Here it is.
Finally, we are down to the last two remaining teams who will battle it out in a best-of-seven series to determine who takes home the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
After all of the twists and turns, the feel-good runs and the disappointments the Playoffs have held, it comes down to the best in the west, and the beasts of the east.
Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics
Season Series: Tied 1-1
Road to The Finals:
Golden State Warriors - Defeated Denver 4-1, Defeated Memphis 4-2, Defeated Dallas 4-1
Boston Celtics - Defeated Brooklyn 4-0, Defeated Milwaukee 4-3, Defeated Miami 4-3
As expected by many, the Golden State Warriors were borderline clinical in their Conference Finals series against the Mavericks. Despite having to try and contain Luka Doncic, whom I named as the best player in the series, the Warriors appeared to rarely break a sweat (with some exceptions) across their five game series.
It’s no surprise that Golden State were clinical across the series given the experience and continuity of their roster. Steph, Klay and Green were the pillars which provided the stability around which the likes of Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins continued to excel in their roles, while Steve Kerr provided the perfect game plan and adjustments to help the entire team execute.
The Warriors are battle-hardened, rested and ready to once again reach the pinnacle of the mountain after several years in the wilderness.
The Celtics, on the other hand, come into this series with three franchise cornerstones who have never been this far. Even their more experienced players in Al Horford and Daniel Theis have failed to reach this stage of the post-season throughout their careers. In fact, first year Head Coach Ime Udoka, who has made stellar adjustments throughout the post-season, represents somewhat of a lone soldier on the eve of the Finals, having been an assistant with the Spurs when they won a title over the Heat in 2014.
It’s his experience and leadership they will rely on heavily throughout the series. While Tatum, Brown and Smart have all had their moments in the Playoffs, they have also had trouble adjusting to defences at times and have been prone to committing turnovers. If the Celtics ‘big three’ lacks composure for even small stretches of time in this series, the Warriors have the experience and high-octane offense to be able to put them to the sword, no matter the stage of the game.
Steph Curry (left) drives against Marcus Smart (right) during one of their two meetings earlier in the season. Credit: MassLive.com
Marcus Smart v Steph Curry
Steph Curry remains Golden State’s greatest offensive threat due to his shooting range, ball-handling and dynamic playmaking ability. Marcus Smart remains Boston’s best defensive player due to his unrelenting intensity, willingness to absorb contact and ability to stay in front of even the toughest defensive assignments.
Having them match up on one another? This should be fun!
Now, both of these teams are some of the switchiest on defence in the Association, so we may not get this specific one-on-one match-up as often as we should. Having said that I’d be shocked if down the stretch in a close game, Smart wasn’t guarding Curry the length of the court.
Nobody can truly stop Curry – many have tried and many more have failed. What Smart offers, however, is someone whose body can stand up to the physical beating of having to fight over 100’s of screens across the series, in addition to someone who is smart enough keep track of Curry when those screens arrive. This might be a case of ‘limiting’ Curry to 20-25 points a game instead of letting him explode for 35-40, and if I’m picking my ideal match-up to stop, they don’t come more tailor-made on paper than Smart.
On the other end of the court, Curry is the weakest link defensively for the Warriors. That’s not to say he’s a bad defender by any means, rather that Green, Thompson and Wiggins are just superior in that area. Smart will have to take advantage of this offensively by being smart with his shot selection, making them count when he does take them, and by being savvy enough to realise that with the Warriors penchant for switching almost everything defensively, there are endless opportunities for him to set screens to force a mis-match for Tatum and Brown to take advantage of.
With the Warriors wanting to play small-ball with their ‘death line-up’, being able to get Curry guarding Tatum and Brown so they can attack the rim may be their best offensive weapon. Smart figures as being a key in setting up those mismatches.
Both teams have looked stellar at times through the post-season, but it's the Celtics who have really had to grind to get to this point, knocking out defending champions Milwaukee and then #1 seed Miami in back-to-back seven-game series. The Celtics have all of the pieces necessary to seriously compete with the Warriors at the highest level, but some of their lapses in concentration and inconsistencies against the Heat will be punished far more severely by the Warriors if they continue to occur. It's the polish at the higher end of the scale which I think sees the series decided.
Verdict: Warriors win NBA Championship 4-2.
So, what do you think? Did I get it right? Did I mess it up? Let me know on twitter (@BMBTPodcast) or send us an email at BMBTPodcast@gmail.com!
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