Game 1 is Thursday.
The upcoming NBA Finals game between the Celtics and Warriors feels like it’s been years in the making.
Golden State was a mainstay on the sport’s biggest scene from 2015 to 2019, winning the title three times and losing the championship the other two years. In the Eastern Conference, Boston has made two conference finals in that span, twice falling to LeBron James, and failed to capitalize with its talented roster in 2019.
After both teams dealt with star player departures and injuries (more for Golden State than Boston), the stars finally aligned for the Celtics and Warriors to face off for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
A day after the Celtics won the Eastern Conference title from the Heat, the Warriors got a chance to give their first thoughts on the game. Warriors star goaltender Steph Curry complimented their Finals opponent and didn’t reveal too much about how he thinks the next game will go.
“They are obviously a great team. They are in the final,” Curry told reporters on Monday. “They’ve had their band together – they’ve been through a lot together over the last four, five years. They had some early success and figured out how to sustain it and now they’re here on this stage. It will be an incredible test. They have guys who play at a very high level, it’s a very complete team. They have size. They have been tested well this playoff.
“We like the game in terms of confidence, knowing we can win, but there’s obvious respect in terms of what they present as a team. [Jayson] Tatum, [Jaylen] Brown, these are the heads of the serpent. Marcus Smart does what he does. Then you have veterinarians. Obviously, Al Horford has been in the league for a long time and this is their first appearance in the final. So I’m sure they’re motivated like us and eager to get things done.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr focused on Defensive Player of the Year Smart and compared him to one of the Warriors’ star players when he spoke to reporters on Monday.
“His strength and his anticipation, he has an incredible feel for the game for that end,” Kerr said of Smart. “He’s like the guard version of Draymond [Green]. He reads the angles, he keeps the five positions, if he goes to five, he is so strong he can hold them. He’s quick enough to chase playmakers, big enough to keep wings so he can literally keep 1-5 in the modern game. He lives up to his name, a very smart and really versatile player and a great, great defender.
Smart’s defense could be the ultimate difference maker in the final. In his eight-year career, Smart held Curry to 29 percent shooting from the field when he was the closest defenseman, according to Second Spectrum.
Curry had a relatively poor shooting performance in the Celtics’ first game against the Warriors this season. While he scored 30 points, he shot just 8 of 21 from the field and 5 of 14 from deep, turning the ball over six times. In the March game, Curry scored three on 1-of-4 shooting with four turnovers before leaving the game in the second quarter when Smart landed on his foot diving for a loose ball.
But Curry has already had success against the Celtics. Last season, Curry scored 47 points on 15 of 27 shooting in one of the games against Boston.
Curry’s poor shot against Smart is a good indication of the Celtics’ relative success against the Warriors since 2014-15, the first year Golden State won a title. Boston is 9-7 against the NBA-leading Kerr-coached Warriors. The Celtics have had some memorable wins over the Warriors during that streak, including in 2016 when they were the first team to defeat the Warriors at home all year, a season in which Golden State went 73 -9. The Celtics beat the Warriors again at Oracle Arena (Golden State’s home until 2019) in 2017, a championship season for the Warriors.
The teams split the two regular season matchups, with Golden State winning in Boston in December and the Celtics returning the favor to the Warriors in March.
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