The 2022 NBA Finals is set to tip off at Chase Center with the Warriors hosting the opening two games prior to the series moving to Boston for the following two. This matchup is likely to go beyond four games but before the start of Game 1, let’s look at several items you should be aware of.
Celtics-Warriors Game 1 Odds
- Spread: Warriors -3.5 (-110)
- Total: 214.0 (-110)
- Moneyline: Celtics +140
- Odds via PointsBet
- Watch: fuboTV
Trends to Consider
The home-court advantage for Golden State is huge as the Warriors have yet to lose a game at home this postseason.
It’s worth noting for later in the series that the Celtics are undefeated following a loss this postseason. Stealing a game at Chase Center is going to be essential for the Celtics to compete in this series and dare I say have a shot to win it all.
Ultimately though, even if Boston drops the opening two games of the Finals, all hope should not be lost simply because Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are there. Something I’ve said time and time again is that the way the modern-day NBA is and the direction the league is continuing to head in is having two players average north of 20 PPG when it matters the most.
Celtics’ Offense Outlook
In fact, Tatum and Brown are the third pair of teammates aged 25 years or younger to reach the NBA Finals averaging 20 PPG each and the first since Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (2012). Tatum is also 1 of 4 players in NBA history to reach the NBA Finals averaging 25/5/5 before turning 25.
Best believe the Warriors should have their hands full with the Celtics’ duo paired with the likes of whoever has the hot hand on any given night, varying from Marcus Smart to Al Horford, Derrick White, and yes, at times, Grant Williams.
Fortunately, Golden State can have Steph Curry deal with Smart for the most part with Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggs likely splitting time with the daunting task of guarding Tatum and Smart. Jordan Poole coming off the bench could also be interesting as Golden State would have someone to match Brown’s offensive capabilities on fast breaks and at the very least force a contested shot/layup. But the staple of the Warriors’ defense outside of defensive guru Draymond Green is the likely return of Gary Payton II, who has been out since Game 2 of the conference semifinals with a fractured elbow. Payton can handle the task of guarding anyone from the 1-3 position for the most part as his versatility on both ends of the floor along with Wiggins coming into his own as a strong two-way player can cause issues for Boston.
Although defense wins championships (probably something Draymond Green rightfully preaches) the Warriors will learn to fight fire with fire and likely win that battle more times than not.
Golden State’s Offense > Boston’s Defense?
Offensively the Warriors have all the depth in the world and can rely on either Curry or Thompson having the hot hand on any given night, but it will be up to Wiggins or Poole to be the difference-maker on offense. Boston has a defense that will not let up and plays phenomenally through the screen which is what Golden State thrives on to get Curry and Thompson into their spot (feels like anywhere on the court). Best believe the Warriors are going to get creative in their off-ball movement just to tire out the Celtics’ defense.
But the key matchup Steve Kerr is going to have circled is Curry when guarded by Smart. The newly crowned defensive player of the year has made life for Curry tough over the past 5 seasons. Smart has allowed a mere 30 points through six contests, holding the future Hall of Famer 37% shooting from the field and 30% from beyond the arc to go alongside 3 assists and 7 turnovers. Although there’s cause for concern, a sample size of six games may mean something, or maybe it doesn’t, especially when dealing with a player of Curry’s caliber.
How Jordan Poole Could Shift Series
We know the kind of nights the splash brothers can have and Wiggins seems to have peaked at the sweet spot of averaging 15.8 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 48.0% from the field this postseason. Although Wiggins has the ability to score north of 20 on any given night, it’s not something I would bank on consistently as Golden State is simply going to need him to be smart with his shot selection and continue racking up offensive boards, with Kevon Looney, while making life for Tatum or Brown hard when on the defensive side of the ball.
That shifts the attention to Poole who is likely to come off the bench which is where the Warriors can thrive granted the future all-star is playing how he did early on in the playoffs. It’s tough to not notice Poole has averaged a mere 13.9 points, 3.6 assists, and 3.0 rebounds over the last eight playoff contests. Compare that to his 22.9 points, 5.4 assists, and 3.4 rebounds through the opening eight games this postseason and we know what he’s capable of.
Although there’s a learning curve in the NBA for younger stars, Steve Kerr is likely going to hold Poole to a higher account, and rightfully so when competing on the biggest stage of the NBA. Fortunately, that’s where the playoff experience also kicks in for the Warriors as the young core of Poole, Moses Moody, and Jonathan Kuminga will now more than ever play second fiddle to Curry, Thompson, and Green.
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Steph Curry’s Most Important Assignment
Golden State is still heavily going to rely on their bench to keep their foot on the gas as Boston knows how to flip the switch in the final 12 minutes of play. In fact, Brown is shooting 62.1% from the field and 66.7% from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter this postseason as Tatum is shooting 53.6% from the field and 47.8% from beyond the arc in the same span.
As scary as that is, the only thing that can trump Boston’s duo is Golden State’s with Curry and Thompson. Arguably one of the greatest shooting backcourts of all-time looks to live up to that argument once again on the big stage. In fact, when everything is on the line and you need that close-out player, Curry will answer the call time and time again. Since 1971, the only three players have averaged 10+ 4th quarter PPG in multiple Finals series: Michael Jordan (1993, 1997, 1998), Shaquille O’Neal (1995, 2000), and Stephen Curry (2015, 2018).
When it’s all said and done, one of these two prolific backcourts will hoist the Larry O’Brien. Will it be the young stars in Tatum and Brown who are playing in their first NBA Finals or will it be the group of seasoned veterans that many people wrote off just for them to come back and compete for their fourth title in the past seven years? A true David-and-Goliath may be brewing here, but it’s tough to go against the latter of the two with good reason.
It felt indubitable at times that the Warriors would come out as victors in every postseason matchup that they have been in this year. Boston most certainly looks the toughest and rightfully so being the NBA Finals matchup, but the Celtics’ lack of a true third star alongside Tatum and Brown feels like it could cost them against the Warriors’ depth.
That’s no discredit to what Smart can do on both ends of the court, but the inconsistency on offense from Boston is concerning at times as they have allowed opposing teams this postseason to fight their way back late, something they can’t allow (but probably will happen) against the Warriors. Letting Golden State go on any run can be demoralizing more times than not and rightfully shift the momentum of a game.
I envision this series being tied up 2-2 through the opening four games but the Warriors should close this series out in Game 6 on the road at TD Garden. Although that means the Warriors would win Game 5 at home and the Celtics are undefeated following a loss, something has to give way…
It’s been a common theme and perhaps a preference for any team, especially the Warriors to close out at home, but potentially getting out to a 3-1 lead through the opening four games and then close things out at home in Game 5 seems too good to be true. Perhaps we could be in for a seven-game series as this Boston team has a lot of fight and has won back-to-back Game 7’s this postseason getting them to this point. Ultimately though, I’ll stick with Warriors in 6. Golden State got now, and Boston has next…
SR Prediction: Warriors in 6