Boston Celtics vs. Golden State Warriors NBA Finals Preview

This year’s NBA Finals features two of the league’s most successful franchises, as the Boston Celtics battle the Golden State Warriors. With the series scheduled to get underway on Thursday, let’s dive into what should be an entertaining tilt. 

How They Got Here

Back in the Finals, for the first time since 2010, it was a revenge tour of sorts for the Celtics. They eliminated each of the teams that ended their season the previous three years. In the opening round, Boston swept the Brooklyn Nets before ousting the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat, respectively, in seven games. 

Meanwhile, the Warriors have been largely unchallenged this postseason, posting a 12-4 mark through the opening three rounds en route to securing the club’s sixth Finals appearance in eight years.

Key Matchups

Marcus Smart vs. Stephen Curry: The reigning Defensive Player of the Year will look to slow down the game’s greatest shooter as Marcus Smart and Stephen Curry renew acquaintances. These two were involved in some controversy stemming from a March 16 contest in which Smart dove for a loose ball and landed on Curry’s foot. The two-time league MVP ultimately suffered a sprained ligament. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr characterized it as a “dangerous play,” the injury forced Curry to miss the remainder of the regular season and briefly come off the bench in the opening round of the playoffs. In ten career games versus Smart, the 34-year-old has averaged 24.1 points, 4.6 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per contest. 

Andrew Wiggins vs. Jayson Tatum: One of the feel-good stories of this year’s postseason has been the play of former number one overall pick Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins has been impactful on both ends of the floor, averaging 15.8 points, while blossoming into one of the game’s better wing defenders. The 27-year-old will draw his most challenging postseason assignment in Boston superstar Jayson Tatum. Tatum leads the Celtics in playoff scoring with 27 points per game.

Series X-Factor

Klay Thompson: The result of these Finals could depend on the performance of the Warriors shooting guard, Klay Thompson. While Thompson hasn’t looked quite like the player he was before his injuries, he is still capable of some big nights offensively, as evidenced by his three 30-plus point performances this postseason.

Thompson’s importance extends to the defensive end, where he will likely be tasked with stopping Celtics star guard Jalen Brown. Once one of the game’s premier defenders, Thompson has struggled in that area since his return, with teams routinely going at the five-time All-Star, an unthinkable scenario before his devastating injuries. 

If the 32-year-old can routinely find his old stroke while regaining some of his defensive form, Golden State will be very tough to beat.