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Celtics-Warriors is a finals matchup that has been in the making for 10 years

The Celtics were by far the biggest mystery Golden State had to solve, with Boston holding a winning record against the Warriors since 2015. As our John Tomase writes, this final match is long overdue. (Author: Gardener)

10 yearsOne of the NBA's most intriguing questions of the past decade is about to be answered: What if the Warriors had to beat the Celtics in the Finals? No team has troubled Golden State more than Boston since Steph Curry and company won their first championship in 2015. Regardless of the lineup and variety of talents, the Cs fight the Warriors like no other. The Celtics, behind young guns Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, are on the rise. The Warriors, built around the 30-year-old troika of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, could make their last stand. We haven't had such an intriguing finale since the Warriors first faced LeBron James and the Cavs seven years ago. If you start a year later with Isaiah Thomas' first full season in Boston, when the Celtics became legitimate playoff contenders, the dubs are only 5-9. The Celtics today boast an All-NBA first-team talent with Tatum, but for the most part they might as well have brought in guys from Attleboro Y. When they brought the 23-0 Warriors into double overtime in December 2015, their starting five included Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson. When they defeated them four months later to deny Golden State the first perfect home record in NBA history, they took 21 points from Evan Turner and 19 effective minutes from Jonas Jerebko. Even at the absolute peak of their power, warriors rarely waltzed to victory. Their games always boil down to the final moments, even when players like David Lee or James Young see the crucial minutes in green. Now let's talk Tatum and the All-Star Brown and Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart and veteran stabilizer Al Horford and shot-blocking threat Robert Williams and badass guard Derrick White and Draymond. waiting nuisance Grant Williams. But on the other hand, the Warriors are more battle-hardened than any team since the Jordan Bulls. This is a fantastic duel because the respective strengths of the clubs mesh like opposite magnetic poles. The Warriors shoot the 3 better than any team ever, but they will also kill you through the back door. The Celtics defend the perimeter like attack dogs and can switch every cut. Golden State needs to be patient to achieve the desired look. The Celtics must remain disciplined to keep the entire clock awake as Curry and Thompson zip across the screens. This streak will take a mental toll unlike anything either team has experienced this postseason, and that includes the Brooklyn-Milwaukee-Miami gauntlet the Celtics ran to get here. This is nothing new, as memorable matches abound even though the teams only meet twice a year. The Celtics trailed by 17 points at the Garden in 2017 before going 19 straight in a furious comeback win. A few months later they almost won away again in what looked like the greatest threat to the reigning champions. The decimated Celtics instead lost Game 7 of the conference finals to LeBron and the Cavs, who were unceremoniously swept. The Celtics believe they would have shocked Golden State even without injured veterans Irving and Gordon Hayward. "We definitely would have beaten Golden State this year," Smart told J. While that's debatable, there's no question they would have given the Warriors a better streak. The clubs split that year, with Golden State scoring a close duel in Boston in December and the visitors retaliating in March by not only clinching a 22-point win as part of their demolition tour in the second half, but also Curry knocked out for the remainder of the season when he suffered a foot injury when he was punched to a loose ball by Smart. Curry is healthy now and the Warriors have reached the finals despite losing just four games to the Celtics. The Celtics present a very different test, however, as a relentlessly physical team with greatness riding on a rising superstar and a sense of destiny. The Warriors have been here before, but they've never faced a team quite like the Celtics. The Celtics believe this is their year, but there's nothing the Warriors haven't seen. It's a finale that's nearly 10 years in the making, and if history is any indication, the NBA is set to close out 2022 with one hell of a show.

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10 things to watch in this star-filled Celtics-Warriors Finals series

No Boston player has experience on such a big stage while the core of the Warriors will be playing in their sixth NBA Finals. (Author: Gardener)

Celtics-Warriors FinalsThe Celtics and Warriors have met twice this season, with each team winning once. Here are 10 matchups and trends to keep an eye on as the Celtics meet the Warriors in the NBA Finals. It seems the Celtics had real revenue problems during the playoffs, but they're averaging 14 a game, right in the middle of the pack. But things have been shakier with live ball turnovers, and the Warriors excel at picking up the pace, corner-spraying their shooters and looking for a quick advantage. The Celtics center was absent nearly a month after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus on March 27, and then suffered a bruised bone in the same knee during the Conference semifinals. There were moments when he looked like his rimming, shot-smashing self, but they were rare. the heat, he just looked limping. Williams had 2 points and 3 rebounds in 14 minutes. Though the Warriors are known for their outside shooters, they are averaging 47.6 points in the paint this playoff and are fourth in the league. Golden State didn't rely on the 3-pointer as much as one might expect. So far in the playoffs, 41.6 percent of his shots have come from beyond the arc, compared to the Celtics' 45.5 percent. The Warriors were absolutely spectacular in the fourth quarter of the playoffs. In 16 games, they have outscored their opponents by 25.4 points per 100 possessions, almost 9 points better than the closest team. They also possess an otherworldly offensive rating of 133.9 in the fourth quarter. Celtics coach Ime Udoka has often said that one of the goals of his physical, relentless, turnover-heavy defense is to wear down an opponent in the first 36 minutes so they start scuffling in the last 12 minutes. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler both looked gassed at times late in games against Boston. Jayson Tatum and Stephen Curry were the Conference Finals MVPs, but neither were particularly dominant in either those series or these playoffs. Tatum has a 40-point game and eight with at least five turnovers. Curry has not yet scored more than 34 points and missed 18 free throws. Given that Curry is 34 and has missed the last 12 games of the regular season with a foot injury - suffered when Marcus Smart rolled on him while chasing a loose ball - Tatum seems better positioned to fire to catch. Milwaukee's towering frontcourt from Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis made life difficult for the Celtics in the paint. The warriors aren't nearly as imposing. No starter is taller than 6ft 9in, and in the starting lineups, the Celtics could have a size advantage at any position. Of course, the Warriors' lineup choices will determine how much the Celtics lean in their length. For example, if Golden State puts four knockdown shooters on the floor at once, it becomes difficult for Boston to play double-sized groups. For the second straight series, the Celtics will not have home field advantage. But that might not matter at this point. After beating their opponents away from home during the regular season with a league-best 7.7 points per 100 possessions, the Celtics have a stellar 7-2 record ahead of TD Garden in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Warriors have become a global roadshow, and they will have more supporters at TD Garden than any other visiting team in these playoffs. The Celtics caught a few breaks in the playoffs. The Nets were missing Ben Simmons and sniper Joe Harris. Heat stars Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro missed five games combined. But Golden State, a team plagued by injuries in recent seasons, go into the Finals with key pieces intact. Payton, a top defender, had been out since the early semi-finals and would provide a boost at this end of the floor. Porter's plus-15 net rating in the playoffs leads Golden State by nearly 5 points. The Warriors hope all three will return for this series. The Celtics have not shied away from the spotlight and their road performance has shown they don't falter. But these are the Finals, and no Boston player has experience on this stage. The Warriors core, meanwhile, will enter their sixth finals. If the Celtics have jitters, they probably won't last long, but they're worth keeping an eye on in Game 1. Still, don't expect the Celtics to be intimidated at all by the stars on the other side. They are 9-7 against Golden State during the Steve Kerr era, the best record among opponents. Udoka essentially reduced his rotation to seven in the final three games of the conference finals, with Payton Pritchard being the odd man. But Golden State doesn't have a physical isolation player like Butler who could take advantage of a matchup against Pritchard. The Celtics have a plus-10.9 net rating with Pritchard on the field this postseason, the best among rotation players. The Celtics won't have as much trouble finding weaker links in Golden State's defense. Poole, who attacks immediately off the bench, will need plenty of help if he lands on Tatum or Brown. Klay Thompson has also lost a step defensively after missing most of the last two seasons through injury.

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What to expect from Celtics-Warriors 2022 NBA Finals Matchup?

The Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors will begin the 2022 NBA Finals Thursday night in San Francisco, and here's what to expect from this championship series. (Author: Gardener)

The Boston Celtics and Golden State WarriorsThe Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors will begin the 2022 NBA Finals Thursday night in San Francisco, and here's what to expect from this championship series. As the 2021-22 season began, many were calling this year's NBA Finals race "open" given all the talent scattered across the league. Well, here we are stepping into June and beginning the 2022 NBA Finals with neither of these teams playing for a championship! Instead, two of the league's most storied franchises, the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors, will go head-to-head in the NBA Finals during the league's 75th Anniversary season. The Boston Celtics, the No. 2 defensive team during the regular season, are chasing the No. 18 championship this year, while the Golden State Warriors, the No. 1 defensive team during the regular season, are looking to capture their fourth title of the past eight seasons and her seventh title overall. Reaching the NBA Finals this season is a massive achievement for the Celtics, especially considering they were 23-24 at the end of January. With just 35 games left in the regular season, this team looked like a group that would barely make the Play-In tournament and go into the offseason with a lot of question marks about how to build for the future. Led by All-NBA First Team forward Jayson Tatum and All-Star Jaylen Brown on wing, the Celtics have what it takes to bring the Larry O'Brien Trophy back to Boston. The Golden State Warriors started the year hot and ended it hot as the Warriors have won 17 of their last 21 regular-season games. As of the 2014-15 season, the Warriors have been one of the most dominant franchises in the NBA, making their sixth NBA Finals appearance in the last eight seasons. They join Bill Russell's Boston Celtics, Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Lakers and Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls as the only other teams in NBA history to pull off such a feat. With all of the injuries they've struggled with over the years and the adversity they've faced over the past two seasons missing the playoffs, Golden State wants to send a strong message that they still do it are a team to beat in the NBA. The Celtics and Warriors begin the 2022 NBA Finals Thursday night in San Francisco, a series that will surely be one for the ages! Stars show up in the NBA Finals, and the Boston Celtics need their two All-Stars to be at an elite level in order to potentially win a title. Jayson Tatum has been one of the most dominant offensive players in the NBA all year and has had quite a bit of success in the postseason. Rebounding will be a big factor in this series between the Celtics and the Warriors, especially since the Warriors were an excellent rebounding team due to their small size. Jayson Tatum must continue to be a two-way factor on the wing for Boston, and Jaylen Brown must also continue to step up and find ways to play off against Tatum. Tatum can only do so much for the Celtics much like Stephen Curry can only do so much for the Warriors. As much as this series will revolve around each team's stars and All-NBA players, these secondary stars like Jaylen Brown, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole really need to stand up for their respective teams. Jaylen Brown proved against Miami that he's more than capable of being a top-level leading scorer and rebounder, something he'll have to prove again in this series against Golden State. We've seen the Warriors come back from massive deficits this playoff, but Boston is a top-tier defensive team, something Golden State hasn't necessarily encountered in the playoffs yet. Controlling the pace of the game and being able to hold your own against your two star players is exactly the kind of attitude Boston needs to enter the NBA Finals with, especially if the first two games are being played for them. The Celtics aren't that strong of an offensive team other than Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but one thing they're good at is attacking the lane and getting to the free throw line. So far in this playoff, the Boston Celtics have gone to the free throw line 437 times, the most of any team, and are converting 81.0% of their chances this postseason, finishing fourth behind the Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Bulls and Phoenix- To sunbathe. Not only can Tatum and Brown attack the paint, Marcus Smart is physically on the drive and their two big boys in Al Horford and Robert Williams III are more than capable of playing over the edge. Boston will look to attack the Warriors early in the series, not only to try to match them in color, but also to put Golden State in dire trouble, which head coach Steve Kerr and his group can't do. The Warriors tend to foul a lot, having averaged the fourth most personal fouls per game during the regular season, and that could be very problematic against a longer and larger Boston Celtics team. With only Kevon Looney and Draymond Green as big men up front, Golden State is small on the inside, and if they get into trouble, the Warriors will be even smaller against the Celtics, a strong inside and rebound team. It's imperative that the Warriors don't keep soiling the paint, not just because Boston is pulling forward at the free-throw line, but because the last thing the Warriors want is to have Kevon Looney and Draymond Green on their bench while both Al Horford and Robert Williams III are on the floor for the Celtics. He proved a key player in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat and will likely prove to be a key player again for the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. Able to defend on the touchline and increasingly a scoring threat when comfortable offensively, White has assumed an important sixth-man-like role for the Celtics in recent weeks. After not performing well in Game 1 against The Heat and then missing Game 2 due to the birth of his first child, Derrick White upped the rest of the Eastern Conference Finals for Boston, averaging 14.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.3 Assists and shooting 35% from deep in the last four games. However, his contributions to defense make White more than capable of a role in this series against the Golden State Warriors. Given that they will most likely need to downsize at times to match the Warriors' ability and speed on the fringe, the Celtics will turn to Derrick White early, especially with Robert Williams III still ailing and Al Horford having to move out Power forward most of the time in the middle. Being able to defend Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and/or Jordan Poole is vital for the Celtics and with Marcus Smart already engaged with one of these guys, White's presence off the bench proves itself at first sight look as big. Poole has had a lot of success in the playoffs scoring on the edge of the bench, and for White he's had a lot of success preventing his opponents from attacking the colour. The winner of this duel could very well give his team the boost it needs to win the NBA Finals this year. At the end of the day, talent wins in the postseason and NBA Finals. In terms of matchup, these two teams are very even, which is why someone on both sides needs to be promoted for the Celtics or Warriors to ultimately win a title. For Golden State, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Jordan Poole have emerged as key contacts, but their two key players in these playoffs were Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney. Wiggins was able to guard multiple positions and help the Warriors rebound. He was the perfect wing on an offensive led by guards like Curry, Thompson and Poole. Not only is his scoring on the wing and from the flank crucial, but his defense against Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown is also key. None of these guys can get started when they're the Warriors, and with the success Andrew Wiggins had against Luka Doncic in the previous series, he'll once again be the Warriors' No. 1 when it comes to fringe defense. His matchup is extremely important for Golden State entering this series, especially when they often settle in a zone defensively. Not only will Looney be relied on defensively guarding Al Horford and Robert Williams III at the low post, but he'll have to dig really deep to keep those two guys off the paint and off the offensive glass. Overall, the Celtics are a really strong rebounding team at both ends of the field. Kevon Looney has emerged as one of the best rebounders in the playoffs this year, coming off a series against the Dallas Mavericks in which he had some of his best individual performances of his career. Averaging 10.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and a 68.4% throw from the floor in five games against the Mavericks, Looney recorded two double-doubles and had three games in double-digit rebounds. In Game 2 against Dallas, Kevon Looney had a career-high 21 points and 12 rebounds. In Game 5 to wrap up the series, Looney had 10 points and 18 rebounds, 7 of which came from the offensive end of the floor. If you look back at the Warriors' previous series against the Memphis Grizzlies, Looney had a career-high 22 rebounds, 11 of which landed on the offensive end of the floor to help the Warriors finish off the Grizzlies in Game 6. These two Golden State players may not have the dazzling numbers of Curry, Poole and Thompson, but they are extremely important to this team's success. Both have two completely different roles for the Warriors and when they play well, the Golden State Warriors look unstoppable. It will be very interesting to see if the Celtics can not only stop and unmask Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney, but also if their offense can be successful during the regular season with the Warriors against the best defensive team in the league. * What We Learned From The Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals Series: The Boston Celtics defeated the Miami Heat 100-96 on Sunday night, won the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games and advanced to the 2022 NBA Finals. * What we learned from the Finals Series Mavericks-Warriors Western Conference learned: The Golden State Warriors defeated the Dallas Mavericks 120-110 on Thursday night, won the Western Conference Finals in five games and advanced to the 2022 NBA Finals.

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The best moments of the Celtics playoffs run through to the NBA Finals

The NBA Finals doesn't start until Thursday night in San Francisco, which will give us a few days to sit back and enjoy the moments that brought the Celtics to this point. (Author: Gardener)

the NBA FinalsBOSTON (CBS) -- An incredible postseason run has led the Celtics to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. Boston is four wins away from Banner 18, although it won't be easy against the Golden State Warriors. That will give the Celtics some time to rest and give us a few days to sit back and enjoy the moments that got the Cs to this point. Boston has gone on a bit of revenge this postseason, edging out the last three teams to send them home in the playoffs: The Nets, The Bucks and The Heat. The first-round sweep of the nets was glorious, followed by entertaining (and occasionally frustrating) seven-game victories over the Bucks and the Heat. Those three series have been filled with incredible moments for the Celtics, moments that will long be remembered. From buzzer beaters to dirty crossovers to viscous dunks, the Celtics have given us a little bit of everything this postseason. Let's hope they continue to provide some great moments over the next few weeks as they take on the Warriors in the NBA Finals. But before we get to the final games of the season, let's recap the moments that got the Celtics here: The game that started the run. The Celtics nearly screwed up their first game of the playoffs, taking a near-perfect final 45 seconds to walk away with a win over the nets. The ball motion where the Celtics pass a good shot for a better one — twice. It was poetry in motion, and it was the spark that got the Celtics going this postseason. The Celtics could have lost Game 2 to the Nets, falling 17 points behind in the contest. Then, toward the end of the third quarter, they packed up and went on a 23-4 run to take control. But Marcus Smart made an incredible left-hander to end it for the Celtics and then peered into his palm like it was a gateway into another dimension. Or it was just a hot hand that sealed Boston's victory. But Milwaukee have a solid villain in Grayson Allen, and Jaylen Brown gave Celtics fans plenty to cheer for in Game 2 of the East Semis at Allen's Expensive. Early in the game, Brown rocked Allen to sleep, then put him on his fanny with a wild crossover. That was a dirty move from Brown to sit Allen down. Giannis viciously ambushed Horford earlier in Game 4 after throwing down an earth-shattering dunk himself. Yes, he meanly mugged Al Horford, one of the nicest guys in all of pro sports. Al didn't forget and got his revenge early in the fourth quarter when he slammed Giannis right in the face. The normally reserved Horford showed more emotion than ever on the floor and that got Boston going. The Celtics beat the Bucks by 15 points in the fourth quarter, winning the game and even the series 2-2. With his back against the wall and facing elimination in enemy territory, Jayson Tatum had his big moment for the Celtics. He was masterful in Game 6 in Milwaukee, scoring 46 points to force a Game 7. He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, including 11 straight for Boston at one point. He hit seven threes and shot 17-32 overall. Anything can happen in a Game 7. But when Grant Williams scored a career-high 27 points in a Game 7 to send the defending champions home, you should buy some lottery tickets. Williams was electric in Boston's 109-81 blowout win to close the Bucks, hitting 10 of his 22 shots overall while going 7-for-18 from downtown. He's been outspoken about all the attention Tatum and Brown are attracting, but he's made the most of those candid shots. We knew Grant could hit three-pointers, just not that many of them in a close-out game. After the Celtics lost the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics evened things out by blowing out the Heat in Game 2. Smart returned after missing Game 1 with a sprained foot, and he flirted with a triple-double and had 24 points with 12 assists and nine rebounds to go. He also made two incredible buckets in the game, starting with that shot across the backboard in the third quarter: Later in the quarter, he gave Max Strus a spot with a wicked crossover and finished the dance by emptying a knight: The Celtics pour it in a blowout. The heat wants nothing to do with keeping Brown off the basket. Brown led all scorers with 25 points in Game 5, including two of the series' loudest points. The Celtics led Game 7 against the Heat from start to finish, but it was still a corner game. The stakes were high for everyone, including Horford, who waited 15 years to make it to the final. That wait is now over and it's impossible not to feel some emotions as you watch Horford be overcome with joy - and watch as his teammates share the moment with him. Now let's hope the Celtics can add many more special moments to the NBA Finals list.

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Predictions, odds and best bets for the NBA Finals

The Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors go head-to-head in the 2022 NBA Finals, and our experts have broken down the highly-anticipated series. (Author: Gardener)

the NBA FinalsPickswise provides Syracuse.com with exclusive sportsbook content including tips, analysis, tools, games and sportsbook offers to help bettors get in on the action. The Boston Celtics survived the Miami Heat in Game 7 of Sunday night's Eastern Conference Finals, while the Golden State Warriors faced the Dallas Mavericks in five games of the Western Conference Finals. Now that the NBA Finals has arrived, this duel brings with it a variety of storylines. It will be Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown's first NBA Finals appearance as the Warriors make their sixth Finals appearance in the past eight seasons. Although Golden State has an advantage in terms of experience, let's take a look at who our experts picked to win it all. The Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors face off in the NBA Finals and sportsbooks are expecting a tight series. The Celtics are currently +140 to win the series at Caesars Sportsbook, while Golden State is -160 to win their fourth title in eight seasons. If Boston can win its first title since 2008, a $100 bet would net $140 in profit. For bettors supporting Golden State, $160 must be risked to win $100. The NBA Finals are here and Game 1 will begin this Thursday, June 2nd. The Warriors and Celtics begin their streak Thursday, and while the Warriors are a much more experienced team, we predict the Boston Celtics will win their 18th NBA championship when the dust settles. Although both teams have plenty of offensive weapons, this finals game will likely be a defensive effort. This season marks the first time since 1996 that the top two teams in terms of defensive efficiency will go head-to-head, and we expect there will be plenty of low-goal affairs. From 2014 to 2019, the Warriors seemed to reach the Finals, but the past three seasons have been tough for Golden State. They had the worst record in the NBA two seasons ago, missing last season's playoffs and consistently missing either Klay Thompson, Draymond Green or Stephen Curry. A game after Green returned, Curry sprained his ankle and missed the final month of the regular season. If Golden State is to win this series, all three players will need to contribute offensively as Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart will try to limit Curry's production. Payton's defense is his best quality, and he could cause problems for multiple Boston guards and wings throughout the series. If Payton can't come back, the Warriors could struggle to limit Tatum and Brown's scoring chances. PointsBet Sportsbook is available with online registration in the United States in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia and is offering up to $2,000 in risk-free bets to new users in all states! The Boston Celtics eventually advanced to the NBA Finals by defeating the Miami Heat in Game 7. Boston posted the ninth-best offensive rating and number one defensive rating during the regular season, and we expect them to continue their strong defensive presence in the Season Finals. Boston was able to sweep the Brooklyn Nets in the first round before coming back against the Bucks in the second round and winning in seven games. Many analysts mocked Boston for not tanking late in the season to avoid playing Milwaukee and Brooklyn, but the Celtics were up for the challenge. Now it feels like the icing on the cake that they have to face the Golden State Warriors since they were a top 2 team in the Western Conference all season. If Boston defeats Golden State, they have defeated three teams that have competed in or won an NBA championship in the past four years (Bucks, Heat and Warriors). The key for Boston will be Golden State turning the ball over as they average 14.2 turnovers per game in the postseason. Boston has gone through back-to-back physical series against the Bucks and Heat and has played every other day since May 7. Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III are struggling with injuries, and Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford are averaging over 38 minutes per game in the playoffs. However, we predict Boston's defense will make the difference and they will win the championship. Defense will be key, and Boston is unique in that they're the first team to face Golden State in this very transition-heavy postseason. The Nuggets, Grizzlies and Mavericks were in the bottom half of the league in terms of the frequency of changing on-ball screens during the regular season, while the Celtics ranked first. Boston switched 44% of the screens in the playoffs, which will cause problems for the Warriors' free-flowing offense. In 2018, the Houston Rockets kept Golden State's offense under 95 points in Games 4 and 5, and we expect Boston to exemplify that defensive strategy. While the Warriors are a much more experienced roster when it comes to the NBA Finals, this Celtics roster has played in enough Eastern Conference Finals matchups to make the leap this season. Therefore, we predict the Celtics will win the 2022 NBA Championship. PointsBet promo code RFPICKS11 unlocks a sign-up bonus of 2 risk free bets on the NBA Playoffs

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I wanted to pick the Celtics but Steph Curry and the Warriors will win the NBA Finals

The warriors will get the job done, but not without a bit of stress along the way. (Author: Gardener)

Steph CurryI hate it when pundits and forecasters pick a team to win a seven-game series. So I'm picking the Warriors to win the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics...in seven games. Let me explain! I've long believed that Boston is the worst NBA Finals matchup imaginable for the Warriors. My gut reaction to that potential showdown — my attitude before I rewatched a dozen games and spent hours looking at different spreadsheets — was Boston in 6. But I can do the final two games of Boston's Eastern Conference Finals win over Miami don't overlook heat. Boston begged Miami to relieve him of the burden of victory. Temperament is a big factor in the postseason, and if Boston cracked in the conference finals, what will happen when they reach the big show where no one on their team has played a single game? There are so many good reasons to choose Boston in this series. And the easiest way to balance these factors is to risk everything in a winner-take-all game. One could even argue that "championship DNA" would be necessary to win 7 in a game. Yes, the Warriors in 7 are the choices. But that's the easy way to see it. No team in the NBA switches defense like the Celtics. If you're a Warriors fan who enjoys the chess game of basketball, this sentence should shake you to the core. Boston is long, strong, smart (no pun intended), and ready to mix and match. This defensive style was designed to discourage the Warriors' movement offense, which uses off-ball screens and cuts to create open looks. Two of the Warriors' biggest foils during their dynastic run -- the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Houston Rockets -- have used switch-everything defense to slow Golden State. The Cavs even won a series against the Dubs and came back from a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals -- a turnaround that had many factors but fell head-on when Cleveland coach Ty Lue decided to throw caution to the wind to hit and hug each other completely. That's how Kevin Love made the big stop in Game 7 of this series against Steph Curry (and his stubborn knee). The Warriors have shown this postseason that they can score at all three levels -- Paint, Midrange, and Beyond the Arc -- but Boston has proven to be the only team in the league that can defend at a high level on all three of these levels levels. A big factor in this series will be Boston's rim guard. The Warriors didn't stand a chance against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals—if they didn't shoot, they could go to the basket with impunity. Al Horford and the Celtics wings do a really good job protecting the rim for non-traditional paint protectants, but when Boston has Robert Williams III - the Time Lord - in the paint their defense goes from good to great. After the All-Star Game, when the Celtics really got rolling, Williams' rim protection was a level beyond elite. Teams shot 17 percent worse from 6 ft and inside when he was on the ground and almost 20 percent worse from 10 ft. Williams in the paint turned the highest percentage shots on the floor into attempts that take far less than half the time. But Williams has a sore left knee that he has been struggling with all postseason and will certainly struggle with when he reaches the finals. He only played 15 relatively ineffective minutes in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. With Boston's tenacity at girth and midsection length, Williams' 7ft 6 span at the basket will tell us so much about what's going to happen in this series. The Celtics built a defense to frustrate and maybe even negate the Warriors' offensive system. There are some move sets that could give Golden State better chances to break free - double screens, post-ups, and slips - but these can only go so far. No, the way to counter a perimeter-length switch-everything defense is to arm them by chasing perimeter matchups. We saw that in the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami executes a moving offense not too dissimilar to the Warriors. Finally, they handed the ball to Jimmy Butler and asked him to lead the team across the finish line. For the Warriors, that means running high pick-and-roll and isolation sets for Steph Curry and Jordan Poole. And that's not Warriors coach Steve Kerr's fault. To be fair to Kerr, the Warriors have been more Curry-centric this postseason. Overall, 44 percent of Curry's deployment this postseason has been as a pick-and-roll ballhandler or in isolation. The Warriors have scored 167 points on these possessions. A point per possession is pretty good when you compare it to Luka Dončić, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum - other stars who give me the ball and avoid me. But how much of that performance came about because a Curry-led offense is a change in the Warriors' motion-offensive fastball? The Warriors love it when other teams allow a player to go on offense. Less than a point per possession means a massive defensive win. But there's an ideology here, too: collectivism is part of Golden State's tactical DNA -- Kerr genuinely believes that one system for the whole team (with Curry's sincerity, of course) results in better offense and better operation. The Warriors' success makes it hard to argue that he's wrong. Maybe Strength In Numbers can win against Boston. Maybe Poole is just running pick-and-roll to get started. But don't be surprised if Kerr waits until the Warriors follow suit in the series to transition to the offensive style that's proven to give Golden State the best chance of beating Boston's defense. Golden State is rested and could be back in full force in Game 1 on Thursday. The Warriors have suspended seven members of their rotation - assuming Otto Porter plays. But eighth place could make all the difference in this series. If the Warriors want to be a more direct offense in these finals, they need to surround Curry and Poole with stud shooters. Can Gary Payton II, who broke his elbow less than a month before Game 1, return to the group? His defense would be a big plus for the Dubs, but the eighth man also needs to be able to put down a 3-pointer corner kick. I'd be concerned about Nemanja Bjelica's defense as a smallball 5, but his shooting could come in handy. Solid and strong on defense, he can knock down the 3-pointer in the corner. Kerr will no doubt be tinkering with the back end of the rotation - there are too many good players on his team - but he can't take too long to find the best option. A weak link can break the chain in the NBA Finals. There's another effective way to attack a defense like Boston's: never let them put up. The Warriors are at their best when they turn defense into offense. This is how the Warriors control the pace and, as often, the game. And that's the biggest advantage for the Warriors in this series outside of experience. Boston can pick up the pace a bit on offense. We're going to have a wild back-and-forth in this series, which is great. But the Celtics can also jam with amazing ease on offense. Boston has two wings - Tatum and Jaylen Brown - who can create their own shot from dribbling. And while Marcus Smart is a brilliant player (and flopper), he's not a pure point guard operator and his jump shot is terrible. The Celtics can be beautiful on offense. They can really whip around the ball and Tatum and Brown's penetration and kick game is great. But couple this team's youth and the stage, and Boston have been looking for the offensive end quite often this postseason. That usually ends with Tatum or Brown making an ill-advised, defended shot late in the shot clock. With Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson (whose defenses improved dramatically as the Western Conference Finals progressed), Golden State has a chance to get those evil looks off the wings of Boston. I would imagine they also leave Smart open to shoot to your heart's content. Overall, Boston is making more than a quarter of its shots with less than 7 seconds on the shot clock this postseason -- only Dallas (Dončić) and Philadelphia (Harden and Embiid) had a higher percentage of late shots. Boston shoots 38 percent from the field on those shots. Forty-five percent of those late shots are 3-pointers. Boston made only 28 percent. And with Boston being an average rebounding team at best, that means the dubs will have ample opportunity to run. If the warriors run, the warriors win. Brown will have good games. Smart might even put down a few shots. But if Draymond Green — Golden State's ace defenseman and de facto point guard — is on his A-game, the Warriors will be able to pick up the pace in this series and control the pace of the games. And whoever controls the pace controls the series. The Warriors will have fresh legs but a bit of rust in Game 1. I think they pulled off a solid win at home as Williams isn't a factor and the Celtics look gassed. But Boston will recalibrate and win Game 2 at the Chase Center behind a comeback from Tatum. You will take game 3 behind a silly Marcus Smart game. Then the warriors come to Brass Nails. They become more direct on offense and stronger on defense. Curry, coupled with the great catch-and-shoot skills of Wiggins and Thompson, will lead the Warriors to victories in Games 4 and 5. Boston bounces back in 6 as Brown has a lot of competition and the Celtics' role players knock down far more than their fair share of late 3-pointers. Sorry, no game 6 Klay in this go-around. Now we're at Game 7 in San Francisco. It will be tight, but the looser team will win. Curry brings it to the pole in the final seconds this time, and the Warriors win their fourth title in eight years, with the No. 30 picking up his first NBA Finals MVP.

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How the Celtics Achieved the Impossible and Reached the NBA Finals in 2021-22

The 2021-22 season has been a roller coaster ride for the Boston Celtics. How did the club get from such low lows to the highest highs? (Author: Gardener)

2021-22The Boston Celtics return to the NBA Finals. They will face off against the Golden State Warriors and begin the first two games of the series on the street by the bay. This is the first time Boston has reached the championship round since 2010. Just a few months ago that seemed an emphatic impossibility, but here and now Boston has a good chance of capturing a coveted eighteenth banner. The turnaround we saw in the 2021-22 Celtics was both wonderful and unlikely, underscoring the importance of coaching, growth and patience. After all, the NBA season doesn't end on Christmas Day. At the start of the regular season, the Celtics were a bad basketball team, period. From the jump, Boston's defense was good, but not great. Was head coach Ime Udoka the wrong man? Could Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum coexist? The Celtics were just plain bad in a confusing and irritating way. Boston suddenly went from choking dogs to world bests. The Celtics picked up wins and climbed the league table at an impressive pace in the second half of the season. The defense was real. Tatum and Brown were real. The Celtics were real. In the postseason, the same momentum has continued relatively unabated. Yes, the ghosts of the early days of the regular season still haunt the team from time to time. But this Celtics club has shown resilience and strength in the adversity of the playoffs. Neither Kevin Durant nor Giannis Antetokounmpo nor Pat Riley could slow down Boston. Now the Celtics are on course for the finals, an almost unfathomable result given the circumstances. But first, let's really unpack this Cinderella story, this Celtics basketball fever dream. The 2020-21 season has been an absolute nightmare for the Celtics. The team was uniquely affected by COVID and barely made a ripple in the playoffs. Shortly thereafter, former president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was out the door, Kemba Walker to Oklahoma City, and the future for Boston was decidedly unclear. As a result, the 21/22 season began in a haze of uncertainty. Yes, Brown and Tatum were rising stars. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown kept falling apart late in the games. The parts didn't fit and the team leaders didn't really know what to do about it. As of January 1, Boston had the third-worst fourth quarter +/- of any team in the NBA. The Celtics had the fourth-lowest percentage of field goals and the fifth-most turnovers in the closing stages of games. The club choked away games with admirable consistency. Boston floundered well into January. On Jan. 21, the Celtics lost a Friday night home game to the ailing Portland Trail Blazers, dropping the Cs to 23-24 on the year. With a trading close fast approaching and the possibility of not straying too far from the postseason, mood in Beantown was sour. The 2021-22 campaign looked like another runaway season. The Celtics won 11 of their next 12 games. The early parts of Boston's recovery in the season were modest. The writing wasn't on the wall yet, but a seemingly harmless Monday morning tweet from Boston's Jaylen Brown proved prophetic. That night, the Celtics clinched a raucous 122-92 win over the Miami Heat, and the club won the next seven games. Suddenly, the Cs were comfortably in the playoff picture, absolutely demolishing opponents along the way. There was no way Brown could have known how much the energy would actually shift. From January 30 through the remainder of the regular season, the Celtics finished first in offensive standings, first in defensive standings, and first in net standings. Boston's defense was particularly strong. This is where Robert Williams III and Marcus Smart deserve immense credit, but really the whole squad became something of a defensive juggernaut. The return of Daniel Theis and the deadline-day trade of Derrick White helped Ime Udoka complete his cumbersome, lengthy defensive program. With no weak points and seemingly no one to exploit, the Celtics D simply smothered other teams. Between the Jaylen tweet and the end of the season, Boston allowed the second fewest points in the paint, the fourth fewest turnover points, and the sixth fewest fastbreak points. Al Horford's veteran leadership, Derrick White's Spurs background, and Marcus Smart's rise as a true point guard helped Boston establish an offense built on passing and reading correctly. Jayson Tatum in particular took off as his Celtics soared to new heights. He earned well-deserved All-NBA First Team honors as one of the top scorers of the fourth quarter and one of the association's most dominant two-way players. The jump Tatum made in the second half of the 21/22 season is an important part of the story here. As of Christmas Day, the Celtics were ninth in the Eastern Conference standings. By April, long after the energy had shifted, Boston had climbed to second place overall. Boston drew Brooklyn for the first round of the postseason. The Nets had their own season from hell in 2021-22 and even with Kevin Durant at the helm, it seemed unlikely an upset was in order. The Celtics cleared any doubts out of the way. Despite a few self-inflicted hiccups, Boston looked excellent. Horford and Smart were particularly good, but it was Jayson Tatum who made the series resonate. Dysfunction and defensive indifference ruled the day for Brooklyn. Boston's next opponent, the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks, wouldn't roll over so easily. The second-round series between the Celtics and Bucks was an instant classic, seven full games of a real rock fight. Jayson Tatum's 46-point Game 6 exploits may be the headline, but from top to bottom we saw a Boston team hungry to defend and ready to improve. This is where Boston's flexibility and depth were key - even with Horford, Smart, Williams and White all missing time for various reasons, the Celtics continued unabated. Sure, injuries and luck can swing a streak, but so can roster design, good coaching, and adaptability. All of this was seen as Boston passed Giannis and the Bucks and advanced to the Conference Finals. Against the Heat, the same trend lines held as Boston's inexperience and old habits were brought to light by Miami's stoic defense and cantankerous temper. The Celtics might have been the more talented, deeper team, but the Heat proved to be formidable opponents. After all, Jimmy Butler scored 47 points in Game 6. Of course, the Conference Finals went over seven games. It almost felt destined that the basketball gods wanted to make sure this Celtics team left no stone unturned before climbing the mountain. Boston came dangerously close to stalling the game. THE CELTS WON. THE CELTS WON. Boston had been a joke. Even as the energy shifted, even as the defensive flowers began to bloom and the meteoric rise of Jayson Tatum took hold, that outcome seemed too unimaginable. Even the most optimistic must have had doubts about this team. A rookie head coach leading two incredibly young stars and plenty of unproven supporters. This was a storybook season, the kind of magic that makes basketball so wonderful. The 2021-22 Boston Celtics achieved the impossible. Jaylen Brown is 25 years old. Tatum is 24 years old. This is only the fourth time in the past 40 years that such a young duo has reached the NBA Finals. The Celtics going into the championship streak is a wild result. Boston has the right tools to take on the Warriors head on. Their defense is uniquely equipped to stop Golden State's action-packed offense. Her attack is equally balanced and contemporary. At the same time, however, a banner can simply be gravy given the circumstances. Psychologically, physiologically, and basketball, Tatum and Brown are still a season or two away from their best. There's every reason to believe that Boston will improve year on year for the foreseeable future. By all accounts, the Celtics 21/22 season was one of the most amazing turning points in sports history. By January, Boston was going nowhere fast. Now they are four wins away from a championship. Regardless of how the finals end, this season has been something of a fairy tale. For that reason, perhaps these Finals really are an epilogue, a bonus piece of history, an after-credits scene that underscores a truly wondrous achievement that was the 2021-22 Boston Celtics season. Perhaps these finals are the final chapter, the true destiny for Boston, and we haven't seen the climax yet. And perhaps these finals are the first chapter of a longer story that has yet to be written. This post originally appeared on Celtics Wire.

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Ime Udoka is 'proud' to lead Celtics to NBA Finals in season one after other teams have passed him

Ime Udoka is 'proud' to lead Celtics to NBA Finals in season one after other teams have passed him (Author: Gardener)

season oneMIAMI — Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka had to pay his dues before being given the keys to manage an NBA team from the sidelines. After former coach Brad Stevens decided to quit and manage the front office after eight seasons, the franchise had to make a major decision during the 2021 offseason. Could the Celtics afford to hire a freshman head coach to lead a team? the threshold for attaining greatness? A year later, that question has been answered. Udoka led the Celtics to the NBA Finals for the first time in 12 years. But it took several interviews and heartaches before he was able to snag one of the prized 30 NBA gigs. "The only thing I would say is the disappointment of being second for a couple of years that really hurt," Udoka told Yahoo Sports after the Celtics beat the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday . "But if you told me I had to wait for Boston and be bypassed by some of those I've been thrashed against, that's child's play for me. I'm excited to be in Boston.” It turns out that Udoka is one of - if not the most - valuable offseason pickup. The Celtics took gold, but with which other teams did he come second in the search for coaches? Detroit, Indiana, Cleveland," Udoka told Yahoo Sports. But I couldn't be prouder to be part of an organization that's pushing for wins and championships. You can be in many different situations. There are only 30 teams and I understand that, but in order not to be in a reorganization and in a situation full of pressure of expectations, I would not trade that on any day. Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka led his team to the NBA Finals in his first year at the helm. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) The 44-year-old coach is not new to the coaching community. He spent seven seasons as an assistant at San Antonio under Gregg Popovich before taking on the same role at Philadelphia under Doc Rivers and most recently at Brooklyn under Steve Nash before moving to Boston. His coaching journey followed after a seven-year NBA career. "I always felt confident when my name got out," Udoka told Yahoo Sports. Obviously being in San Antonio helped. The application process started and there was a lot of interest, so it was only a matter of time. Though disappointed that every interview was met with a rejection, he accepted the process and looked inward. "You try to improve and you get feedback from the interviews and how your weaknesses are perceived," he told Yahoo Sports. My career as a player, journeyman, role player who only had two guaranteed contracts in my entire NBA career prepared me for this. It was always about putting your head down and grinding it out and finding a way to get it done. You don't blame anyone or any situation. That's what I'm really trying to convey to the team, but for me it's about shaking it off and keeping it moving. I was in a great learning situation in San Antonio. I've had some great interviews and improved throughout the process, but it was a matter of aptitude. Today, Udoka is considered a defensive mastermind, an excellent communicator who always remains calm, and one of the bright, young faces of the coaching profession. Black head coaches now make up half of the league, a record at any point in the NBA's tenure. "I mean, the proof is in the pudding," Celtics star Jaylen Brown told Yahoo Sports. Now you're starting to see what we can do in the ranks of coaches. There used to be talk of certain people of color not being qualified for their jobs or whatever the excuse was. First-year head coach Ime Udoka led us to the finals. You look at all these coaches in the league and I'm happy to see they're finally getting a chance. Black coaches and people of color deserve it, and they're able to get the job done just like anyone else.” Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka speaks with Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and guard Jaylen Brown during a game this postseason. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) When Udoka took the job, he was adamant that the tandem of Jayson Tatum and Brown could work toward championship goals over the long term. The Celtics got off to a slow start this season and Brown said he couldn't help but hear the calls to have him traded. "This trade talk has been loud and most of it has come from Boston fans," Brown told Yahoo Sports. But the reality is we had a new manager at the start of the season, we had a new front office, I missed about 15 games early in the season and that meant we weren't clicking on all cylinders like we wanted. Game 1 of the NBA Finals begins Thursday against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco. Udoka and Brown both accept the perceived underdog status. "We've been who we were all year and our defense has performed well and carried us through the playoffs," Udoka told Yahoo Sports. “We played well against Golden State this year. We blew them up in place, had a tough defeat with us early in the season. And so it's a new series. "The Warriors are a tough team to play against," Brown told Yahoo Sports. “They are smart, experienced and have a lot of firepower. I am excited and looking forward to the challenge.”

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Celtics are in the NBA Finals after an unpredictable season

Boston appeared headed for the lottery earlier in the season but now have a date with the Warriors in the championship. (Author: Gardener)

the NBA FinalsMIAMI — The shot hung in the air for no more than a few seconds, but to the crowd of green-clad players watching, it felt like an eternity. For three quarters, the Celtics had fended off a relentless, never-ending heat attack and struggled as a 15-point lead in the first quarter was reduced to six by the end of the second, and as a 12-point lead with 3 ½ minutes left was cut in two divided. Now there they were, 17 seconds on the clock, two leads, a trip to the finals at stake, and Jimmy Butler, the latest villain in Boston's long history of them, pulling off three. "I hoped in God," Jaylen Brown said, his voice trailing off. "It was nerve-wracking," said Al Horford. "He looked good." But whether it was the 48 minutes he played, the stubborn knee that worried him or the puck that has seemingly latched on to those Celtics since midseason, Butler's shot stayed too short. Horford conceded the rebound. Marcus Smart made two free throws. The Celtics are headed to the NBA Finals. That's right: The Celtics are heading for the NBA Finals. From the podium, Smart let everything sink in. Smart is the longest-serving Celtic. This was Smart's fourth trip to the conference finals. Sitting there, a gray NBA Finals hat covering his green striped hair, Smart could only marvel at the journey. "We've been through a lot together," Smart said. Smart was referring to the past, to the three previous failed trips to the conference finals, to last year's record .500, to a team that seemed destined for so long to fall apart. Visions of Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis once danced in the minds of Boston's front office executives, but it's the Celtics' young core of Smart, Brown and Jayson Tatum that got this team through a horrible early start to the season and now a series is away from delivering the franchise's 18th championship. "The core group of guys, the guys on the bench, that coaching staff, that whole organization, they trusted us," Smart said. At the end of December it looked like a catastrophe. The Celtics were teetering by .500. Udoka, a first-time head coach, seemed overwhelmed. He publicly tattooed his team after bad defeats. The man who trained under Gregg Popovich for years seemed to think he was him. "[He] embodies everything we embody," Smart said. And if you don't like it, you can get out of here.” Horford wanted to be there. Horford completed his first run in Boston in 2019, snagging a $109 million offer from the 76ers. However, his first season in Philadelphia proved ill-suited. He was shipped to Oklahoma City in 2020, where he was forced to spend a season in basketball purgatory. This season revitalized him mentally and physically. He accepted a trade back to Boston last summer and quickly became a vital part of Boston's frontcourt. Horford only scored five points in Game 7. But he threw 14 rebounds and anchored a defense that held Miami 42% on shooting. "It's unbelievable what he's done all season," said Udoka. Horford, who will be the first Dominican to compete in a final, later reflected on his journey. Playoff failures in Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia eventually got him there. Earlier this week, Horford caught himself scrolling through photo memories from a year ago, his Thunder season long over. He steals pictures of his family eating cupcakes and celebrating success. "It's like a perspective for me," Horford said. Tatum was a rookie when the Celtics reached the 2018 Conference Finals, overcoming season-ending injuries to Gordon Hayward and Irving to take LeBron James and the Cavaliers to seven games before bowing out. Back then, Tatum thought a trip to the final was inevitable. Tatum admitted Boston's preseason struggles bothered him. "There were definitely some tough moments throughout the season where [you don't] doubt yourself, but maybe ask, can we do this?" Tatum said. “You start to realize how hard it is to win. You start questioning yourself; Are you good enough to be this guy? Good days came.” Tatum averaged a career-high 26.9 points in the regular season before beating Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the playoffs. On Sunday, Tatum's longtime coach Drew Hanlen sent Tatum a quote from Kobe Bryant, Tatum's childhood hero, about something he learned from Michael Jordan. "Fast-forward in years," Bryant once recalled Jordan's words. "Nobody's going to look at it and say you lost because that person had a bad attitude. Hell or high tide, you have to find out.” Tatum watched a Bryant film before the game. Tatum was underwhelming in Game 7. But like Bryant, he made it. He played a grueling 46 minutes, beating Butler throughout the stretch. "I came in today with the attitude that I was ready to do whatever it took to win this game, whatever the outcome," Tatum said. “The only thing that mattered was the win. You guys didn't want to talk about how many points or how many shots I missed when we lost. I knew I came in today and the group knew it.” Boston has Golden State waiting and this is a matchup the Celtics can win. Boston lost four points to the Warriors in the dark days of December before blasting Golden State by 22 on the road in March. The Celtics' physical, shifting defense gave the Dubs problems that game and should play this series again. However, the Warriors are a team steeped in Finals experience. None of Boston's rotation players have ever played in one. "It would all be for naught if we laid an egg in the final," said Udoka. The boys celebrated quickly but quickly turned the page and said we have four left. We do not hang or celebrate Eastern Conference championships in the Celtics organization. A team that appeared lottery-bound in December will now be battling for a championship. In a wild, unpredictable NBA season, few things are as unlikely as this.

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Three reasons Celtics can beat Warriors, including Boston's hunt for Stephen Curry

The Celtics will also look to exploit a size advantage with certain lineups (Author: Gardener)

BostonWith the Boston Celtics winning Game 7 over the Miami Heat on Sunday, the 2022 NBA Finals matchup is set. The Celtics, No. 2 in the East, face the No. 3 in the West, Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are favored (-155 to Boston's +135, according to Caesars Sportsbook), but I'll take the Celtics in seven. Not only is this Celtics defense arguably one of the best in modern history, it's also perfectly suited to thwarting all of Golden State's off-ball moves. Boston is changing everything that's making life difficult for Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole as they attempt to clean screens and deceptions. The Warriors aren't a big matchup chasing team, which is good because there really isn't a weak link to chase in Boston's defense. It will be a tough sled for the Warriors to create consistent quality looks on the half court. Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, all these guys can disrupt Curry to some extent in one-on-one situations, and Al Horford and Grant Williams defend well at the perimeter, so it doesn't matter which matchup Curry has or Poole get into late situations. Golden State will want to operate early in the shot clock, but depending on how well Boston recovers from shooters, many possessions could drag on longer than the Warriors would like -- at this point Boston has the advantage. Boston will put a lot of pressure on the ball. Will the Warriors find enough space as the series progresses to really get their shots going? But over the long term, I think Boston's defense is causing a lot of problems for Golden State. While the Celtics don't offer the Warriors a weak defensive link (depending on how much time Payton Pritchard sees in this series), Boston will go straight for Curry and likely Poole as well. Boston spent quite a bit of time seeking preferred matchups against Miami, and the team thrived. Golden State handled it well as Luka Doncic frequently took aim at Curry with pick and rolls in the last round; They didn't want to switch Curry to Doncic, just as they didn't want to leave him to defend Tatum or Brown in the finals, so they let Curry Show/Hedge against Doncic just long enough to stop his momentum for the original defender to recover himself as Curry raced back to another assignment. All those hedges and wing reinforcements sinking into the lanes will open up shooters and secondary playmakers for Boston, which in that regard is simply better equipped to punish Golden State than Dallas was. Smart, White, all these guys will play out of dribbling if they consistently catch with leverage in their favor. If Tatum, who created great shots for teammates on the track in Game 7, and Brown are able to use the attention they're drawing to line up teammates for a clean look, the Warriors won't like to play doubles teams, do so face a dilemma and ask Curry and/or Poole to watch straight ahead. The Warriors were statistically a better rebounding team than the Celtics in the postseason, but look at the matchups. Golden State played a small Dallas team and a Memphis team that was without Steven Adams for half of the series (when Adams was playing, he killed her on the glass). Boston has had to contend with the Bucks and Heat, who are crashing a lot harder than their small lineups suggest. In this matchup, the Celtics - with Horford and dependent on the health of Robert Williams - can play bigger than Golden State, who got a great play from Kevon Looney but will obviously go small quite a lot with Draymond Green in the five. Curry, Poole and Gary Payton II, who are expected to be back for this series, are all much smaller than Tatum and Brown, who will be able to shoot over the top when they get into these matchups. When Looney has to play big minutes to keep Boston on the glass, it dampens Golden State's offensive firepower, and really, how many minutes can Looney stave off Horford and the two Williams in a seven-game series? Also, Horford will largely stretch Looney out of color in big lineups. Draymond Green will obviously fight, and Andrew Wiggins is a solid positional rebounder (as is Curry), and the Warriors are more than capable of holding their own in this matchup, or even winning the rebound fight (offensive rebounding has never been so difficult). with all the long rebounds from 3-point shots to forecast). But Boston has a chance on paper to assert some physical dominance on the boards (while understanding it will try to get back in transition to locate Golden State shooters). And when that's the case, the creation of consistent second-chance opportunities combined with the two-way perimeter size that Boston offers adds up greatly across a series.

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