Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr acknowledged his team were second-best on Thursday, losing Game 1 of the NBA Finals at home to the Boston Celtics 120-108.

The Celtics were automatic in the fourth quarter and comfortably overturned a 92-80 deficit at the final interval, shooting nine-of 12 from beyond the arc to outscore the Warriors 40-16.

Al Horford hit a career-high six-of-eight from the perimeter on the way to 26 points, while Derrick White hit five-from eight as he put up a critical 21 points off the bench.

After the loss, Kerr conceded there was not much the Warriors could do to defeat the Celtics amid that kind of shooting performance, despite going 42 per cent from the perimeter themselves.

"To beat Boston if they're making 21 threes, getting a combined 11 from Horford and White, give them credit," Kerr said post-game. "They knocked down every big shot in the fourth quarter. Boston just played a brilliant quarter, they came in and earned the win.

"I thought we had a couple of turnovers, a couple of bad possessions offensively and they just pounced. They took advantage of every opportunity, and moved the ball well. You make five-six threes in a row in the fourth quarter, that's tough to overcome.

"We'll watch the tape and learn from it and see what we can do better. My gut reaction to what I just witnessed, they just came in and played a hell of a fourth quarter, and you've got to give them credit."

After a finely poised first-half, the Warriors were led by Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole, who combined for 28 points off 10-of-15 shooting from the floor.

Kerr insists that despite the fourth-quarter turnaround, his side will be able to adjust to cause and effect of that late Celtics barrage.

"We feel confident with our ability to score against them but, like I said, you give up 40 in the fourth and the other team makes 21 threes, it's going to be tough to win.

"It felt to me like we didn't close out very well in the first half and that allowed them to get going a little bit. Again, have to watch the tape and see where the breakdowns occurred."

The Boston Celtics won Game 1 of the NBA Finals 120-105 on the road against the Golden State Warriors, with the teams combining for the most made three-pointers ever in a Finals game.

Early on it looked like it was going to be the Stephen Curry show, as he finished the first quarter with 21 points – hitting an NBA Finals record six threes in a quarter, from eight attempts – as the Warriors led 32-28 at the first break.

Boston's adjustments at quarter-time had an immediate effect, holding Curry scoreless in the second period while winning the quarter 28-22, heading into half-time leading 56-54.

Jayson Tatum struggled with his shooting, but made up for it with his playmaking, with seven assists in the first half, while Jaylen Brown had 12 points and Marcus Smart had 10 to pick up the slack.

A consistent theme with the great Warriors teams of recent years, their ability to explode in the third quarter in front of their home fans was on full display, hitting six-of-11 threes coming out of half-time.

Andrew Wiggins had 12 points in the quarter, Curry had nine, and Jordan Poole had seven, as that trio combined for 28 to carry the Warriors to a 38-24 period, earning a 92-80 lead heading into the last.

As impressive as the third quarter was for the Warriors, the fourth was even more so for the Celtics, as their red-hot shooting coincided with their best defensive stretch of the game.

The Celtics shot nine-of-12 from long range in the fourth, and 15-of-22 from the field, while holding the Warriors to just seven made field goals, turning the last period into a 40-16 rout.

It was a historic game from beyond the arc as the two sides combined to hit an NBA Finals record of 40 threes, with the Celtics shooting a blistering 51 per cent (21-of-41) while the Warriors were also terrific at 42 per cent (19-of-45).

Boston's Al Horford hit a career-high from long range, going six-of-eight on his way to 26 points, while Derrick White set a new season-high from deep, hitting five-of-eight for his crucial 21 points off the bench.

Tatum finished three-of-17 from the field, scoring 12 points, but he was the architect of the Celtics' hot shooting night as he dished a career-high 13 assists, punishing Warriors defensive collapses after his initial dribble penetration.

Jaylen Brown finished with 24 points (10-of-23 shooting) with seven rebounds and five assists, while Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart had 18 points (seven-of-11 shooting, four-of-seven from deep) to go with five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

For the Warriors, Curry finished with 34 points (12-of-25 shooting), five rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Andrew Wiggins had 20 points (eight-of-15 shooting) with three steals and one block.

Game 2 will remain in San Francisco, before they head to Boston for Game 3 and Game 4.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver revealed the league was exploring alterations to the rules on All-NBA team selections.

The NBA's tactical transformation since the implementation of the defensive three-second rule has created a recruiting need for skill over true size, translating into a more fluid style of basketball.

Meanwhile, with Joel Embiid finishing second in MVP voting but missing out on All-NBA First Team selection, due to both being centers.

In his annual news conference before the start of the NBA Finals, Silver said the league was looking at adapting to transforming circumstances.

"I think we're a league that has moved increasingly towards positionless basketball," Silver said Thursday in San Francisco, in his annual press conference at the start of the NBA Finals. "The current system may result in some inequities just based on the happenstance of what your position is.

"It's something that we will discuss with the players' association because it has an impact on incentives in players’ contracts."

The NBA allowed 100 media members to vote for Jokic or Embiid as forwards, but it failed to remedy given neither could be considered as such in the traditional sense.

The NBA Finals are here with a mouth-watering matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics.

This Warriors team are used to this stage, playing their sixth Finals in eight years, but this is the first trip for the 17-time champion Celtics since 2010.

Ahead of Thursday's highly anticipated Game 1, Stats Perform delves into the best STATS numbers going into an intriguing series...

HISTORY SIDES WITH CELTICS

Only the Los Angeles Lakers (32) have been to more NBA Finals than the Celtics (now 22) and the Warriors (now 12), yet this is only the second time they have met at this stage of the season.

The Celtics beat the Warriors in five in the 1964 Finals, the sixth in a run of eight straight Boston titles.

But that is not their only postseason encounter to date, with the Warriors based in Philadelphia until 1962. They fared no better against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoffs, however, losing all three series, as the Warriors have never beaten Boston in the postseason.

More recently, the teams split the two-game series this year, but the Celtics have won six of the past seven meetings between the sides by an average of 14.0 points.

THE THREAT FROM THREE

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will have played in half of the Warriors' Finals appearances, although neither of them have yet won a Finals MVP award.

They will certainly be key to any Golden State success this year and head into the series in form, having again displayed their outstanding ability from three-point range.

Curry has made multiple threes in every game in this playoff campaign and in 34 straight postseason games dating back to 2019. It is the longest streak of games with two or more made threes in playoff history.

In fact, with runs of 27 games between 2014 and 2016 and 20 games between 2016 and 2017, the point guard owns three of the four best such sequences.

Thompson's longest run of playoff games with multiple made threes was 14 in 2016, but he passed team-mate Curry in another regard while scoring 32 points in the closeout Game 5 against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals.

Thompson knocked down eight shots from deep for his fifth playoff game with eight or more made threes – now the outright most ahead of Curry, Ray Allen and Damian Lillard (four each).

DEFENSE TO BE DECISIVE?

The Celtics have their own scorers, with Jayson Tatum (27.0) on course to average at least 25.0 points in the playoffs for a third straight year.

He would become only the third Celtic to achieve that feat, following in the footsteps of Larry Bird and John Havlicek, who each scored at that rate in four consecutive postseason campaigns.

But what Boston do on the other end of the floor will likely be decisive, as it has been so far in their run to the Finals.

The Celtics beat the Miami Heat 100-96 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals for their 31st win across the regular season and postseason in 2021-22 while holding their opponents to fewer than 100 points. That is the most in the NBA.

If Tatum drives the offense, Al Horford is the key man on defense, and the Celtics have outscored opponents by 10.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the court. They have been outscored by 2.2 points per 100 possessions with Horford off the court.

In Game 7 against the Heat, Horford had 14 rebounds, two blocks and a team-high plus/minus of 10.

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry believes this NBA Finals appearance has a deeper significance than his previous trips, heading into Thursday's series opener against the Boston Celtics.

The Warriors booked their sixth NBA Finals berth in the past eight seasons after defeating the Dallas Mavericks in five games, with Curry also taking out the inaugural Western Conference Finals MVP.

With long-term injuries to Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, as well Kevin Durant's departure for the Brooklyn Nets, the Dubs finished with the NBA's worst record in the 2019-20 season. This campaign has seen them rejuvenate the fluid ball-movement and intelligent basketball on both ends that propelled them to the 2014-15 title, however.

Given the journey back to the top of the NBA landscape, after that Game 6 loss in the 2019 NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors without Durant - and in which Thompson sustained his ACL injury - Curry insisted this run feels different to the other five.

Asked what separates this appearance from the other at the NBA Finals media day, Curry said: "The context of the past four years – from Game 6 of the 2019 Finals to now – what we've been through as a team.

"With injuries, obviously the pandemic that's happened over the last two-and-a-half years, everything that we've all been through – with this as the ultimate goal. Getting back on this stage with a chance to play for another championship.

"Then you look up and all the work you've put in over the last two years has paid off. They built on the experience, and the veteran presence we have. All that stuff is built into the context of what's happened since Game 6 of the 2019 Finals, and we're back here, so it's pretty special."

The end of last season was a precursor of sorts as the Warriors went all-in on their distinct brand of basketball, with Kelly Oubre Jr. only playing five of the final 20 regular-season games, where they went 15-5.

After adding Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica and giving more scope to Jordan Poole, the Warriors flew out the gate this season with an 18-2 start, before injuries to Curry and Green halted momentum.

Coming out of the Western Conference again this season, the former unanimous MVP said it spoke to the Warriors' core organisational values and identity.

"I shared similar sentiments with Draymond on options of what could happen last off-season, and what we should, or shouldn't do," Curry said.

"It also speaks to the culture of our organisation, and who we are, and what it takes to win at the highest level. However the young guys can learn that, and however they have learned that, it has been amazing to watch."

Jayson Tatum admitted there were tough times as pundits questioned whether he and star teammate Jaylen Brown could ever win at the highest level, but insisted it only pulled them closer together.

It was a stark fall from grace for the duo after an incredible start to their career when - with Brown drafted in 2016 and Tatum in 2017 - the pair made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in Tatum's rookie season.

They made it back to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020 during the 'bubble' season, but struggled to follow it up on the way to being dominated by the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the 2021 playoffs.

It was a poor start to this season as well, as injuries and adjusting to new coach Ime Udoka had the Celtics in 11th place as late in the season as January 16, but during NBA Finals Media Day Tatum said he never doubted what he could accomplish with his partner-in-crime.

"I honestly believe it's just two young, extremely competitive guys who just really want to win at all costs," he said.

"Obviously, that made us closer in a sense of, we just wanted to figure it out. Not necessarily prove people wrong, but just prove that we can win, and put ourselves in the position to do that.

"And it was tough – at a certain time we were three games under .500, and the 11th seed. I'm sure not many people would have thought we'd have got to this point.

"But there was always a sense of belief between us and the group that we were capable of figuring it out."

He added: "It was very frustrating, head-scratching and all those types of things. It was more so just how can we figure it out, not 'we can't do this' or 'we got to figure something else out'.

"It was tough, there were definitely some tough moments – because I always remember the fun moments.

"My first year, going to the Conference Finals, and the 'bubble' year, going to the Conference Finals – when we were winning all the time.

"At the beginning of this year, every game was like 'I don't know if we're going to win' – it was a lot tougher than it probably should be, and that was something I wasn't used to."

Tatum also addressed feelings of personal doubt as he quickly rose to super-stardom at a young age.

"I'll be honest, there's been times when I've questioned 'am I the right person to lead a group like this?'," he said.

"I never, like, doubted myself, but you know, just moments after some of those losses in the tougher parts of the season, it's human nature to question yourself and things like that.

"But always stick to what you believe in, and trust in the work you put in. It can't rain forever."

Brown shared a similar sentiment about his All-NBA First Team running-mate, saying he always felt like they would figure it out.

"I think that we've been able to win in our career," he said. "Last year, obviously things didn't work out for other reasons, but this year I didn't feel like it was because of the way we played basketball.

"I just think things didn't come together at the right time. Early on in the season I was injured, I missed about 15 games, and the narrative isn't going to say that, they're just going to say 'you guys lost' – it doesn't matter what the excuse is.

"We had a first-year head coach and we were trying to figure it out, and we play in a city that has no patience for any excuses, so we didn't make any, but as things started to come together, we got healthier.

"We made a couple of moves in the front office that were vital for us, and things started to fall in line."

He added: "I've always had unwavering faith, even in the midst of situations that look like things are about to go in a direction that nobody wants to go in, I've always had faith in this group, and this organisation, and myself that we'll be alright.

"In those moments where we lost, I knew we had so much to learn, I knew that I had so much to learn, so if anything it was more encouraging to learn from my mistakes, and get better for the next year. 

"I didn't have any time to question myself, or question what's in front of me, because my belief was so strong."

After making it to the biggest stage, Tatum reflected on what it feels like to be making his dreams come true.

"I just kind of reverted back to being a kid – watching the Finals every year growing up," he said.

"Every kid can imagine themselves being in the NBA, and being in the Finals, but actually living out your dream in real-time is a surreal feeling. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself.

"I walk in and I see this [NBA Finals-themed] backdrop – and it's like 'damn, I am in the Finals' – so I'm just trying to take all this in, and just enjoy the moment.

"It definitely does feel different. There's a lot more media, a lot more obligations.

"So it definitely does feel different – I'm sure basketball is still basketball – but all the things leading up to it are unlike anything else."

The NBA got a two-season break from the Golden State Warriors.

Now, the Warriors are back in extremely familiar territory – the NBA Finals, where they will face the Boston Celtics in a mouth-watering series.

Golden State saw off the Dallas Mavericks in five games in the Western Conference Finals, reaching the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight seasons.

And, thanks to what Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob described as a "two-tiered strategy", the Warriors may well be competing to remain on this stage in both the short and the long term.

The Warriors' success in returning to the Finals this season is down primarily to the three players that powered the start of their dynasty: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

Curry has seven games of 30 points or more this postseason and is averaging 3.8 made threes per game, the most among players to have featured in at least 10 games in these playoffs.

Tied second on that list is Thompson (3.6), whose return after two years on the sideline has been a critical feel-good story for the Warriors. Despite his lengthy absence, Thompson has retained his ability to come through with clutch shooting, converting eight three-pointers in closeout games against both the Memphis Grizzlies and the Mavericks.

Meanwhile, Green, the undisputed heartbeat of the Warriors, has illustrated his all-round value in superb fashion. He is averaging 13.7 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists per 48 minutes in the playoffs, with his influence on both ends of the floor encapsulated by an average plus-minus of plus-6.1 that is seventh for players with a minimum of 10 postseason games under their belt.

Andrew Wiggins (+6.9) sits two spots above Green, the 2014 first overall pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers taking a belated chance to blossom on the big stages in emphatic fashion. Wiggins has produced a series of strong showings and delivered one of the defining moments of the postseason with his monster dunk over Luka Doncic in the Conference Finals.

"I think the Wiggins trade is the key to all of this," head coach Steve Kerr said recently, referencing the trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves that took 2022 All-Star Wiggins to Golden State.

"I don't know where we'd be without him. He's just been brilliant."

A substantial part of the Warriors' ability to brush aside the Mavericks was Kevon Looney's dominance on the boards. Looney had double-digit rebounds in three of the five games, including 18 in the decisive Game 5 meeting, having also racked up 22 in Game 6 against Memphis as the Warriors closed out the Grizzlies.

While the Warriors are back in the Finals in large part through the play of four members of the core who helped them establish a stranglehold over the league and the success of the Wiggins reclamation project, perhaps the most exciting aspect of Golden State's surge to this point has been the glimpse of the future.

That glimpse has come primarily from Jordan Poole, the Warriors' first-round pick in 2019, who after starting for much of the regular season has served as a hugely important sixth man in the playoffs, offering Golden State another shooter alongside Curry and Thompson whose remarkable athleticism also makes him a substantial threat attacking the rim.

Poole is third in effective field goal percentage and second in true shooting percentage for the playoffs (min. 10 games), his composure belying the 22-year-old's inexperience in the pressure cooker of the playoffs in a postseason campaign in which he has demonstrated why he is a strong candidate to be the centrepiece of the next Warriors era that does not feature their big three.

 

Also expected to be a part of that future are Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, selected seventh and 14th overall in last year's draft, the build-up to which was dominated by calls for the Warriors to package those picks to land another star after an underwhelming 2020-21 campaign ended with defeat in the play-In tournament.

Both Kuminga and Moody have played sparingly in the postseason, each averaging just over 10 minutes per game, but neither 19-year-old has appeared overawed when thrown into the fire.

The return to prominence with Curry, Thompson and Green, combined with the signs of progress from their proteges led Lacob to express a feeling of vindication in the Warriors' strategy.

Asked about rejecting the external pressure to trade their 2021 picks, Lacob told reporters: "I think the 19-year-olds that have played in the playoffs, the number of minutes over the history of the NBA or even in the Finals. I mean [Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody] haven't played very much and yet they're up there.

"Kobe [Bryant] I think was number one in terms of minutes for a 19-year-old. So the 19-year-olds just don't play deep into the playoffs or certainly in the Finals historically in the NBA.

"So the fact that we are where we are, and these guys have both contributed, maybe not as much as they would like to, they want to play more. Everyone wants to play more when you're a good player. But what they've done is great and what our coaches have done to get them ready for this level of play is great.

"I know we took, I, Bob [Myers, general manager], the organisation took some criticism from people that we should trade all our draft choices, that we had to get one more great player or whatever. I was very adamant about it. So was Bob. But that was not the path we were going down.

"We want to be good for a long time. We want to be great for a long time. And we felt that we already had our investment in our core great players. And they're still young enough to perform.

"Our success this year was always going to depend primarily on Steph, Klay when he came back, Draymond and Wiggins, you could argue. That was always fundamentally what the issue is. They're either going to be good enough or they're not, and we'll find out in the Finals too."

"I love what we've been able to do. We've been able to do this, call it a two-tiered strategy, call it whatever you want. But you've got your core guys that are going to get you this year. Meanwhile, you're going to develop these young guys. And I think we've done that."

Regardless of whether the Warriors overwhelm the Celtics to return to the NBA mountain top, Golden State's plan for this season has been an unequivocal success, and their next steps will be fascinating to watch as they continue to try to achieve the dual aims of setting themselves up to compete now and in a post-Curry and Co. future.

The trade winds may once again blow. With Wiggins having just one year left on his deal, there has already been some mention of him and James Wiseman, the 2020 second overall pick who has been kept off the court by injury, being packaged in a trade to land another star.

For now, such speculation can wait until after the confetti has fallen, and if it lands on Golden State, the Warriors will receive the ultimate reward for faith in both experience and youth that has quickly propelled them back to the league's elite and given them more potential options through which to stay there.

The Warriors are back. If they continue to execute the vision of Lacob and Myers, it could be a long time before they leave.

The Boston Celtics have made sure to do it the hard way en route to the NBA Finals.

Sometimes this can suggest a team's name is on the trophy; look at Real Madrid's remarkable run in European football's Champions League before winning their record-extending 14th title.

The Celtics, an organisation with similar prestige, will hope they can now follow suit.

After all, this is a team who reached the turn of the year with a 17-19 record under a rookie coach, then recovered to take the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

Having worked so hard to secure home court in the second round of the playoffs, the Celtics lost to a Milwaukee Bucks outfit missing Khris Middleton in Game 5, falling 3-2 behind in the series and requiring another fightback.

Then the Celtics again failed to make the most of the Boston crowd in the Eastern Conference Finals, allowing the Miami Heat to return home for a Game 7.

Still, the Celtics made it through, and now they must take on the Golden State Warriors, back in contention and looking to extend the sort of dynasty Madrid would be proud of.

The Warriors are going to their sixth Finals in eight seasons; Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have played in each of them.

On the other hand, the Celtics are in their first Finals since 2010 – Curry's rookie season. Not a single member of the Boston roster has reached this stage before.

And yet, against the Warriors of all teams, the Celtics should have little to fear.

This is a battle of defense versus offense – Boston allowed a league-low 104.5 points per game in the regular season, while Golden State have scored a season-high 114.5 points per game in the playoffs – and it is a battle the Celtics have won numerous times in recent seasons.

In the 10 years since the Steph-Klay-Draymond Warriors came together, the Celtics are 10-10 against Golden State. Boston are the only team with a winning record (9-7) against Steve Kerr's Warriors, and they are a hugely impressive 7-3 in this matchup since drafting Jayson Tatum in 2017.

Before splitting this season's two-game series, the Celtics had won five in a row against the Warriors.

The key to this success has been defense. The Celtics have held both the Steph-Klay-Draymond Warriors (103.3 points per game) and Kerr's Warriors (104.4) to fewer points than any other defense. The same is true of Boston in Tatum's five years in the league, during which they have outscored Golden State 110.7-103.1 on average.

In Curry and Thompson, the Warriors boast two of the best shooters of all time, yet the Celtics have repeatedly forced them to take bad shots.

In the past five years, the Warriors have attempted just 83.2 field goals per game against the Celtics – only mustering fewer against the Detroit Pistons (80.8) – yet they have had a lofty 36.5 three-point attempts on average in these games. That means 43.9 per cent of Golden State's field goal attempts against the Celtics since 2017 have come from beyond the arc, attempting a higher percentage of their shots from deep against the Brooklyn Nets alone (44.1).

Given the talent in this Warriors team, shooting from range is not generally an issue, yet they have made just 31.8 per cent of those threes – again only performing worse against the Nets (31.4 per cent).

This has contributed to the Warriors making a meagre 43.1 per cent of their field goals against the Celtics, comfortably their worst rate against any team over this period.

Still, with the title on the line, the Warriors will undoubtedly back themselves to overcome this hurdle.

Curry (52.6 per cent), Thompson (50.0) and Jordan Poole (50.0) are all counted among the 10 players to attempt 10 or more contested shots (with the closest defender within two feet) and make at least half in this postseason.

Curry and Poole are two of only five players to make such a shot from three-point range, although that Golden State trio are a combined two-for-eight from beyond the arc in these circumstances – a record that does not look quite so bad next to Heat wing Max Strus' miserable one-for-seven shooting on contested threes. Four of those low-percentage shots came in the Celtics series alone.

The Warriors have not yet faced an elite defense in this playoff run, with the four best teams on that end of the floor operating in the East.

It figures that the best offense should emerge from the West, where teams averaged 109.2 points per game in the postseason, while the standout defense came out of the East, with playoff teams averaging 103.9 points.

The Finals will surely, therefore, be decided by what sort of series this becomes.

Tatum may be out to prove himself as one of the best players in the world, but the Celtics' success in keeping Curry, Thompson and Poole quiet is likely to be far more pivotal to their hopes.

As long ago as December, when his team were toiling, Celtics coach Ime Udoka explained: "The identity is to rely on defense, be a great defensive team and give ourselves a chance every night as far as that."

They have done that just about ever since – and now it is time to prove their winning identity can be a title-winning identity.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid has undergone surgery to repair two finger injuries but is expected to be ready for training camp.

Embiid suffered a problem with his right thumb in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series with the Toronto Raptors.

The 28-year-old played through the issue in Game 4, registering 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists in the 110-102 defeat in Toronto.

He managed to make it through the next two games as the 76ers edged out the Raptors, averaging 26.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game.

However, a right orbital fracture and concussion in Game 6 against Toronto kept him out of the first two games of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against Miami Heat.

Embiid returned with a face mask as Philadelphia fell to a series defeat against the Heat, despite the center finishing as the league scoring champion with 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

An issue with Embiid's left index finger, though, was not previously disclosed and he has sought to fix both hand problems with procedures in the offseason.

Embiid will hope to guide the 76ers further in the playoffs next season, after Philadelphia failed to make it past the second round for the fourth time in five years.

Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob has nothing but a burning desire to win against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Lacob used to have a minority stake in the Celtics and was part of the ownership when Boston won the most recent of their 17 NBA championships back in 2008.

He bought the Warriors in 2010, and under his ownership the team have won three titles, in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

But a victory this time around would mean even more to Lacob.

"Boston was very important, and those guys were very helpful. They're friends to this day. Not too close friends, though," Lacob told reporters.

"I want to kill them right now, I'm going to be honest. I'm very competitive about this, and I'm sure they are, too.

"It's going to be a battle on the court and a little bit of a battle on the ownership level, too. We want to kill each other and we want to win, both teams. And they should."

Lacob looks back fondly on his time co-owning the Celtics, however, even if he is set on getting the better of Boston in the Finals.

He added: "It was very important. I think to run any business in life, actually, I think it doesn't even need to be a business, you just kind of need some experience, right?

"You need to be able to do some pattern matching. You need to see what works and what doesn't work.

"In this case, it's the same kind of thing. Boston was an experience for me, as a limited partner, to get to see how an NBA team ran, upfront, in person, and real.

"I got to know people like Danny Ainge, and Doc Rivers was the coach. I've got a ring from 2008, by the way, from the championship.

"Five years, I think it was; it was a tremendous experience with the basketball side and the business side. I learned some things I liked to do the way they did it and things that maybe would be different."

So here we are, after all that basketball in 2021-22, we come down to the final pair as the Golden State Warriors take on the Boston Celtics to decide the destination of this year's NBA championship.

It was a relatively smooth route for the Warriors after a 4-1 win against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, while the Celtics went to Game 7 for the second round in a row, eventually overcoming the Miami Heat.

Having been able to rest up since they sealed their place in the finals on Friday, Steve Kerr's team will be heavily fancied to win their first title since 2018.

Golden State were electric against Dallas, with all four of their wins being by a margin of at least nine, and even managing to overcome the outrageously talented Luka Doncic, winning Games 2 and 3 despite 40 or more points in both coming from the Slovenian.

It is no surprise that Stephen Curry is leading the way for the Warriors, averaging 25.9 points per game in the postseason, as well as 6.2 assists and 4.9 rebounds.

His three-pointer attempts have been a little wayward by his own very high standards, making 60 of 158 attempts in the playoffs, just three more than Klay Thompson (57 from 143 shots), who himself is playing more than just a support role.

Thompson is averaging 19.8 points per game, while Jordan Poole is not far behind with 18.4.

Andrew Wiggins also deserves credit for his contribution, averaging 15.8 and scoring 27 in the Game 3 win against the Mavs at the American Airlines Center, and a good example of how Kerr's team can get at you from anywhere on the court.

 

All that being said, the Celtics have shown themselves to be big-game players during the playoffs, overcoming both the defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks and the number one seeds in the East, the Heat.

Jayson Tatum has invariably been the main man, averaging 27.0 points in the playoffs along with 5.9 assists and 6.7 rebounds per game.

Like the Warriors, though, Boston are able to spread the responsibility, with Tatum's 26 against the Heat in Game 7 supplemented by 24 each from Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.

The Celtics are in the finals for the first time since 2010, and it feels like they have shown the backbone needed to go all the way, even against a supremely talented Warriors side.

Ime Udoka could cement his legacy in Boston, admitting after overcoming the Heat they will need to go one better to be remembered, saying: "We don't hang or celebrate Eastern Conference championships in the Celtics organisation, so we all fall in line and appreciate that standard of excellence."

Udoka against Kerr could be the most interesting contest across the NBA Finals, but all over the court there are intriguing narratives and plenty of top-class basketball to witness.

Whoever rises to the top, they will surely be worthy champions.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Golden State Warriors – Draymond Green

The outspoken 32-year-old said on his podcast recently that whatever happens, "the dynasty been stamped" for this Warriors team.

A fourth NBA title in eight years would be quite a convincing way to stamp it further, and Green is likely to play a big role if that is to happen.

In the playoffs, he has been averaging 2.8 turnovers, 8.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.9 rebounds per game. He racked up nine assists in the clincher against the Mavs, as well as sinking six of seven field goal attempts.

Boston Celtics – Al Horford

After a year each at the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder, Horford came back to Boston to try and finally reach the NBA Finals, and he has done just that.

His ability to stop the opposition and tidy up attacks could well be key against an opposition with danger-men all over the place.

Horford has averaged 8.1 defensive rebounds in the playoffs, including 12 in the Game 7 win against the Heat, and managed three turnovers in three different games during that series.

KEY BATTLE – Will defense win the championship?

Following on from Horford's ability to snatch the ball in defense, these two were both in the top four in the league in the regular season for defensive rebounds, with Golden State second overall with 2,930, while Boston were fourth on 2,915.

One thing the Celtics will need to be aware of is the Warriors' ability to steal, making the fourth most in the league in the regular season (719), while the Celtics were only in 19th place (591).

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Celtics will be especially confident based on recent match-ups, having won six of their past seven meetings with the Warriors, including a 110-88 win at Chase Center in their most-recent contest in March.

Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum said he wanted to "honour" Kobe Bryant, after his side advanced to the NBA Finals on Sunday, defeating the Miami Heat 100-96 on Sunday.

For Game 7, Tatum wore an armband in the colours of the Celtics' long-time rival Los Angeles Lakers – a purple armband with his idol Bryant's number 24 for the Lakers stitched on in gold.

The 24-year-old went on to put up 26 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal in just over 45 minutes on the court, taking out the inaugural Larry Bird trophy for Eastern Conference Finals MVP.

While explaining the inspiration behind the armband, Tatum said afterwards how Boston securing their first finals appearance since 2010 and his MVP award all feels surreal.

"That was my inspiration, that was my favourite player," he said post-game. The shoes I wore in the last couple of games were dedicated to him and today, before I took my nap, I was watching some film and some moments from his career. I wanted to wear that armband to honour him and kind of share that moment.

"It's an honour. It still doesn't even seem real right now, but I'm extremely happy and grateful for all of this. Regardless of how long I've been in the league, I'm not too far removed from when I was in high school, dreaming about moments like this.

"I still feel like a kid, sometimes, in that I'm truly living out my dream. To be the first person to win this award, after Larry Bird, it still hasn't sunk in yet."

Boston's playoff opponents to secure the Eastern Conference title were also the three to eliminate them in each of the previous three seasons.

Aside from their progression past the Brooklyn Nets this season, the Celtics engaged in highly physical battles in series against the Milwaukee Bucks and Heat to get to the finals.

According to Tatum, those playoff losses inspired them to get out of the East this time around.

"It was the biggest game of our season and my career, and I just had faith that we were going to give it all we had, regardless of the outcome," he said. "To get over this hump in the fashion that we did it - obviously we took the toughest route possible, winning Game 7 to go to the championship on the road, it's special.

"Losing my first year and losing to these guys in the bubble, I think going through those tough times helped us grow, helped us learn and once we get in that situation again, we'd respond differently.

"In the moment, when you lose those series, obviously it hurts and it's tough, but you never forget it. I think that's what we all had in common, that we had all been through those tough times and we remembered how that felt, and we didn't want to have that feeling again leaving here tonight."

The Celtics will now face the Golden State Warriors, with Game 1 taking place in San Francisco on Thursday.

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra holds nothing against Jimmy Butler's shot selection and praised the Boston Celtics, after they defeated his side 100-96 in Game 7 to progress to the NBA Finals.

Butler, who willed the Heat and the series back to Miami after 47 points in their Game 6 win, played all 48 minutes and their chance to win or tie the game with 17.1 seconds remaining.

Despite Al Horford's close-out, Butler had a clean look but his three-point attempt to make it 99-98 was short, handing the Celtics the game and the series.

Spoelstra would not have his perspective altered by the outcome, however, saying it was the right shot for the six-time All-Star to take with Miami's season on the line.

"It was fitting that it would come down to the last possession," Spoelstra said post-game. "I felt it had been an incredible storyline, for Jimmy to pull up and hit that three and I love that about Jimmy, it was the right look. I thought, as it was leaving his hands, for sure that was going in.

"You can't prepare for it. It's one of the worst feelings in the world to address a locker room after a game like this. When it ends, it ends in a thud.

"I just have so much incredible respect and love for everybody in that locker room and for what everybody gave to this team. When it's such a memorable season and post-season, it felt like five seasons in one."

Miami's loss on Sunday makes for the sixth consecutive season where the Eastern Conference's first seed does not advance to the finals.

Sunday's Game 7 played out in almost typical fashion, both for a Game 7 and between these two intense teams, with constant momentum swings and scoring runs.

Spoelstra was full of praise for the Celtics and counterpart Ime Udoka, as well as his own team, after what was a highly competitive and ultimately even series.

"It was a really fun group to be around, a really hard-edged group with all the qualities that we love, the good, the bad and everything in between. It's heartbreaking when it ends like this," he said post-game.

"You certainly have to credit the Boston Celtics and their team and coaching staff. Ime [Udoka] did such a tremendous job, building on what they've done the last six, seven years.

"They've probably done it they way that it's supposed to happen in this league. We tip our hats off to them. They are a heck of a basketball team, they can really defend at a high level, they're competitive. This was all about competition, and we faced a team that kind of matches the best qualities of what we do."

The Boston Celtics have advanced to the NBA Finals, defeating the Miami Heat 100-96 on Sunday and taking out the Eastern Conference Finals.

Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart combined for 74 points, as Boston confirmed their 10th conference title and a 22nd finals appearance.

Tatum received the inaugural Larry Bird Trophy for Eastern Conference Finals MVP, coming into Game 7 with an average of 24.8 points.

The three-time All-Star finished Game 7 on the road with 26 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal, in what was an exceptional performance.

In a game of momentum swings, the Heat trailed as much as 17 points at one stage, but gained momentum with defensive stops and consequent transition baskets to bring it back to single digits.

Boston restored their buffer midway through the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run, before Jayson Tatum drained a massive step-back three-pointer deep in the shot clock with just under six minutes remaining.

The Heat fought to get it to a one-possession game, and after backing up Max Strus' triple with a defensive stop, had the ball with 17 seconds left.

Jimmy Butler, who willed the Heat and the series back to Miami with 47 points in Game 6, played all 48 minutes and had the chance to either tie or win the game with what was effectively their final possession.

He opted for the latter but his three-point attempt was short, with Al Horford's rebound confirming the result and series.

The Celtics will now face the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, with Game 1 to take place on Thursday.

Tyler Herro will return from injury for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals as his Miami Heat host the Boston Celtics.

Herro, who won this season's Sixth Man of the Year, has missed Game 4, Game 5 and Game 6 with a groin injury, but was given a chance to prove his fitness with an NBA Finals berth on the line.

The 22-year-old guard averaged 20 points, five rebounds and four assists per game in the regular season, shooting a career-best 39.9 per cent from long range on a career-high 6.7 attempts per game.

He has scored in double-figures in eight of his nine playoff games this season, and the Heat won two of the three games he was present for in this series against the Celtics.

His return will likely see Caleb Martin's role reduced to zero, while one of Victor Oladipo or Gabe Vincent should also see reduced minutes.

Page 6 of 143
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.