -- 18th best in the league -- but has progressed to a whopping 122.6 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break . Of course, there are a handful of places where you can poke holes in the Kerr-Udoka comparison if you like. * Golden State won 67 games and was elite throughout the 2014-15 season, while Boston heated up most this season after the All-Star break, illustrating a Dubs-style dominance of 2015, beating opponents with 12, 7 points per 100 possessions thrashed— more than five points better than the next best club. * Heading into Kerr's first year as coach, the Warriors were already coming off a season where defense had proven top-notch, while those Celtics were 13th, just league average or so, before beating Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier unloaded and brought back Al Horford and consistently pumped the minutes from Robert Williams. * As incredible as someone like Derrick White has been for Boston this year, there has certainly not been a revelation in the team's rotation that even comes close to Kerr and the Warriors revealing Draymond Green's perfect fit on the starting lineup following the forced injury David Lee missed the first few months of this season. And, of course, Kerr now has his team in the title round for the sixth time in eight years -- a fact some will likely base themselves on when choosing Golden State, which has an undeniable advantage in experience. But make no mistake: Kerr and Udoka's decisions to tweak, call out and change plans for young, up-and-coming teams says a lot about the men and the fact that they're not afraid to mix things up If this is the case means winning big. (You may recall Kerr also urged Curry to become more involved in defense during his first year as Golden State coach.) "Where I'm from and who I was as a player — team basketball and San Antonio — is kind of epitome of selflessness," Udoka told The Athletic's Sam Amick earlier in the year. We thought the same. But I could also actually implement it and hold people accountable, and it's natural for me where it's uncomfortable for some others - even if it seems harsh at times. *Chris Mannix wrote at the end of the Celtics Heat series how he tackled the will of Jimmy Butler after a stunning Game 6 performance and then laid out the unlikely nature of that Celtics season following their Game 7 win. * I wrote a short article on what's next for the recently defeated Mavericks, who have a lot to be optimistic about. But they also have a test of finding ways to improve a roster that appears to be in dire need of locking their second-best player (who's set to get a lot more expensive), while bolstering the team's central position without too much cap space available so have at the moment. * Rohan Nadkarni dove deep into Klay Thompson's full-circle moment, then tackled the controversial three-point shot that Butler launched in the closing moments of Game 7. As I piggybacked on Rohan's play, the focus on Butler and that final play made me wonder: Will we ever get a chance to call him an NBA champion? He narrowly managed to lead a second team to the NBA Finals in three seasons. And before his time in Miami, he dragged a fledgling, failing Timberwolves club across the finish line to reach the postseason after a 14-year drought. (Just in case you've forgotten, Butler had Wolves in fourth place in the West when he left the lineup with a torn meniscus. When he returned six weeks later, the team was nearly out of contention. With him in the lineup, they won the final three games of the campaign to secure final playoff spot in the final game of the year — one that Butler was as good at as future MVP Nikola Jokić.) Someone to pull Tighten the screws on the other side of the ball, which seems to be enjoying the big games rather than camouflaging into the background. That's not to say Butler never shuts up. His long-range shooting had come back down to earth by the end of the series, which illustrates part of why the late shot was so closely scrutinized in Game 7. (Look no further than his three-point under-30 percentages over the past three seasons.) But if you look at the circumstances -- Tyler Herro is injured, Bam Adebayo's aggressiveness spikes, Kyle Lowry doesn't look like himself and Duncan Robinson's Useless Times - meant the workload for Butler was immense. In the other four games of the matchup with the Celtics, he had 41 points, 29 points, 47 points, and 35 points. That sort of performance, combined with his passing skills combined with his robust but foul-averse defense — he's one of the few forwards in the game to have more steals than personal fouls in his career — puts him squarely in the top 10, or 15 most influential players every year. But there seem to be few guys you'd want in a "must have" game other than a butler who digs deeper than everyone else to find what he still has. It's strange to watch him do it sometimes because he often waits to put his foot down until his team has shown they have no choice. That was the reality in Philly and Minnesota at times, and his ability to turn on his gates almost felt like a machine as he could easily find that zone. He's a magnet for free throws. You never hear anyone say, "When will Butler win the big one?" He's not LeBron. He's not Chris Paul. In a way far from it. Butler was the last pick of the first round of 2011, not the first pick. No expectations are attached to a selection so far below. But similar to that Celtics series, Butler carried his undermanned team against LeBron and the Lakers in 2020, dominating statistically -- 26.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 9.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game on 55% shooting – until Los Angeles finally took the heat six tough games. It doesn't make sense that the skills of Butler, who will turn 33 before the start of next season, would somehow fade into oblivion any time soon. Basketball Reference, which lists Butler's closest statistical match as future Hall of Famer Kawhi Leonard, has a 71.1% probability of inducting Butler into the Hall of Fame based on his statistical career profile. Miami has endured a season in which it finished No. 1 in the East, despite nearly all of its best players — including Butler — losing significant time during the campaign. Butler will hopefully remain elite for at least a few more years. Even if he declines, he's the kind of player you'd love to see win one day - not only because it would validate him even more, but also because we'd know he left practically everything he had on the court as he did when he played all 48 minutes in Game 7 and 46 minutes in Game 6. When we talk about players as experienced and talented as Butler, that effort speaks volumes. If you have specific questions, just reply to this email or send a message to [email protected] and I may answer them in a future issue.

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How the Rangers won another Game 7 and why the Celtics are the NBA's most resilient team

The Rangers have been in the Eastern Conference Finals since 2015, while Boston is in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010 (Author: Gardener)

RangersNo visitor came to Raleigh and left with a win. After explosive offense and goaltender Igor Shesterkin's blinding stop shot, Rangers dominated Game 7, winning 6-2 and reaching their first Eastern Conference Finals since 2015. * New York scored twice in the first period, both times continuing the power play. Adam Fox opened the gate, Chris Kreider followed shortly after. * Ryan Strome made it 3-0 in the second period. * Kreider, Filip Chytil and Andrew Copp (empty net) all scored in the third period for New York, while Carolina scored goals from Tony DeAngelo and Max Domi. * Shesterkin parried 36 of the 38 shots he faced, including several at close range. * In the Carolina net, starter Antti Raanta left injured in the second period. Backup Pyotr Kochetkov stepped up and allowed three goals in 12 shots. This was one of the most impressive Game 7 road performances you'll see. Last night Carolina was 7-0 at home this postseason with a +17 goal difference in those seven games. From the start, however, he had a different feeling. The visitors' powerplay overwhelmed Carolina early on and it was 2-0 within eight minutes. Every time it seemed like the Hurricanes might get back in, Shesterkin would shut the door. Next, Rangers meet two-time defending champion Lightning. New York won all three meetings of the regular season, but as we've seen this year -- and the two years prior -- Tampa Bay takes the playoffs to another level. * The longest home run of the season belongs to Jesús Sánchez since yesterday. * Kody Clemens - the youngest son of Roger Clemens - was called up to the big leagues by the Tigers. * Big winners over the weekend: Real Madrid and Marcus Ericsson won the Indianapolis 500. It's been a relatively stable week at the top of our MLB expert Matt Snyder's latest MLB Power Rankings list, but we got a new team at the top. * Snyder: "1.Dodgers - They won 13 of 15 and the two losses were a run each - one of them was a routine grounder who was clean away from a win." As the season nears its third month, Snyder has also identified a few teams that could soon be moving up his rankings, including... * Snyder: "The Red Sox have played well enough since that brutal start to be within three games of .500 The full list — and the full power rankings - view here J. Barrett hit a 3-point buzzer to cap the Knicks' 25-point comeback with a 108-105 win over the Celtics Boston fell to 18-21 on the season, ranked 11 in the Eastern Conference Almost five months later, and those same Celtics are headed to the NBA Finals after beating Miami 100-96 in Sunday night's Game 7. Our NBA expert, Jack Maloney, has examined how the Celtics did things turned around and to m the most resilient team in the NBA * The Celtics have only lost once in a row since that loss to New York (late March) * Boston is in the playoffs after losing 6-0 and 3-0 in eliminations * As of January 7th Boston led the league in defensive scoring (104.9). Miami finished second with 109.0. On the other hand, Jimmy Butler's incredible play for the heat not only forced a Game 7, but almost won it for the overmatched heat. However, Miami is now caught between two eras, writes our NBA guru Sam Quinn. * Quinn: "Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker are likely to be relegated next season. They have plenty of youth to make up for that lost value, but it won't come cheap for much longer. Tyler Herro, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus are all running after next season out, Bam Adebayo has a Max contract, and Duncan Robinson is suspended for four more seasons despite falling out of the rotation and lest you think this issue is exclusive to the youngsters, Tucker has one Player Option , and after a strong post-season run, he could likely back out and command at least several years on his current salary. Throw in Victor Oladipo, who's also headed for the free hand, and only Butler, Lowry, Adebayo and Robinson are suspended after next year." Our team of NBA reporters did a great job previewing the Finals beginning Thursday, and their work will be featured in this newsletter over the next few days. Jeff Gladney, who signed with the Cardinals in March, died in a car accident early Monday morning. * Gladney played at TCU and was an All-Big 12 first-team player as a senior in 2019. He appeared in all 16 games for Minnesota as a rookie. * The Vikings released Gladney in August 2021 after he was charged with assault. * He was found not guilty of the charges in March 2021 and signed with Arizona shortly thereafter. Several players, including former TCU teammate and current Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor, and Cardinals star J.

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How the Rangers won another Game 7 and why the Celtics are the NBA's most resilient team

The Rangers have been in the Eastern Conference Finals since 2015, while Boston is in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010 (Author: Gardener)

RangersNo visitor came to Raleigh and left with a win. Behind explosive offense and goaltender Igor Shesterkin's stunning shot stop, the Rangers dominated Game 7, earning a 6-2 win and advancing to their first Eastern Conference Finals since 2015. It was one of the most impressive road performances in Game 7 we'll see. Last night Carolina was 7-0 at home this postseason with a +17 goal difference in those seven games. From the start, however, he had a different feeling. The visitors' powerplay overwhelmed Carolina early on and it was 2-0 within eight minutes. Every time it seemed like the Hurricanes might get back in, Shesterkin would shut the door. Next, Rangers meet two-time defending champion Lightning. New York won all three meetings of the regular season, but as we've seen this year -- and the two years prior -- Tampa Bay takes the playoffs to another level. * The longest home run of the season belongs to Jesús Sánchez since yesterday. * Kody Clemens - the youngest son of Roger Clemens - was called up to the big leagues by the Tigers. * Tennessee was seeded 1st overall in the NCAA College Baseball Tournament. * Big weekend winners: Real Madrid and Marcus Ericsson won the Indianapolis 500. It's been a relatively stable week at the top of our MLB expert Matt Snyder's latest MLB Power Rankings list, but we got a new team at the top. Dodgers – They won 13 of 15 and the two losses were a run apiece – one of them was a routine grounder who was clean from a win.” As the season nears its third month, Snyder has some too identifies teams that could soon be moving up his rankings, including... * Snyder: "The Red Sox have played well enough since that brutal start to get to .500 within three games. You can get the full list — and the full Power Rankings - View here J. Barrett hit a 3-pointer on the buzzer to cap the Knicks' 25-point comeback in a 108-105 win over the Celtics Boston fell to 18-21 in the season, Nov. in the Eastern Conference.Fast-forward nearly five months, and those same Celtics are on their way to the NBA Finals after beating Miami 100-96 in Game 7 on Sunday night.Our NBA expert Jack Maloney examined how the Celtics twirled the oar and nd became the most resilient team in the NBA. * Since that loss to New York, the Celtics have only lost once in a row (late March). * Boston is 6-0 after a loss in the playoffs and 3-0 in the eliminators. * As of January 7, Boston led the league in defensive rating (104.9). On the other hand, Jimmy Butler's incredible play for the heat not only forced a Game 7, but almost won it for the overmatched heat. However, Miami is now caught between two eras, writes our NBA guru Sam Quinn. * Quinn: "Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker will likely be relegated next season. They have plenty of youth to make up for that lost value, but it won't be cheap for much longer. Tyler Herro, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus are all expiring after next season, Bam Adebayo has a Max contract, and Duncan Robinson is suspended for four more seasons despite falling out of the rotation and lest you believe this one Problem exclusive to the youngsters, Tucker has a player option, and after a strong post-season run, he could likely back out and command at least several years on his current salary. Throw in Victor Oladipo, who's also headed for the free hand, and only Butler, Lowry, Adebayo and Robinson are suspended after next year." Our team of NBA reporters did an excellent job previewing the Finals beginning Thursday, and their work will be featured in this newsletter over the next few days Jeff Gladney, who signed with the Cardinals in March, died in a car accident early Monday morning.* Gladney played a n of TCU and was an All-Big 12 first-team player in 2019 as a senior. * He was drafted 31st overall by the Vikings in the 2020 NFL Draft. He appeared in all 16 games for Minnesota as a rookie. * The Vikings released Gladney in August 2021 after he was charged with assault. * He was found not guilty of the charges in March 2021 and signed with Arizona shortly thereafter. Multiple players including former TCU teammate and current Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor, and Cardinals star J. 🏀 Mercury on Sky, 7 p.m. on ESPN 2 🏒 Western Conference Finals: Oilers at Avalanche, 8 p.m. on TNT 🏀 Sun at Aces, 9 p.m. on ESPN

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The 10 most important players of the NBA Finals

Tatum? Clay? Which stars will decide the NBA Finals? Kevin Pelton delivers his top 10. (Author: Gardener)

10Which players will determine what looks like one of the most evenly balanced NBA Finals showdowns in recent memory? On paper, little separates the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics entering this series. The teams finished two games apart overall and are first (Boston, up-6.1) and second (Golden State, up-5.4) in point difference in the playoffs so far. We've already seen the Celtics rely on reserves like Grant Williams, who featured as main defense against Giannis Antetokounmpo for much of their streak, with the Milwaukee Bucks and Derrick White playing key roles in small lineups. Meanwhile, the Warriors relied more than expected on part-time starter Kevon Looney to finish off the Memphis Grizzlies and beat the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals. And as ESPN's Kendra Andrews noted Monday, the return of Gary Payton II from a broken elbow could be important to Golden State's depth in the Finals. With that in mind, let's take a look at the top 10 players in the Boston-Golden State NBA Finals, which begins Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. Because he was healthy and consistent throughout his run, Williams sits fourth with the Celtics in the playoff minutes while starting just five of 18 games. It's worth watching how aggressively Boston Williams turns on against the Golden State guards. On the other hand, the Celtics' aggressiveness after Poole's defense could dictate how long Warriors coach Steve Kerr keeps him on the court. After averaging 31.0mpg in the first two rounds, Poole's game time against Dallas dropped to 28.0mpg because the Mavericks wanted to switch him to Luka Doncic. Among the Warriors players, only Curry defended more screeners than Poole in the Conference Finals, according to Second Spectrum tracking. Horford never had a realistic shot at being Eastern Conference Finals MVP after missing Game 1 in COVID-19 health and safety protocols and averaging just 9.8 PPG for the series (including 3-on- 17 shooting in games 6 and 7), but thanks to his defensive versatility he was as important as any Celtics player. According to NBA Advanced Stats, Boston's 19.2-point swing per 100 possessions with Horford on the field against MVP Tatum is the biggest in the series. As much as the history of the Celtics' midseason defensive leap was due to placing Robert Williams on perimeter players and allowing him to function as a backup defender against pick-and-rolls, it was equally made possible by Horford's strong defense at the time of the game Attack. Nearly 36 years old (hoping to celebrate Friday after a Game 1 win on Thursday), Horford remains as effective at turning on smaller opponents as any big man in the NBA. Tracking the second spectrum showed that Horford allowed the fewest points per chance on switches among the four players who have defended the screener at least 500 times, a group that also includes Grant Williams and All-Defensive Second Team pick Bam Adebayo belong. A return to the NBA Finals is a moment three years in the making for Thompson, whose last Finals game ended prematurely with a cruciate ligament tear during the Warriors' Game 6 loss to the Toronto Raptors. Beyond the emotional element, Golden State's offense needs the juice that Thompson's shooting provides. The team has gone 2-3 in the playoffs in the five games in which Thompson has failed to reach double-digit game scores, according to Basketball-Reference.com. With Boston having a pair of dangerous perimeter creators, Thompson is being asked to play more defensively this series and likely match with Brown most of the time. All Smart is tasked with this series is defending the two-time MVP and leading the Celtics on offense. Despite Boston's extensive defensive options, Smart will team up with Curry whenever possible - which could limit his influence as a backup defender. Although the Celtics managed to snag a few blowouts in the playoffs without Smart as he manages to play through a variety of ailments, his absence was felt in Boston's sloppy Game 1 loss in Miami. All five Boston starters received at least one All-Defensive vote (partially because I was the only Horford voter), while Payton was the only other Golden State player besides Green to receive one. It's a testament to the importance of Green, who has earned a second-team spot despite missing 36 games. In this series, Green is responsible for protecting the color when the Warriors go small and making sure the offense runs smoothly. His ability to counter shifting defenses, which he's honed over the years with Curry, will be crucial. Likewise, Green will occasionally make a 3 to force the Celtics to honestly defend him instead of aggressively helping. No player in this series has a wider gap between their best and worst moments than Brown, whose ability to create his own shot was a major factor in Boston reaching the finals. His efficient 23.0 PPG during the playoffs helped ease Tatum's offensive pressure, and at times Brown was even the Celtics' top scorer. Brown, the least celebrated defenseman of Boston's top six, faces Golden State wing duo Thompson and Andrew Wiggins in this series, both of whom are capable scorers in their own right. Another big player awaits him as a main defender against Tatum, whose 27.0 PPG ranks fourth among players to have appeared in at least 10 games in this year's playoffs. In the one matchup Wiggins played against the Celtics that season, Tatum had 27 points on 9-of-19 shooting, but Wiggins matched him point for point as he hit five 3s in seven tries. In the playoffs, Wiggins struck the right balance between aggressively framing his own shot and avoiding forced attempts. He shot an effective 54% from the field after factoring in the added value of his 1.5 3-points per game. Golden State could use more of that from Wiggins in the Finals. Like his entire team, Tatum has delivered in the biggest moments, scoring seven points in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against the Heat after 46 points attempting to outplay Giannis in the must-win Game 6 on the road against the Bucks. As I discussed last week, the top five finalists for the MVP created an opportunity for the star of this year's playoffs to advance into those ranks. Tatum, who has already won All-NBA First Team Honors, has a chance to cement himself firmly in superstar territory. This particular subplot will get plenty of coverage over the next few weeks as Curry looks to add the missing piece to his resume after winning Earvin "Magic" Johnson as West Finals MVP. Historically, Boston Curry has defended, as has almost every team in the NBA. Only the Bucks have kept him at a lower percentage of his average game points per minute this season. Prior to Bradley's departure, the Celtics were holding Curry 24% below his typical score. Since then, Curry has only underperformed 4% against Boston -- even though the Celtics went 5-3 in those games.

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Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins' segment steals the show

Ahead of their match at Hell in a Cell later that week, Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins stole the show with their segment on WWE Raw (Author: Gardener)

Cody RhodesAfter you register, we use the email address you provided to send you the newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the newsletter email. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the newsletter email. On a Memorial Day special on Raw ahead of WWE Hell in a Cell, Bobby Lashley's signing with Omos and MVP was in absolute melee. Cody Rhodes engaged Seth "Freakin" Rollins in an arena-wide brawl en route to their confrontation at the dreaded structure this Sunday, a United States Title match was set up for the Premium Live Event, and more. Becky Lynch's tussle with Asuka and Bianca Belair turned into a Chaos Triple Threat Match at WWE Hell in a Cell prior to the Raw Women's Title Triple Threat Match at WWE Hell in a Cell, Bianca Belair reversing a pin attempt on Asuka for the to catch a quick fall. Before she could celebrate, however, Becky Lynch suddenly left her seat on Raw commentary and attacked both Superstars without warning. After leaving behind The EST of WWE and The Empress of Tomorrow on the silver screen, Big Time Becks headed into Sunday's Premium Live Event with great momentum. In a six-man tag team match featuring Rey Mysterio, Dominik Mysterio and Ezekiel against Kevin Owens and Alpha Academy, KO accidentally kicked his own partner Chad Gable. This paved the way for The Mysterios' double 619 into an innovative suplex from "Elias' Little Brother" for the big win before WWE Hell in a Cell. Cody Rhodes and Seth "Freakin" Rollins tangled en route to their showdown in Hell in a Cell S.H. into a runaway brawl across the arena. Last week, The Goddess dodged Doudrop's attack off the ropes, kicked an annoying Nikki off the apron, and hit Twisted Bliss for another big win. During Mustafa Ali's fight against Ciampa for a shot at a US Championship at some point in the future, defending champion Theory suddenly unleashed a vicious attack on Ali, ending the action by disqualification. With Ali still completely upset, Theory grabbed the mic and insisted Mustafa's future title shot should be right there and then. Shortly after Mustafa Ali's fight against Ciampa for a future US title ended in a brutal Theory attack, the defending champion insisted the match start immediately. In the ensuing duel, the defending champion defeated the war-torn Ali with A Town Down. S. Title at WWE Hell in a Cell on Sunday. With both partners sidelined thanks to The Bloodline, Riddle and Shinsuke Nakamura teamed up against The Usos in a Championship Contenders match, with revenge and the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships in mind. When the Usos attempted a post-game attack, their opposition regrouped, culminating in a just great RKO on Jey from the top rope. Prior to AJ Styles, Finn Bálor & Liv Morgan's six-person mixed tag team match against The Judgment Day at WWE Hell in a Cell, The Phenomenal One neutralized a disruptive Damian Priest outside of the ring, paving the way for Liv, her former friend Defeat The Nightmare with the Backstabber. Then, as order completely collapsed after the matchup, Styles fought off a Priest attack. With the help of a rising Bálor, Styles hit his attacker's phenomenal forearm. Liv then hit Ripley with a top-rope dropkick and Bálor ended things with the coup de grace on Priest. Bobby Lashley made his handicap match against Omos and MVP official for WWE Hell in a Cell. You can watch WWE Raw live in the UK every week on BT Sport.

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Alex Cora's advice to the Celtics' Ime Udoka? "Enjoy the ride," says Red Sox manager

BOSTON — A little less than four years ago, Red Sox manager Alex Cora was a rookie manager leading a team that made the biggest stage in his sport. Cora, who led the Red Sox to a World Series title in his first year as manager in 2018 at the age of 43, had some simple advice for the 44-year-old... (Author: Gardener)

Red SoxBOSTON — A little less than four years ago, Red Sox manager Alex Cora was a rookie manager leading a team that made the biggest stage in his sport. Needless to say, Cora knows what Celtics head coach Ime Udoka might be feeling ahead of the NBA Finals. Cora, who led the Red Sox to a World Series title at the age of 43 in his first year as manager in 2018, had some simple advice for 44-year-old Udoka. Cora has a group message with Brad Stevens, the president of the Udoka and Celtics basketball divisions, who he has been friends with for years. "Enjoy the ride," Cora said. When it's over and you look back...you get caught up in the whole thing, how intense it is and how hard it is. You miss a few things going through the grind and that's part of it." Cora said he texted Udoka and Stevens after the Celtics' Game 7 win over the Heat to say he was with them would see in San Francisco on Thursday when Game 1 against the Warriors is scheduled. Coincidentally, the Red Sox are playing track and field this weekend and are flying to the Bay Area in time for a possible catch of Game 1 at the Chase Center in downtown San Francisco. Always a Lakers fan, Cora says he even stood up for Los Angeles in 2008 when then-teammate Josh Beckett bought a suite for Red Sox players during that year's NBA Finals. As a student at the University of Miami, he drew for a stint for the Heat that fielded the Celtics in south Florida on Sunday. Cora, a sports enthusiast outside of baseball, has enjoyed watching the Celtics run from a distance. The work is not done and they know it," Cora said. “Just watching from a distance how (Udoka) got things done with all the noise in December, just staying the course. You just have to be patient and trust the process and they did. They got better. There are a lot of veterans on this team that I believe helped out in the dressing room and you're seeing the results. "Going down there and doing it is pretty good," Cora added. “The Heat organization, the way they do things and the way they grind, it's a tough game. It's a testament to where they are as an organization. You are very patient. I think the city has embraced this team and hopefully they can pull this off. You're facing a great team, a team that was there and did that. One of the greatest players in the history of the game (Steph Curry) and I think of course when Klay (Thompson) is healthy it's difficult. They're in the dance and hopefully we can have a parade in Boston in the next few weeks. The Celtics' appearance in the NBA Finals means the Red Sox -- who last reached the World Series four years ago -- have the longest drought of any Boston team to reach their league's Finals. Cora isn't from New England but has become a fan of all other teams since returning to the region in 2018. “Now I really respect what they are doing here. I like going to the games and so does my family," he said. We took care of it all. It's fun." Boston Red Sox's Chaim Bloom admits he felt pressure in April but still believes the team can fight for a championship (Q&A). Jayson Tatum, Celtics should be proud to finally reach the NBA Finals but needs to be better against Warriors | Matt Vautour

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Warriors owner Joe Lacob reflects on time with Celtics and shares desire to compete ahead of NBA Finals

Warriors owner Joe Lacob is dying to beat the friends he used to work with. Read more at Boston.com. (Author: Gardener)

Joe LacobJoe Lacob has watched his Warriors team reach the NBA Finals six times since becoming their owner in 2010. However, the 2022 NBA Finals will have a different meaning for him. The Warriors majority owner will see his roster take on the Celtics, a team he held a minority stake in for four years before buying the Warriors. Lacob, a native of New Bedford, became a part owner of the Celtics in January 2006 when he became a co-investor with H. Irving Grousbeck and worked with Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca during his time in Boston. Lacob's stint with the Celtics brought the iconic franchise back to prominence, winning the 2008 NBA title. Speaking to reporters Monday ahead of the NBA Finals match between the team he now owns and his former team, Lacob shared what he learned from his time in Boston that contributed to Golden State's success. "It was very important," Lacob said. "I think to run a business in life - actually, I don't think it doesn't even have to be a business - you just need some experience, right? When I've built companies, sometimes you know who the right COO is for a certain type of company, what kind of people to hire... Boston was an experience for me as a Limited Partner to see how an NBA team ran, in advance, personal and genuine. I met people like Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers was the coach. I learned some things I would have liked to do the way they did and things that might be different. But I felt that having your own arena, controlling it and having the revenue to support the team was important to the long-term stability of this franchise.” Lacob left the Celtics' ownership group when he joined the Warriors in July 2010 for $450 million, with the sale being approved by the NBA in November of that year. After a bumpy first two seasons, Lacob's Warriors made the playoffs in 2013 as Steph Curry rose to stardom. Lacob and the Warriors' front office made the bold decision to fire head coach Mark Jackson after the 2014 playoffs, even after the team had steadily improved over its three seasons. The Warriors dropped Jackson for Steve Kerr and immediately reaped the rewards with Curry becoming MVP and the Warriors winning the 2015 title. That began one of the most dominant five-year stretches in NBA history, in which Golden State has reached all five Finals seasons and won the title three times. Lacob also led the decision to relocate in 2019 from Oracle Arena, the Warriors' longtime home, in Oakland to build Chase Center in San Francisco. The Warriors' success on the court and their new home are the main reasons for their now worth $6.03 billion, making them the second most valuable team in the NBA according to Sportico. Despite the success, the Warriors' three titles are not enough. They're still friends to this day, but not too close," Lacob said. "I want to kill her right now, to be honest. It's going to be a battle on the pitch and also a little battle at the ownership level. We want to kill each other and we want to win, both teams. Lacob's Warriors host the Celtics for the first of two games in San Francisco on Thursday before the series moves to Boston for Games 3 and 4 next week.

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