The Larry O’Brien Trophy is heading back to the Bay Area for the fourth time in the last eight years.
Just two seasons ago the Golden State Warriors held the worst record in the NBA, their dynasty teetering on the brink of collapse. Their return to the Finals felt improbable, but the Warriors are back at the top – back where they belong.
From the start of this one, Steph Curry made it clear that he had no interest in squandering another early closeout opportunity. The Dubs weathered an early Celtic storm, and the Golden Boy rediscovered his stroke from deep, igniting a 21-0 first-half run that the C’s would never recover from. It’s often forgotten that the Celtics owned the top-rated defense in the NBA. The reason for that is because there is quite literally no defense for Stephen Curry. No matter what coverage Ime Udoka threw at him, the newly minted Finals MVP had an emphatic response. Boston stuck with their drop coverage through the first four games, forcing the Warriors to stray from their free-flowing identity and daring Curry to beat them with his shooting. As it turned out, granting the greatest shooter of all time the green light to fire at will was not the brightest of ideas. A 43-point masterclass by the two-time MVP would evoke some schematic changes out of the Celtics but to no avail. They tried face-guarding him, but the Warriors are the most experienced 4-on-4 team in the league. They tried trapping him, but that left Draymond Green in a 4-on-3 scenario – an absolute nightmare. They tried a switching defense, but leaving Curry on an island with Al Horford? C’mon now. Guarding Steph Curry is akin to walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. It’s a task that requires a preposterous level of focus and attention to detail. One wrong step, no matter how minute, is all it takes.
Draymond Green – Defensive Genius
At around the five-minute mark in the second quarter, the Celtics made a push in attempt to trim the Warriors lead to a manageable ten points. The ball found Jayson Tatum on the left wing with about thirteen seconds on the shot-clock and Draymond Green right in his airspace. Tatum drove baseline and instead of walling him off, Green allowed the attack, realizing that with Robert Williams III lurking in the dunker spot, Kevon Looney was automatically in a help position under the basket. From Tatum’s perspective, he’d just beaten Green off the dribble and engaged Looney as a help defender, meaning Williams III stands alone next to the rim for an easy dunk, right? Wrong, because as soon as Green abandons Tatum and Looney steps in front, Green redirects, lunges out, and intercepts the pass, igniting the break. Make no mistake, Draymond Green had a few rough outings in these Finals. But Games 3 and 4 served as reminders that Green is still, far and away, the best defender in the NBA. He doesn’t wield the physical advantages of a Giannis Antetokounmpo or Rudy Gobert – his IQ is what sets him apart. His combination of awareness and reaction speed is unparalleled. In Game 6, the former DPOY made it a point to muddy the driving lanes for the Celtics’ star duo by encouraging drives to their left-hand – an area where both Tatum and Jaylen Brown could use improvement. His interior presence also shone as he neutralized the lob threat of Robert Williams and offered immediate help when Boston went at mismatches on the block. At times it almost felt like the Celtics’ offense was moving in slow motion the way Green was five steps ahead of a developing action.
Wiggs’ Consistency and Klay’s Defense
Andrew Wiggins entered these playoffs with only one round of previous experience, yet he remained a steady force through the entire postseason run. Wiggins had already limited Jayson Tatum to a sub-par Finals performance but in Game 6, he completely shut him down, holding the budding superstar to just 13 points on 6-18 from the field. Wiggs also stuffed the stat sheet once again, posting an impressive line of 18 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. The Canadian excelled on the defensive end and showed great composure in knocking down some huge threes as the Celtics tried to mount a comeback.
While Klay Thompson did not have the “Game 6 Klay” performance he would’ve liked, shooting only 5-20 from the field, his impact was certainly felt on the other end of the floor. Thompson played a critical role in forcing the Celtics into a series-high twenty-two turnovers in a do-or-die game. Once again assuming the Jaylen Brown assignment, Klay did a fantastic job getting in Brown’s space and waving his arms out to obstruct passing lanes. Often switched out on Tatum or Al Horford, Thompson held his own and more than made up for his shooting struggles in Game 6.
Jordan Poole tends to get caught up in the moment and subsequently disrupt the flow of the offense with random spurts of iso-ball. He was great to close out the series. The third-year guard took what the defense gave him and maintained discipline defensively, holding his ground when matched up with Tatum and Brown. Poole hit some timely buckets and his fifteen points in seventeen minutes were vital with Steph Curry getting some needed rest.
Kevon Looney gathered 7 boards in limited minutes – 6 of them were offensive. As usual, Kevon Looney played a key role in the victory, doing his duty on the offensive glass and providing the Warriors with a solid interior presence.
Gary Payton II showed up once again, ripping away three steals in just nineteen minutes. He was everywhere as usual and managed to muck up the Celtics’ half-court offense in his limited game time. Can’t ask for much more.
And just like that, the O’Brien is back in the Bay. Your 2022 NBA Champions: The Golden State Warriors