NBA

NBA Finals: Fascinating series awaits between Warriors and Celtics

By Sports Desk May 30, 2022

So here we are, after all that basketball in 2021-22, we come down to the final pair as the Golden State Warriors take on the Boston Celtics to decide the destination of this year's NBA championship.

It was a relatively smooth route for the Warriors after a 4-1 win against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, while the Celtics went to Game 7 for the second round in a row, eventually overcoming the Miami Heat.

Having been able to rest up since they sealed their place in the finals on Friday, Steve Kerr's team will be heavily fancied to win their first title since 2018.

Golden State were electric against Dallas, with all four of their wins being by a margin of at least nine, and even managing to overcome the outrageously talented Luka Doncic, winning Games 2 and 3 despite 40 or more points in both coming from the Slovenian.

It is no surprise that Stephen Curry is leading the way for the Warriors, averaging 25.9 points per game in the postseason, as well as 6.2 assists and 4.9 rebounds.

His three-pointer attempts have been a little wayward by his own very high standards, making 60 of 158 attempts in the playoffs, just three more than Klay Thompson (57 from 143 shots), who himself is playing more than just a support role.

Thompson is averaging 19.8 points per game, while Jordan Poole is not far behind with 18.4.

Andrew Wiggins also deserves credit for his contribution, averaging 15.8 and scoring 27 in the Game 3 win against the Mavs at the American Airlines Center, and a good example of how Kerr's team can get at you from anywhere on the court.

 

All that being said, the Celtics have shown themselves to be big-game players during the playoffs, overcoming both the defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks and the number one seeds in the East, the Heat.

Jayson Tatum has invariably been the main man, averaging 27.0 points in the playoffs along with 5.9 assists and 6.7 rebounds per game.

Like the Warriors, though, Boston are able to spread the responsibility, with Tatum's 26 against the Heat in Game 7 supplemented by 24 each from Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.

The Celtics are in the finals for the first time since 2010, and it feels like they have shown the backbone needed to go all the way, even against a supremely talented Warriors side.

Ime Udoka could cement his legacy in Boston, admitting after overcoming the Heat they will need to go one better to be remembered, saying: "We don't hang or celebrate Eastern Conference championships in the Celtics organisation, so we all fall in line and appreciate that standard of excellence."

Udoka against Kerr could be the most interesting contest across the NBA Finals, but all over the court there are intriguing narratives and plenty of top-class basketball to witness.

Whoever rises to the top, they will surely be worthy champions.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Golden State Warriors – Draymond Green

The outspoken 32-year-old said on his podcast recently that whatever happens, "the dynasty been stamped" for this Warriors team.

A fourth NBA title in eight years would be quite a convincing way to stamp it further, and Green is likely to play a big role if that is to happen.

In the playoffs, he has been averaging 2.8 turnovers, 8.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.9 rebounds per game. He racked up nine assists in the clincher against the Mavs, as well as sinking six of seven field goal attempts.

Boston Celtics – Al Horford

After a year each at the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder, Horford came back to Boston to try and finally reach the NBA Finals, and he has done just that.

His ability to stop the opposition and tidy up attacks could well be key against an opposition with danger-men all over the place.

Horford has averaged 8.1 defensive rebounds in the playoffs, including 12 in the Game 7 win against the Heat, and managed three turnovers in three different games during that series.

KEY BATTLE – Will defense win the championship?

Following on from Horford's ability to snatch the ball in defense, these two were both in the top four in the league in the regular season for defensive rebounds, with Golden State second overall with 2,930, while Boston were fourth on 2,915.

One thing the Celtics will need to be aware of is the Warriors' ability to steal, making the fourth most in the league in the regular season (719), while the Celtics were only in 19th place (591).

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Celtics will be especially confident based on recent match-ups, having won six of their past seven meetings with the Warriors, including a 110-88 win at Chase Center in their most-recent contest in March.

Related items

  • Djokovic posts routine win on return to action in Tel Aviv Djokovic posts routine win on return to action in Tel Aviv

    Novak Djokovic cruised past Pablo Andujar to reach the quarter-finals of the Tel Aviv Open on Thursday, showing no signs of rustiness on his first Tour-level outing since July.

    Djokovic had not featured in an ATP-level match since his final victory over Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon, having been forced to miss the US Open due to his COVID-19 vaccination status.

    But the Serbian needed little time to find his feet in Israel, winning the first seven games of the match and breaking the Spaniard's serve four times en route to a 6-0 6-3 victory.

    Speaking on court afterwards, Djokovic said: "Fantastic atmosphere here tonight, thank you very much. I like the court, it's very intimate and it's very loud. 

    "The crowd here is very passionate about the sport, about tennis and I'm really, really happy to be here and to perform here in front of you, so thank you for your support."

    The 21-time grand slam winner will face Canada's Vasek Pospisil in the last eight after he beat home hopeful Edan Leshem 6-3 6-2.

    Two of Djokovic's fellow seeds fared less well, however, with Diego Schwartzman and Botic van de Zandschulp both being ousted after three-set contests.

    Third seed Schwartzman failed to capitalise on a third-set match point in his 6-3 2-6 7-6 (9-7) loss to Arthur Rinderknech, while Britain's Liam Broady teed up a clash with Marin Cilic by beating Van de Zandschulp 6-4 4-6 6-3.

    The Sofia Open also saw a couple of seeds fall to surprise defeats on Thursday, although Jannik Sinner avoided any drama in his 6-3 6-4 win over Nuno Borges.

    Sinner now has a perfect 10-0 record at the event, which he won in both 2020 and 2021, and will face Australia's Aleksandar Vukic for a place in the final four.

    Holger Rune also progressed to the last eight, though he was forced to rally after losing the opener against Lorenzo Sonego, but Pablo Carreno Busta and Oscar Otte were both dumped out.

    Second seed Carreno Busta fell to a 6-3 3-6 6-2 reverse against Switzerland's Marc-Andrea Huesler, who will face Poland's Kamil Majchrzak in the quarter-finals after he came back to beat Otte 4-6 6-2 6-4.

  • Galtier 'not surprised' by Fournier's comments Galtier 'not surprised' by Fournier's comments

    Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier is "not surprised" by some strong comments made by former colleague Julien Fournier regarding their time together at Nice.

    Galtier joined Nice ahead of the 2021-22 campaign after winning the Ligue 1 title with Lille, but he stayed at the Allianz Riviera for just one year before making the move to PSG.

    Speaking on RMC show 'After Foot' on Wednesday, ex-Nice director of football Fournier suggested Galtier's exit came down to more than just football reasons.

    "It's common knowledge that the relationship I had with Christophe was quite chaotic from the start of the season," said Fournier, who himself left for Parma in July 

    "Quite honestly, if I explain the real reasons we argued, Christophe would no longer be allowed in a locker room, neither in France nor in Europe.

    "But it was not about football matters. These are much more serious things from my point of view. It was indirectly linked to football. These are things that affect me deeply. 

    "We finished the season and we, him and I, were as professional as possible to limit the negative impact that it could have had on the team. Then there was the separation."

    Galtier was asked about those remarks at a pre-match press conference on Thursday ahead of his first meeting with Nice since joining PSG.

    "He is pretentious," Galtier told reporters. "I am not surprised at the way he expressed himself. I don't want to get tired of debating on everything that was said.

    "If we do that, the way it works means we create one debate after another. I'm not surprised about what I heard knowing the character. That's all I've got to say."

    Galtier won 23 of his 43 matches in charge of Nice last season and guided the club to a fifth-place finish in Ligue 1.

    He departed with the best points-per-game record of any coach in Nice's Ligue 1 history, with his return of 1.76 marginally better than current incumbent Lucien Favre's 1.67.

    Galtier's Nice went unbeaten against PSG last season and were the only side to keep clean sheets in both matches against the Parisians.

    However, PSG welcome the Eagles to Parc des Princes on Saturday having won seven of their opening eight matches, scoring 26 goals and conceding only four in the process.

    Asked if his side are prepared for the challenge on the back of a two-week international break, Galtier said: "We have to get back to normal as quickly as possible.

    "We've worked for the past 10 days with five players. This is the first game in a long series. There are 13 games to go before the World Cup and we are preparing carefully."

  • Heskey backs under-fire England boss Southgate ahead of World Cup Heskey backs under-fire England boss Southgate ahead of World Cup

    Emile Heskey believes Gareth Southgate should be given the chance to turn England's fortunes around after relegation from League A in the Nations League.

    The Three Lions' manager has come in for criticism after his team finished bottom of Group 3, failing to win any of their six outings against Italy, Hungary and Germany (D3 L3).

    With the World Cup in Qatar kicking off in less than two months, the pressure is on Southgate to deliver, though he did guide England to the semi-finals in Russia in 2018 before reaching the final of the rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament last year.

    Heskey – who made 62 appearances for England – thinks Southgate and his players can turn it around and can take positives from their 3-3 draw with Germany at Wembley on Monday.

    Speaking to Stats Perform, the former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker said: "I think the draw against Germany did redeem [England] in some cases.

    "I thought the fight they showed was fantastic to get it back to 3-2 because they could easily have given up at 2-0 [down]. But they fought back to make it 3-2 and then 3-3, obviously.

    "Football has always fascinated me [because] we put no pressure on them, and [then] they get to a semi-final and a final, then we suddenly heap a load of pressure on them and you can see what's happening."

    Prior to the six-goal thriller with Germany, England had failed to score with any of their previous 62 non-penalty shots, a run of seven hours and 30 minutes without a non-penalty goal.

    Southgate's men are also winless in their last six games in all competitions, their longest run since April to June 1993 (also six). It is their longest ever winless run going into a major tournament.

    "When you're not doing well, they're going to justify criticism, and you've got to accept that criticism. It's how you bounce back from that," Heskey added.

    "None of these have turned into bad players overnight, and the manager isn't a bad manager overnight. I think you've got to give him the opportunity to turn it around and turn the fortune of the players around as well."

    One of the concerns widely discussed has been whether Southgate knows his best team before they take on Iran, the United States and Wales in Group B at the World Cup, but Heskey pointed out selection headaches mean the manager has a number of credible options available to him.

    "You could put it either way," he said. "It could be alarming, or it could be a good thing that we don't know the best 11 because players are coming in.

    "You've even got Ivan Toney coming into the [last] squad... [Mason] Mount's played a lot of games and then come back in and scored.

    "So it's always good to keep the manager on his toes. But you really should know who your starting 11 is coming up to a major tournament."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.