The Celtics finally broke through to reach the NBA Finals — their first appearance since 2010, despite playing in three of the last five Eastern Conference finals before this season — and their Western Conference opponent will be the Warriors, a team whose dynasty predates Boston’s current core.
Will we witness a changing of the guard?
Boston’s two best players, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, entered the league in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Golden State, meanwhile, won its first championship with the star trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green back in 2015.
The Warriors missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons before the 2021-22 campaign, largely due to injuries. But they’re right back near the mountaintop, playing in their sixth NBA Finals in eight years and seeking their fourth title in that span. The Celtics, meanwhile, are looking to put the finishing touches on a remarkable in-season turnaround and raise the 18th banner in franchise history.
The best-of-seven series, which tips off Thursday night at Chase Center, should be fascinating. Both the C’s and Dubs have proven themselves this postseason, with Boston taking down the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference while Golden State defeated the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks in its Western Conference journey.
It’s perhaps best to expect the unexpected, all things considered. But here are seven random (and bold?) predictions that absolutely, positively will come to fruition in the 2022 NBA Finals.
Warriors will win Game 1 by double digits
The Warriors hold home-court advantage. They’ve also had a full week off after beating the Mavericks in five games, whereas the Celtics are coming off a seven-game slugfest with the Heat that ended late Sunday night. It felt like a weight was listed off Boston’s shoulders after Game 7 in Miami, for a variety of reasons. A lopsided loss in Game 1 of the NBA Finals will serve as a wake-up call for the C’s, who often play their best after they’ve been punched in the mouth.
A horrible call — or non-call — will decide a game
The officiating has been spotty this NBA postseason, with the Celtics both benefitting from and falling victim to the inconsistent whistle-blowing. That kind of comes with the territory when you’re a team that looks for calls as often as Boston does. It wouldn’t be surprising to see at least one controversial finish with the Larry O’Brien Trophy hanging in the balance.
Someone will get suspended
The Celtics definitely play with an edge, oftentimes assuming the identity of their tough, gritty, hard-nosed head coach, Ime Udoka. Combine that with the Warriors’ energy and frequent flamboyance, and you’re dealing with a volatile mix that could come to a head in some way, shape or form. Let’s face it: Marcus Smart and Draymond Green, alone, are flight risks based on their tenacity.
Four players will average at least 20 points per game
There are four obvious candidates here: Tatum, Brown, Curry and Thompson. DraftKings Sportsbook put the odds at +125 that all will average at least 20 points.
But they’re not the only candidates. Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins are capable of going off for Golden State, while Smart and Al Horford are no strangers to sinking meaningful buckets for Boston. Both teams excel on the defensive end, but don’t be stunned if we’re treated to offensive fireworks given the overall talent assembled on the hardwood.
Al Horford and Kevon Looney will average at least 10 rebounds per game
Horford averaged 7.7 rebounds per game during the regular season and 9.6 rebounds through the Celtics’ first three playoff series. Looney averaged 7.3 and 7.7, respectively, for the Warriors. So, this requires a leap of faith, with DraftKings putting +380 odds on each player to average 10+ boards. But some contested outside shots will lead to opportunities on the glass for both big men.
Warriors will complete a gentleman’s sweep
This might be the boldest prediction of all, based on how evenly matched these teams seemingly are on paper and how divided the so-called experts are on who will win the series. But it’s impossible to shake the feeling that Boston just won its championship by advancing to the Finals. And that sigh of relief felt by outlasting the top-seeded Heat — thanks to Jimmy Butler’s late-Game 7 miss — quickly will be replaced by a sense of shell shock.
The Warriors are a bit healthier and more rested, with the Celtics overcoming injuries in back-to-back seven-game series, and will provide a test unlike any Boston has seen thus far. Not to take anything away from the C’s, but they beat a broken Nets team, a Bucks squad without Khris Middleton and the Heat, who were equally hobbled and incapable of knocking down shots from outside the paint. The Dubs are a whole different beast, capable of exploiting the Celtics’ shortcomings and wearing them down, and therefore will win in five games.
Someone other than Steph Curry or Jayson Tatum will be named MVP
Curry (+110) has the shortest odds to win MVP, according to DraftKings. Tatum (+170) isn’t far behind. Makes sense, seeing as they’re the two best players in this series and presumably will stuff the stat sheet each game. But let’s roll the dice here. Brown (+1100), Thompson (+1500) and Green (+1800) have the next-shortest odds, followed by Wiggins (+2500), Poole (+3500), Smart (+4500) and Horford (+9000).
Thompson feels like the strongest non-Curry/Tatum candidate when factoring in our Warriors-in-five prediction. Plus, what a story that would be.