The Boston Celtics’ Game 7 win over the Miami Heat completes the setup for the 2022 NBA Finals showdown – the team will face the Golden State Warriors, who are favored to win the championship as per Caesars Sportbook, with an odds of -155 to Boston’s +135.
Despite that, the Celtics can still take the team matches up great with the Warriors. Here are three key reasons why Boston can still become the 2022 NBA champions.
1. The Celtics has one of the best defense in the league’s history
Not only that, but their said defense is just the right kind to fight the Warriors’ off-ball movement. The Celtics’ switching style has made life difficult for Steph Curry, Jordan Poole, and Klay Thompson, as they aim to come clean off misdirections and screens. The numbers back this up.
According to Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball), “There’s just not a team more defensively equipped to guard Golden State than Boston. Nothing definitive. But 2018, 2019, 2022 (so excluding the two-year rebuild stretch), Boston held Golden State to a 0.853 points per possession mark switching.”
It’s good that the Warriors are not one to hunt for big match-ups since Boston’s defense practically has no weak link to look for. Creating consistent quality looks in the half-court is going to be tough sledding for Golden State. Curry can be bothered reasonably by Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Derrick White, and Jayson Tatum when it comes to one-on-one situations.
When it comes to defending the perimeter, Al Hortford can do the job just fine. So given this, it really doesn’t matter what matchup Poole or Curry may find themselves in when it comes to late-clock situations.
It would be wise for the Warriors to operate early in the shot clock, but the Celtics can drag this out longer than the Warriors would like, given how well the Celtics recover to shooters a lot of possessions. This is another advantage for Boston.
And let’s not forget the Warriors’ tendency to turn the bull over. Boston will definitely pressure them on this, with all the chasing, doubling, recovering, and switching. Miami grabbed and held the Celtics during their series and this is what the Celtics will also do to the Warriors.
The Warriors will have to find enough space to totally get their shots going over the course of the series. Of course they can do this, in spurts. But Boston’s defense can give the Golden State serious problems over the long haul.
2. The Pressure On Steph
Boston will definitely go right at Curry, and most likely at Poole too. The team was successful in hunting preferred matchups against Miami. In the case of the Warriors, they handled it well when Curry was frequently targeted by Luka Doncic during the last round with pick and rolls.
The Warriors avoided switching Curry unto Doncic, the same way that they certainly wouldn’t want to leave him defending Brown or Tatum in the finals. Curry hedged on Doncic just long enough to stop his momentum, leaving the original defender enough time to recover as Curry hurried back to his assignment.
These split seconds of recovery contain vulnerabilities. Shooters and secondary playmakers will open up for Boston in the middle of all this hedging and winging reinforcements and sinking into driving lanes. Golden State is definitely better equipped in this regard compared to Dallas. Boston, when they are determined to do so, can get into the paint successfully.
The Warriors are going to have a dilemma on their hands if Tatum and Brown will be able to use the attention they attract to set up their teammates for clean looks. This is going to be a problem for the Warriors (who don’t like to double-team) especially when it comes to asking Curry or Poole to guard straight up.
3. Celtics Can Play Bigger
When you look at the match-ups of Golden State, they played small Dallas and Memphis teams (for the latter, Steven Adams wasn’t around for half the series) . In the case of Boston, they had to deal with the Heat and the Bucks, teams who crash harder than what their small lineups imply.
In a Celtics vs Warriors matchup, Boston can play bigger than Golden State, who will go for Draymond Green most likely at the five. Golden State’s offensive firepower will be dampened if Looney has to play long minutes to restrain Boston on the glass. Looney can only log on so many minutes fighting off Hortford and the two Williams’ in a span of seven games.
The Warriors are definitely more than capable of holding their own in rebounds, with Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins going to battle for Golden State. But Boston can assert physical dominance on the boards. They can capitalize on their two-way perimeter size and create consistent second-chance opportunities to turn the series in their favor.