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Celtics vs Warriors: Key match-ups and players to watch in the 2022 NBA Finals

With Game 1 upon us and two well matched teams ready to clash, this one is going to be all about the details.

Paul Rudder
What are the key match-up in the 2022 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics?

As you prepare yourselves for what is likely to be an NBA Finals for the ages, why not join us for a look at some of the key match-ups that will undoubtedly unfold over the course of the series.

Follow the action between the Celtics and the Warriors

The Warriors vs the Celtics broken down

In some ways it’s perhaps the best possible pairing that we could have hoped for in an NBA Finals. Consider for a moment that the 2022 edition will feature quite literally the two best defenses in the league. In one corner we’ve got the Boston Celtics who boasted the best defensive rating in the league during the regular season and in the other, we’ve got the Golden State Warriors who fittingly came in at No. 2. Add to that the fact that both teams have loads of depth on their roster, as well as elite coaches and you’ve got a recipe for an epic.

If that isn’t enough, then let’s address the obvious: these two teams have got some very big names on their rosters. The Warriors have two snipers in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, but then there is also Draymond Green, whose ability to do the dirty work while creating for the other two and scoring is more than impressive. Yet the same can be said for Boston with their very own terrific trio. Eastern Conference Finals MVP Jayson Tatum needs no introduction and neither does Jaylen Brown who quite frankly has been ‘killing it’ in the playoffs. We should, however, take a moment to acknowledge Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart. Not only was he critical in stopping the Heat when he was on the court, but his energy and leadership are a key component in the Celtics’ success up to this point. With that said here’s our break down of the important match ups to look for when the teams meet:

Marcus Smart vs. Steph Curry

This is the obvious one and more over the showpiece contest of the series. Smart as mentioned before is the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year and rest assured he’s worth every vote. The catch is Steph Curry is nuclear in his threat level, as possibly the most dangerous offensive player ever seen in the NBA. It’s almost certain that Smart won’t be left on his own with Curry as the team will surely rely on double teams and the like, but regardless they are both point guards which means Smart will have to carry the most of the load.

To date nobody has ever really ‘stopped’ Steph Curry, so in reality this will be more about trying to contain him. That’s to say sticking to him like glue and focusing on denying him any open looks at the basket. This is of course quite easy to say, but very difficult to do. Yet, the Celtics and their fans would do well to have faith in Smart. If there is one player who can make life difficult for the Warriors talisman, it’s got to be Marcus Smart. Indeed, the reality is if Boston is to get something out of this series, it will likely come down to this very battle. No pressure.

Andrew Wiggins vs. Jayson Tatum

There are some who expect Wariors coach Steve Kerr to match Andrew Wiggins minutes with Jayson Tatum’s, as they are so equal in physical attributes that it just makes sense. Indeed Wiggins length and agility are a perfect match for Tatum who is essentially the same: long and athletic. Then there is the fact that Wiggins has already proven that he can stick to the toughest defensive assignments, having been the primary defender used on the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic in the Western Conference finals. As mentioned before it just makes sense.

Rest assured the Warriors chances of success will - to an extent - hinge on this contest. Jayson Tatum is central to the Celtics’ offensive production. Yes it’s true that he does have help, but make no mistake, if you can stop Tatum you can stop Boston.

Klay Thompson vs. Jaylen Brown

Where these two shooting guards are concerned, it should be said that they are essentially both No.2 guys. What’s that mean? Jaylen Brown and Klay Thompson are basically who their respective teams look to for points aside from there main offensive weapons - Curry and Tatum. Given that they both play the same position you can expect to see them spending a lot of time with each other, which is to say another battle in which either team’s success can ultimately be determined

As mentioned before these guys are the ‘secondary’ line of offense for either team and there is a whole lot of weight in that equation. In reality one could almost argue that the series will be won or lost on the basis of which one of them wins the contest.

There’s also the coaches: Steve Kerr vs Ime Udoka

If there is one thing that stands out when considering the psychological war that’s about to unfold between the two coaches, it’s got to be the gulf in experience. Kerr who is appearing in his sixth NBA Finals is needless to say well versed. Remember this is the man that took the Warriors to five consecutive finals and has won 89 of the 121 playoff games that he’s overseen. Udoka on the other hand is literally the complete opposite. In his rookie season as a NBA head coach, Udoka has handled just 16 games in the NBA post season. With that said, he’s about to coach in the NBA Finals and that’s no fluke. Will that key difference between the pair be of any significance in the end? Who’s to say, but rest assured it’s going to be extremely intriguing to see how it plays out.

Is there a difference maker in the Celtics vs Warriors series?

While the individual match ups are going to be intense and without doubt critical areas in which either team can gain an advantage, there is perhaps one specific factor in the series that will go a long way to determining who emerges victorious. Steph Curry as is well known is offensively lethal, but Where he falls down - a little - is on defense. Expect the Celtics to pick on Curry all series long when they have the ball. Curry is possibly the only chink in the Warriors’ defensive armor and that’s key. The Celtics for their part don’t have any such issue, which further cements the idea that they are highly likely to try to take advantage of the opening.

Can Curry who has improved defensively deal with being isolated against bigger players like Tatum and Brown, while maintaining his energy reserves so he can do what he does best? The answer to that question is sure to be something to see and more over what could ultimately decide who lifts the Larry O’Brien trophy when the 2022 NBA Finals come to an end.


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