Wed. May 31st, 2023

The 2022 NBA Finals matchup is set, and it has the potential to be a classic series between the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics. Game 1 is set for Thursday in San Francisco.

These two teams are extremely evenly matched. Personally, I believe the Celtics are so well equipped to defend Golden State’s movement-based offense that they’ll prevail in a seven-game war.

Not everyone agrees with me. You certainly can’t fault anyone leaning toward a Warriors team that has appeared in six of the last eight NBA Finals and collected three championships with the Stephen Curry-Klay Thompson-Draymond Green core.

With that in mind, here are our staff predictions. 

NBA Finals picks: Warriors vs. Celtics

Reiter’s pick: Warriors in 6. Golden State has reclaimed its championship mojo, a renaissance that will continue in a hard-fought series that will see Steph Curry & Co. claim a fourth championship. Yes, the Celtics have a world-class defense — one that so far this postseason has made Kevin Durant look pedestrian, that made two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo markedly less efficient, and that at times turned the Miami Heat’s offense into an embarrassment. But the Warriors have the answers in Steph, Klay, Poole, and Wiggins — players who will fire an offense that will find its way through, and over, Boston. Throw in a Golden State defense that was the regular season’s best, and the most impressive championship in Warriors history is just a few weeks away.

Quinn’s pick: Warriors in 7. This series is a toss-up. The defenses that succeed against Golden State are the ones without weak links. Boston has none. If Andrew Wiggins can handle Luka Doncic, he can handle Jayson Tatum. If Boston was afraid to go at Bam Adebayo on switches, it is going to avoid Draymond Green like the plague. Boston doesn’t rebound well enough to force Golden State to play big when it doesn’t want to. Gary Payton II’s return is going to lead to a lot of the turnovers Miami turned into easy points last round, but the Warriors, like the Celtics, have a frustrating capacity for nonsense and will give Boston back many of those points. I’m leaning toward the Warriors very, very slightly because of three very simple advantages. Golden State gets Game 7 at home. Golden State starts this series with three extra days of rest. Golden State, by the thinnest of margins, has the best player in the series. That’s it. If Robert Williams III and Marcus Smart can return to something resembling full strength, I might flip. But for now? I give Golden State a tiny edge.

Ward-Henninger’s pick: Warriors in 7. The Warriors haven’t seen a defense like the Celtics. The Celtics haven’t seen an offense like the Warriors. So who wins out? At the end of the day, I have to give Golden State the edge in crunch-time execution based on the way both have played so far in the playoffs. I might overrate experience, but the cliché “championship DNA” has shown itself for the Warriors multiple times this postseason. Add in the fact that Gary Payton II might be healthy for the Finals to make life hell for Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Celtics offense, and I think Golden State has the slight edge with home-court advantage. On the other side, Robert Williams’ health is a huge wild card, but it’s pretty clear that he’s not at 100 percent, which makes things somewhat more manageable for the Warriors’ offense. Either way, I predict a long series with some big leads on both sides, particularly in the early games.

Maloney’s pick: Celtics in 6. This series genuinely seems to be a toss-up, with most leaning toward the Warriors due to their experience and home-court advantage. That’s all reasonable and it’s hard to argue against. At the same time, this Celtics team has responded to every single challenge thrown its way over the past weeks and months, and is the only team with a winning record against the Warriors since Steve Kerr took over in 2014. The Celtics have the exact personnel necessary to slow down the Warriors’ offensive attack, and their defense, which has been spectacular all postseason, will carry them to Banner No. 18. 

Wimbish’s pick: Warriors in 7. The Celtics’ journey to the Finals has been massively impressive, but they haven’t faced an offense close to what the Warriors present. On the flip side of that, the Warriors haven’t faced a defense as versatile and switch-heavy as the Celtics. You could really go either way with this matchup because there’s valid reasons for picking each team, but I trust Golden State’s ability to lock in when needed and put points on the board in a hurry. 

Botkin’s pick: Celtics in 7. The Celtics are perfectly equipped to defend Golden State’s off-ball movement, and they can beat the Warriors on the offensive glass, especially when Golden State isn’t playing Kevon Looney, which adds up over the course of a series. Golden State is prone to turnovers, and Boston could cause a bunch. Golden State won’t apply the same kind of perimeter pressure as Miami did on Boston’s ball-handlers, and Steph Curry is going to get hunted defensively. Jayson Tatum has become terrific at making plays out of double teams, so hunting that matchup should produce plenty of open 3-point looks for the Celtics. All of this, in my mind, will be just barely enough for Boston to edge the Warriors. And yes, I understand this prediction means they will have to win a Game 7 on the Warriors’ home floor. Cleveland did it in 2016, and Boston has what it takes to do it again in 2022. 

Herbert’s pick: Celtics in 7. In the regular season, these were the two best defensive teams in the league. Elite on offense, too, when their best players were on the court. Both teams can get sloppy with the ball, though, and go cold for several frustrating minutes at a time, despite all of their offensive talent. When the Warriors have the ball, can their movement create the same sort of confusion it usually does? This will be a challenge against a defense that mixes the best qualities of the 2018 Rockets and the 2019 Raptors. And when the Celtics have the ball, will their matchup-hunting be as effective as it was in previous rounds? Golden State is well practiced in dealing with teams going after Stephen Curry, and there won’t be many other targets if Gary Payton II, Andre Iguodala and Otto Porter are available. I’m leaning toward Boston, ever so slightly, mostly because I picked them to beat the Warriors in the Finals six weeks ago and it feels like I should stick with that. But also because Jordan Poole, a crucial part of Golden State’s offense, is going to be picked on relentlessly, and Boston’s playmakers won’t have that problem. 

Kaskey-Blomain’s pick: Warriors in 7. Both of these teams are deep, well-coached and get after it defensively. During the regular season, the Celtics had the league’s highest-rated defense, while the Warriors were right behind them at No. 2. So, we can probably expect near-elite defense from both squads. Thus, the difference in the series could come on the offensive end, where the Warriors appear to be a bit better. Golden State has more threats on the offensive end, including one of the toughest players in the entire league to guard in Stephen Curry. The Warriors also have a proven system that has provided them with past playoff success. Boston’s offense isn’t battle-tested at the highest level like Golden State’s, which brings us to the experience issue. Five players in the series have Finals experience, and all five of them are on Golden State. Additionally, Steve Kerr will be coaching in his sixth NBA Finals, while Ime Udoka will be coaching his first. That enormous advantage in experience should work in the Warriors’ favor. 

Source link