The NBA Finals begin tonight, and the teams will be familiar even if some of the faces aren’t. The Golden State Warriors played in every finals from 2015 to 2019 and are back after a couple of years away. The Boston Celtics haven’t gotten this far for a dozen years, but are making their 22nd trip to the finals as a franchise.
It’s a matchup between a blistering offense and a juggernaut defense — a Cuisinart vs. a woodchipper, as True Hoop’s David Thorpe puts it — both of which have gotten stronger since the playoffs began.
Neither team were favored to get here — the Celtics, WGBH notes, with an ugly 20-21 record halfway through the season, and the Warriors were only the No. 3 seed in the West.
But the Warriors were steady as they fought past Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies and Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks.
The Celtics, meanwhile, swept away the loaded Brooklyn Nets in the first round, and demonstrated remarkable resilience against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat, NPR’s Tom Goldman told Morning Edition.
“They’ve won three elimination games, won seven games on the road — including last Sunday in Miami to clinch a spot in the finals,” Goldman said. “Home court advantage [is] such a big deal in the NBA playoffs, and to overcome that seven times? That’s impressive.”
Still, he said, the Warriors are viewed as having a narrow edge in what should be a closely fought series.
Golden State will be led by the same core trio that has led them to five finals and three titles since 2015: Forward Draymond Green and guards Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, reunited this year after Thompson missed two full seasons with injuries.
Forward Andrew Wiggins, a former top pick who hadn’t lived up to the hype in his eight-year career, has provided lockdown perimeter defense and an extra offensive threat in the playoffs.
The Boston Celtics finally broke through in their fourth trip to the Conference finals since 2016. They’re led on offense by guard Jayson Tatum and forward Jaylen Brown.
Marcus Smart, who this season became the first guard to win Defensive Player of the Year since Gary Payton in 1996, will be tasked trying to contain Curry’s near-infinite shooting range. A rejuvenated-looking Al Horford, who’ll be nearly two years older than any other starter in the series, has been a key to the Celtics big defensive frontline.
Game one will tip off in San Francisco tonight at 9 p.m. ET, airing on ABC.