We’ve almost made it. The Golden State Warriors pretty easily took care of the Mavericks to reach the NBA Finals for the sixth time over the past eight seasons, and more recently, the Boston Celtics defeated the Miami Heat in Sunday’s Game 7 to get out of the East for the first time since the 2009-2010 season. If there’s anything to quickly take away from these series, it’s that Golden State only needed 16 total games to reach the Finals (defeated Denver/Dallas in five games, Memphis in six), whereas the Celtics have needed 18 games (swept Brooklyn, took Milwaukee and Miami to seven games apiece). That’s not a huge difference overall, but the two seven-game series for the Celtics were the two most recent ones, with the Nets sweep seeming like it happened months ago, when in reality the series wrapped up on April 25. The fatigue factor is always in play and the Celtics are probably dealing with it more so than the Warriors, but the most important thing is that Boston will get a full three days off before beginning their quest for what would be an NBA-best 18th championship. If the Warriors come out on top, they’ll hold sole possession of third all-time in titles won with seven, trailing only Boston’s/Los Angeles’ 17 each, and finally getting past the Bulls (six titles). I’ll take a look at what happened in two games played between the Celtics and Warriors in the regular season, odds/betting numbers, injury updates and more as we not-so-patiently wait for the 2022 Finals to begin.
What happened during the regular season?
The two remaining teams only played each other twice in the regular season and each won one game, but that doesn’t do the story of the series justice. In the first matchup on December 17, 2021, the Warriors came out on top in a narrow 111-107 victory, doing so while Klay Thompson was still rehabbing his Achilles injury, but Boston was also without Al Horford, which narrowed the playing field a bit. I know it sounds odd placing Klay and Horford on the same level, but one glimpse at Horford’s elite postseason play will tell you all you need to know about how important he is and/or how the result of that game may have differed with him in there. Fast forward to March 16, 2022 and the Celtics easily took care of the Warriors by a 110-88 count, but this was the game that Stephen Curry injured his left foot due to a reckless Marcus Smart play that forced Curry to miss nearly the last month of the regular season. Curry only played 14 minutes in that one which obviously contributed to the lopsided score, and one has to think that it’s going to be a physical and emotional series. No one on Golden State’s side initially seemed all too happy about what Smart did, and if you missed it or don’t recall, here’s the play that caused Curry to miss time with a left foot sprain. For what it’s worth, Steph didn’t think it was a malicious or dirty play by Smart when speaking about it after the fact, but who knows how true that really is. Excluding that 14-minute game that got caught short, Steph has overall been fantastic against the Celtics in his career, scoring at least 20 points in six straight games, at least 30 in three of those and one 49-point gem that included eight triples back in early 2018. I know you can’t use all of the historical data as the only predictive reasoning for what could happen starting Thursday, but the strong play in the last few years combined with a bit of a “revenge” factor could lead to an even more brilliant Steph Curry than we’ve seen this postseason.
This section is for all the sports bettors out there, and all of the numbers/lines cited will be from PointsBet. As of Tuesday, the Warriors are currently 3.5-point home favorites and -170 on the moneyline, while the Celtics are +140. The current over/under is set at 212, and with the two-regular season totals being wildly different at 198 and 218, this one may be a bit tougher to predict especially for Game 1. There are a ton of other things to bet on especially before the series begins, including who will actually take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Warriors are slight favorites at the moment with -150 odds to win a championship, but the Celtics aren’t far behind at +125. Stephen Curry (+105) and Jayson Tatum (+160) are the clear front runners for Finals MVP, as they should be, with Klay Thompson (+1200), Jaylen Brown (+1300) and Draymond Green (+2000) rounding out the top five for that category. There are also odds for the exact score of the series, with the Warriors winning it 4-3 currently having the best odds at +325, followed by Warriors 4-1 and Celtics 4-2 (both at +450). The longest shot is a Celtics sweep, which is at +1500, while a Warriors sweep would pay out at +1000. I don’t expect any sweeps, but stranger things have definitely happened. You can bet on pretty much anything these days, so go check out PointsBet to see all of the player props and other markets available.
With the exception of Sam Hauser’s shoulder instability episode, the Celtics appear to be mostly healthy entering the Finals. Marcus Smart said that there is “no concern” regarding his ankle heading into the Finals, and if he played through it in the ECF, him playing through it on the biggest possible stage seems like a no-brainer. Center Robert Williams said that his left knee “felt good” after Game 7 on Sunday, and while he only played 15 minutes, it appeared to be more matchup-based, so he’s just fine as well.
On the Warriors’ side, all of Gary Payton II (left elbow), Otto Porter (foot) and Andre Iguodala (neck) participated in practice on Monday but did not scrimmage and also participated in a light practice on Tuesday, so I’d consider them all questionable for Game 1 on Thursday for the time being. Porter didn’t play in Games 4 or 5 against the Mavericks, but Iggy and Payton have been out for some time. Payton fractured his elbow against the Grizzlies on May 3 in the midst of the infamous Dillon Brooks foul and hasn’t played since, while Iggy last played in Game 4 of the first round against Denver. Shams Charania of The Athletic did report on Tuesday that Payton is trending toward a game-time decision for Thursday, which would be a massive win for the Warriors, so hopefully he’ll be out there as another defensive weapon for Golden State.
- Al Horford finally makes the Finals - this isn’t really “news” but more of an impressive drought coming to an end. Al Horford had appeared in 141 playoff games without ever making it to the Finals, which was the most in NBA history. In his 15th season, Horford will take his first trip to the big stage, and he sure deserves it. He was quite emotional after the Game 7 win and it’s clear to see why, and in all reality, Boston may not have made it this far without him.
- The Raptors have Eric Bledsoe in mind as they search for a backup point guard - the Raptors are in the market for a backup PG and Bledsoe is almost certain to be bought out by the Blazers, so he’s almost surely on the move. A move as such would benefit current Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet the most, as FVV was second in the entire league in minutes played per game at just shy of 38 mpg.
- OG Anunoby grew dissatisfied at times with his role in Toronto and the emergence of Scottie Barnes - Keep in mind that this report came from rival front offices, meaning Anunoby may not have even spoken to the Raps about this yet. Barnes is the real deal and that’s clear to see after just his first season, so moving a guy like OG, who a ton of teams would have interest in, may be in Toronto’s best interest.
- Joel Embiid undergoes successful right thumb/left index finger surgery on Tuesday - the offseason surgery was fully expected after Embiid toughed it out in the postseason with about every injury possible, but there’s no need to worry about his availability for camp. Embiid played in a career-high 68 games this season and was healthy for much of it, so one has to think that he’s going to be selected earlier than the end of the first round of fantasy drafts after being a durable beast in 2021-2022. Still, he’s quite injury prone as proven by seasons prior, but if fantasy managers can get 65+ games out of him once again, it’ll be well worth it.
- Tyler Herro says he wants to be a starter next season - everyone in the league probably wants to start, but Herro has reason for wanting to. He ran away with the Sixth Man of the Year Award by scoring more than 20 points per game and was a huge reason why the Heat were the top seed in the East, so I can’t think anyone will blame him for wanting to be in the starting unit. Herro has averaged a 18/6/4 line in 33 starts in his career and those numbers would likely be higher given the growth we’ve seen, but his fantasy value is limited due to the nonexistence of defensive stats. Caleb Martin, also of the Heat, said that he wants to return to Miami, while Max Strus said that he’s “got to be more complete” next season.-
- Knicks are unlikely to acquire Donovan Mitchell - the Knicks are in desperate need of a viable point guard, but it doesn’t sound like Spida is the answer, per reports. Both teams fell very short of expectations this past season and I fully expect them to look a bit different, but based on this report, it doesn’t look like Mitchell’s landing spot will be in New York.