Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has thrown his support behind Jayson Tatum despite the 2022 All-NBA First Teamer's down NBA Finals series.

Three-time NBA All-Star Tatum averaged only 21.5 points per game in the NBA Finals, shooting 50 per cent or better from the field only once in their 4-2 series loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Tatum also gave up 23 turnovers in the six games in the NBA Finals. The 24-year-old had a mixed playoffs, finishing with the most turnovers (100) by a single player in NBA postseason history.

However, Tatum was also outstanding in series wins over the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat, including a remarkable 46-point haul in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals facing elimination against the reigning champions.

"I just told him to go on vacation," Stevens told reporters during a videoconference call. "Go get some rest."

"This guy gave us everything he had. When you look at the minutes, when you look at the games played ... I've said this many times: He's a superstar that doesn't want to sit. He wants to play, he wants to play all the time.

"I thought that in the Finals, he would be the first to say that he would like to have some of those moments back, but I thought there were other contributing factors to how he played."

Tatum, who was named in the All-NBA First Team for the first time in 2022, averaged career-highs with 26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game across the 2021-21 regular season.

The Celtics small forward shot at 45.3 per cent from the field across the regular season, dipping slightly to 42.6 per cent in the postseason.

During the playoffs, Tatum averaged 25.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.16 assists but with 4.16 turnovers per game.

"We're all subjective in every moment and react emotionally, but when you start looking at it objectively and more so historically, what Jayson and Jaylen [Brown] have done in the playoffs, historically at their ages, is rarified air," Stevens said.

"I think we're very cognisant of the fact that even though Jayson would admittedly not have played his best series, there's no chance we're there without him and without all of his great play all the way through.

"I think back to all of the times ... Game 6 in Milwaukee was one of the best games I've seen an individual play in my time, certainly in person and with the Celtics.

"Without that performance, we would have had this discussion a month and a half ago."

The Golden State Warriors secured their fourth NBA Championship in the past eight years with a 103-90 away win against the Boston Celtics in Game 6.

With the win, the Warriors secured a 4-2 series win, coming back from a 2-1 deficit to rattle off three of the next four, including two road wins in Boston.

While the night ended in Golden State celebrations, the start was all Celtics, jumping out of the gates to a 14-2 lead.

The Warriors kept in touch, and then went on an explosive, game-winning run late in the first quarter, turning a 22-16 deficit into a 37-22 lead with a 21-0 run.

Golden State's defense rose to the occasion, out-playing the Celtics' league-best defense, holding the home side to 17 points in the second quarter to lead 54-39 at half-time.

The Celtics did not lay down, launching their own run late in the third quarter, closing the term on a 16-4 run to cut the lead down to 10 as Al Horford willed his side back into the game. Horford had 12 points, six rebounds and a block in just the third quarter.

Down the stretch, with the Warriors needing to steady, it would be their superstar who would stand up. 

Stephen Curry had 13 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 34 points (12-of-21 shooting, six-of-11 from three), seven rebounds and seven assists.

His performance capped off a series where he averaged 31.2 points, six rebounds and five assists, earning him the first Finals MVP of his Hall-of-Fame career.

Andrew Wiggins was the Warriors' second-best player all series, and he produced one of the best defensive games of his career in Game 6, holding Jayson Tatum to just 13 points on six-of-18 shooting, while taking four steals and blocking three shots.

Wiggins also added 18 points on seven-of-18 shooting, with six rebounds and five assists. With the performance, he scored at least 17 points in five of the six Finals games, and averaged a team-high 8.8 rebounds per game in the series.

Jaylen Brown was the Celtics' brightest star, scoring 34 points on 12-of-23 shooting, but he also had five turnovers, which was a theme for the hosts.

The Celtics committed 22 turnovers as a team – seven more than the Warriors – after committing 18 to Golden State's seven in their Game 5 loss. During the regular season, Boston averaged 13.6 turnovers per game.

The Golden State Warriors produced a spectacular defensive second half to defeat the Boston Celtics 107-97 in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

With the win on the road, the Warriors tied the series at 2-2, avoiding the dreaded 3-1 deficit that history shows is almost impossible to come back from.

From the jump, it was the Stephen Curry show, scoring 12 points in the first quarter to keep the Warriors in the fight, trailing 28-27 at quarter-time.

Eight quick points from Jordan Poole off the bench gave the Warriors a jolt to start the second period, before Jaylen Brown answered with 10 of his own. 

Ultimately it was the Celtics' defense controlling the second quarter, holding the Warriors to two-of-12 shooting from long range in the frame to win it 26-22 and head into half-time leading 54-49.

Everyone expected the Warriors to come out hot in the third quarter, and they did not disappoint, with Curry and Klay Thompson both hitting jump shots in the first 40 seconds, igniting a 30-24 period for the visitors.

Curry scored another 14 points in the third, with a late three giving the Warriors a 79-78 lead heading into the last.

All series the Boston defense has gone up a gear in the fourth quarter, but this time the Warriors gave them a taste of their own medicine, holding the home side to 19 points.

A Marcus Smart three-pointer with 5:18 remaining put the Celtics up 94-90, but they would score just three points the rest of the way, spanning nearly four minutes between Smart's bucket and Al Horford's three with 1:32 on the clock.

Curry capped off his magical performance with 10 of the Warriors' last 12 points, finishing with 43 points while shooting 14-of-26 from the field and seven-of-14 from long range. He added 10 rebounds and four assists.

Also shining when the Warriors needed him most was Andrew Wiggins, who snatched a career-high 16 rebounds, including some important offensive rebounds and put-backs with his team trailing, as he also chipped in 17 points and finished with a plus/minus of plus 20. His plus/minus trailed only Kevon Looney's plus 21.

For the Celtics, Jayson Tatum was solid, but scored inefficiently, with 23 points on eight-of-23 shooting, while adding 11 rebounds, six assists and three blocks. Brown was also respectable, scoring 21 on nine-of-19 shooting, while Derrick White added 16 off the bench.

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart highlighted how the bumpy journey to this point is what makes his team so unified, after they produced a near-perfect defensive fourth quarter to defeat the Golden State Warriors 116-110 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

The win gives the Celtics a 2-1 series lead, with a chance to go up 3-1 by holding serve at home in Game 4.

In the process, the Celtics core of Smart, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown became the first trio since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper in 1984 to all have at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in a Finals game.

The Celtics needed to get up off the canvas after a trademark Golden State Warriors third-quarter run saw them claw back from a 12-point half-time deficit to take an 83-82 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the third.

In response, the Celtics held the Warriors to just 11 points in the fourth quarter, completely shutting down one of the most dynamic offenses in league history to lock up the win at home.


Smart, who has been criticised for trying to be too involved in the Celtics offense while neglecting his point guard duties, credited his star team-mates for helping him believe in his own scoring ability.

"The 'Jays' – Jayson and Jaylen – have done a really good job of encouraging me to be aggressive on the offensive end," he said. "And really understanding that for me, in this team, I have to be aggressive to help us win."

Smart's relationship with the 'Jays' goes deeper than basketball, and he said it took some growing up, as well as some tough conversations for the trio to become who they are today.

"First off, this is a family here," he said. "I grew up with the Jays.

"I've been playing five years with Jaylen, four years with Jayson. When my mom passed… they all came down to the funeral, so we've already had that bond.

"Early on in the season for us, it's just like it is with your siblings. 

"You get into it, you squabble, you're mad at each other – and then the next day you're laughing, talking, hugging… giving each other their roses, and that's what this team is.

"It started off shaky for us, but that right there is what helped us get to where we are now. We had to go through the storm to see the rainbow at the end of it.

"For me, I had to look myself in the mirror. Along with my team-mates, we had to have a heart-to-heart, we had to sit down and have that hard talk, and understand that what we're saying is to help each other.

"It's nothing bad, it's nothing personal, it's to help us get to where we want to be. It's crazy, we're here, and nobody thought we would be here… but we stayed with it, and that's why I'm proud of this team, and it's what makes us who we are."

The Celtics have done plenty of soul-searching this season, and it was the case again after a demoralising Game 2 loss, but Smart said he was determined to not let the Warriors "bully" his side.

"We pride ourselves on being a physical team, and for us, [Game 2] left a bad taste in your mouth," he said.

"Coming out of Game 2, hearing and knowing that we got beat up. It's just like anybody else, if you're in a fight with a bully or anything, you've got to keep going, you've got to stand up."

When asked if he feels like the Celtics are in a fight with a bully, Smart replied: "We definitely are, we got the Golden State Warriors, who have done this before, multiple times, and they understand what it's like to be here.

"We're that little guy that is new to the school, and they want to see exactly what you've got. They came out and punched us in our mouth in Game 2, and we responded.

"We watched the film – and that was a nasty film session for us. It was ugly, we had to sit there and watch the whole film.

"You have to look yourself in the mirror and get it together. Coming out today it was not a matter of 'are we going to be physical' – it was 'how physical are we going to be'."

The Boston Celtics have taken a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals after defeating the Golden State Warriors 116-100 in Game 3.

In front of their raucous home fans, the Celtics started red-hot on the offensive end, highlighted by Jaylen Brown's 17 points in the first quarter to carry his side to a 33-22 lead at the quarter-time.

Boston's offense did not slow down in the second quarter, either, putting up another 35 points, but the Warriors were able to put up 34 themselves to stay within touching distance, down 68-56 at half-time.

Brown led the way with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the first half – nearly matching his regular season averages of 23.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

For the Warriors, Klay Thompson had 15 points, Stephen Curry had 14, and Andrew Wiggins had 13, while the rest of the team combined for 12.

As has been a theme with the Warriors, they exploded once again in the third quarter, winning the frame 33-25 as Curry scored another 15 points in an eight-minute stretch.

The Warriors took the lead 83-82 with Curry's 15th point of the quarter, before the Celtics settled and fought back to take a 93-89 margin into the final break.

This Celtics team will be remembered as one of the finest defensive units of the modern era, and they relied on that end of the floor to pull out the win, holding the Warriors to just 11 points in the fourth quarter, while Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with eight down the stretch.

After setting a career-high of 13 assists in Game 1 of the Finals, Tatum showed it was no fluke, dishing another nine assists to go with his 26 points (nine-of-23 shooting). 

Brown cooled off late to finish on 27 points (nine-of-16 shooting) with nine rebounds and five assists, while Marcus Smart put up similar numbers, scoring 24 points (eight-of-17 shooting) with seven rebounds and five assists.

The game-changer for the Celtics, however, was Robert Williams III. The injury-plagued center showed exactly why he received Defensive Player of the Year votes and NBA All-Defensive Second Team honours, finishing with four blocks and three steals to go with his eight points and 10 rebounds. Williams also finished with a game-high plus/minus of plus 21.

For the Warriors, Curry was terrific, scoring an efficient 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting, hitting six-of-11 from long range, while Thompson had his best game of the Finals with 25 points on seven-of-17 shooting.

Public enemy number one in Boston was Draymond Green, and the crowd gave him a fitting send-off when he fouled out in the fourth quarter with just two points, four rebounds and three assists in his 35 minutes.

The Golden State Warriors evened up the NBA Finals on Sunday, comfortably defeating the Boston Celtics 107-88 on Sunday.

Stephen Curry was at his transformative best, finishing up with 29 points on nine-of-21 shooting, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Pertinently, facing an 0-2 series deficit, putting Curry in high pick-and-roll actions with Draymond Green forced the Celtics into tricky defensive situations.

The Warriors were able to get the shots they wanted as a result of Curry's presence, as well as the lingering injury troubles of Robert Williams III affecting Boston's rim protection.

Gary Payton returned after his gruesome injury sustained against the Memphis Grizzlies and did not miss a beat in the Finals atmosphere, pitching in with seven points, three assists and three rebounds while providing critical defensive presence. 

They scored 40 points in the paint over the game in comparison to the Celtics' 24, while shooting 40.5 per cent from the perimeter.

This came despite Curry and Klay Thompson shooting a combined six-of-20 from beyond the arc.

After their offensive explosion in the fourth quarter to take the opening game, the Celtics shot 37.5 per cent from the floor, while 18 turnovers were critical.

The Dubs scored 33 points off those Celtics turnovers, blowing the game wout with a 35-14 third quarter, capped off with an extraordinary buzzer-beating three-pointer from half-court.

Marcus Smart was ineffective on both ends of the floor, failing to restrict Curry in pick-and-roll situations while going one-of-six from the floor and committing five turnovers.

The Golden State Warriors evened up the NBA Finals on Sunday, comfortably defeating the Boston Celtics 107-88 on Sunday.

Stephen Curry was at his transformative best, finishing up with 29 points on nine-of-21 shooting, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Pertinently, facing an 0-2 series deficit, putting Curry in high pick-and-roll actions with Draymond Green forced the Celtics into tricky defensive situations.

The Warriors were able to get the shots they wanted as a result of Curry's presence, as well as the lingering injury troubles of Robert Williams III affecting Boston's rim protection.

Gary Payton returned after his gruesome injury sustained against the Memphis Grizzlies and did not miss a beat in the Finals atmosphere, pitching in with seven points, three assists and three rebounds while providing critical defensive presence. 

They scored 40 points in the paint over the game in comparison to the Celtics' 24, while shooting 40.5 per cent from the perimeter.

This came despite Curry and Klay Thompson shooting a combined six-of-20 from beyond the arc.

After their offensive explosion in the fourth quarter to take the opening game, the Celtics shot 37.5 per cent from the floor, while 18 turnovers were critical.

The Dubs scored 33 points off those Celtics turnovers, blowing the game wout with a 35-14 third quarter, capped off with an extraordinary buzzer-beating three-pointer from half-court.

Marcus Smart was ineffective on both ends of the floor, failing to restrict Curry in pick-and-roll situations while going one-of-six from the floor and committing five turnovers.

Boston Celtics big-man Al Horford called Jayson Tatum a "special player" after they came back from a 12-point deficit at three-quarter time to defeat the Golden State Warriors 120-108 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The Celtics were on the ropes after the Warriors unleashed a 38-24 third-quarter to seemingly take control of the contest, threatening to run away with things as Stephen Curry had 30 points up to three-quarter time.

But the Warriors had no answer for the barrage from long range that came in the final period, with the Celtics hitting nine-of-12 from deep in the quarter and 21-of-41 for the game as the two sides combined to hit a Finals record 40 three-pointers.

The Celtics ended up shooting 15-of-22 from the field in the fourth, winning the quarter 40-16, despite Tatum not scoring in the final 16 minutes of play. 

Instead, Tatum finished with a career-high 13 assists, and Al Horford – who himself had a career-high six three-pointers with his 26 points – told NBA TV that the league is seeing the evolution of the Celtics star.

"He's letting people know man, Jayson is a special player," he said."Even this year, the growth is unbelievable with him. 

"He's the kind of guy where – tonight he was passing, getting assists, getting other people involved while he struggled a little bit shooting – but he's always going to find a way. He's always going to continue to get better.

"That's who we follow – offensively he gets us going, he defends, and then he has the responsibility to find and make plays for others. His maturation is unbelievable, it's something I'm really proud of, because I've seen him grow."

He added: "When the Celtics trade happened, it was something I was grateful for, and straight away I told Jayson. 

"I said 'hey, I can't wait for us to be in those positions, in Conference Finals, and the NBA Finals' – because I believed that much in the group, and I believed that much in him."

When asked about his new career-high in his post-game media appearance, Tatum said it was something first-year head coach Ime Udoka addressed at the start of their relationship.

"That was kind of his message from day-one, just to challenge me to be the best player I can be, and improve other areas of my game," he said.

"We watched a lot of film throughout the course of the season… obviously playmaking was one [area of focus], drawing a lot of attention, and just to help my team out as much as possible.

"He's done a great job of challenging myself, and the group in that aspect."

Tatum was key in keeping the Celtics offense clicking, but his shot was not falling, finishing three-of-17 from the field. 

When asked how he felt about his inability to put the ball in the basket, Tatum emphasised his team-first mentality.

"Ecstatic – 40 points in the fourth quarter," he said. "[Jaylen Brown], Al, Payton [Pritchard], [Derrick] White, those guys made big shots, and timely shots, as well.

"And we won, right. I had a bad shooting night, but I just tried to impact the game in other ways. 

"We're in the Finals, all I was worried about was trying to get a win, and we did. That's all that matters at this point.

"I don't expect to shoot that bad again, but if it means we keep winning, I'll take it."

The Warriors were aggressive in trying to make sure Tatum had no clean looks, and he said sometimes basketball is a simple game.

"Just reading the play – they do a great job of helping, and things like that," he said.

"It's as simple as – if you draw two, find somebody that's open. That's what I was trying to do."

He added: "This time of the season, you feel great after a win, and you feel terrible when you lose, but you've got to just be able to stay mellow, and stay balanced.

"Especially this early – it's far from over, it's just one game, and we have to be ready to respond.

"They're going to make adjustments... we've got to be prepared."

Game 2 will remain in Golden State, before the series heads to Boston for Game 3 and Game 4.

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.

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."

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.

Jimmy Butler played the game of his life to lift the Miami Heat to a 111-103 win away from home against the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday.

The win keeps the Heat's season alive, tying the series at 3-3, with Game 7 heading back to Miami on Sunday.

Butler had complete control of the game throughout, scoring 21 points, grabbing nine rebounds, and dishing six assists – and that was just in the first half, single-handedly carrying the Heat to a 48-46 lead at the long break.

He went on to finish with a playoff career high of 47 points on 16-of-29 shooting (four-of-eight from three, 11-of-11 free throws) with nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals – scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter – as he played 46 minutes, including the entire second half.

Butler was the driving force for the Heat, but they shot the ball well as a team, hitting 15-of-35 three-pointers (42 per cent) as Kyle Lowry and Max Strus hit big shots when they were needed, combining for seven made threes.

Lowry, after a combined 14 points and eight assists in the three contests prior to Game 6 he was healthy for, scored 18 points (five-of-14 from the field, four-of-nine from deep) and dished 10 assists, while Max Strus hit three-of-eight from long range for his 12 points.

Jayson Tatum finished with a strong stat-line, scoring 30 points with nine rebounds, four assists and two steals, but he had seven turnovers, only attempted 12 field goals (nine-of-12), and only scored one field goal in the fourth quarter when the Celtics were desperate for their superstar to impose his will.

Derrick White was arguably the Celtics' best performer, scoring 22 points (seven-of-14 shooting, four-of-seven from three) with five assists and three steals off the bench, while Jaylen Brown was also solid, scoring 20 (six-of-13 shooting) with six rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Ultimately, it will be remembered as Butler's greatest performance, attempting more field goals than Brown and Tatum combined, while having the best defense in the NBA entirely focused on him, and delivering efficiently from all areas while the lights shined their brightest.

With his Game 6 showing, he became the first player since Michael Jordan in 1988 to have multiple games in a playoff series with at least 40 points and four steals.

Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown insisted his side will continue to win games with their defense after defeating the Miami Heat 93-80 on Wednesday.

The Celtics recovered from a disappointing first half to take a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, setting up a chance to clinch the series and an NBA Finals berth on their home floor.

Boston scored only 37 points in the first half, shooting 25 per cent from beyond the three-point arc, but only trailed by five points at the main interval.

Brown asserted that their defence is critical in limiting the damage when they are not clicking on the offensive end, keeping the team in games.

"Our defence is key," he said after the win. "Every night we come out and hang our hat on that side of the ball. It was great to have, even in a limited role, Marcus [Smart] and Rob [Williams III], to be able to be out there, because their presence on that side of the ball is felt.

"Every night we give ourselves a chance with our defence. We didn't play great in the first half but we only gave up 42 points. Kept us in the game, we were down five, got settled in the second half and the game opened up and it was over from there.

"Our defence is what continues to win us games and we've got to keep hanging our hat on that defensive side of the ball."

In what has been a primarily defensive series, Game 5 was no different, with Miami generating a great amount of offensive impact from their defensive stops.

Brown was a prominent figure in that regard, coughing up four of Boston's 10 turnovers for the half as the team shot 38.2 per cent from the floor.

The 25-year-old took over in the second half, however, not turning the ball over once while scoring 19 points off eight-of-12 shooting.

Post-game, he said there was little variation in approach, despite a dressing down in the first half from Celtics coach Ime Udoka.

"We knew if we took care of the basketball, we would get some open opportunities and knock them down," Brown said. "Just continue to play basketball and be aggressive, that's why basketball is 48 minutes.

"I think he [Udoka] was talking to the whole team. I wasn't the only person to have some turnovers but it is what it is. I'm going to keep being aggressive, keep getting into the paint and making them stop me.

"Miami do a really good job of slapping down, reaching and grabbing and making it tough for you, so it's a little bit of both. I've got to do a better job for sure, but overall as a team, we've got to do a better job too."

The Boston Celtics claimed critical home-court advantage and a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, earning a gritty 93-80 Game 5 win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

In all four quarters the Celtics held the Heat to 23 points or fewer, but the offensive side of the ball was also far from clicking early on.

The Heat led 19-17 at quarter-time and after winning the second frame 23-20, they held an incredibly low-scoring 42-37 lead at the long break.

In the first half, both teams shot under 39 per cent from the field and 26 per cent from three-point range, but the Heat were winning the physical battle on the boards, pulling in nine offensive rebounds to just two for the Celtics.

The two teams also combined for just six fast-break points in the first half, illustrating the slow, grinding pace of play as both defences locked in, forcing better ball and man movement.

Back in Game 1, also in Miami, the Heat who came out of the locker room for the third quarter and went on a rampage to swing that game, but this time the shoe was on the other foot.

The Celtics doubled up the Heat in the third period, winning it 32-16 as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford found rhythm on the offensive end.

Boston led 69-58 after three quarters, and extended that lead to 23 points in the opening minutes of the final frame, as Brown knocked down three big triples.

After a first half where he was the subject of plenty of criticism for his loose ball handling – with four first-half turnovers – Brown made the difference after half-time, finishing with 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting and five-of-nine from long range. He also had no turnovers in the second half, and the biggest dunk of the game.

Jayson Tatum was also at his playmaking best, with 22 points on a mediocre seven-of-20 shooting, but he added 12 rebounds and nine assists, consistently creating opportunities for shooters off the dribble and showing advanced ability to make reads as play unfolded.

The real story of the Celtics' success was their ability to take away the three-point line for the Heat, though.

With Jimmy Butler's jump shots not falling – finishing with 13 points on four-of-18 shooting – Miami simply had no avenue to reliable outside scoring.

The Celtics' ability to chase hard over the top of screens and dribble hand-offs made life miserable for Max Strus and Duncan Robinson, taking away their catch-and-shoot opportunities and turning them into dribblers, far outside their comfort zones. 

Strus finished zero-of-nine from the field, missing all seven of his three-point attempts, while Robinson was four-of-12, including three-of-10 from long range. As a team, the Heat were just seven-of-45 (15 per cent) from beyond the arc.

Instead, the Celtics dared the Heat to beat them inside, banking on the stoutness of their terrific interior defensive duo of Horford and Robert Williams III. That pairing combined for 17 rebounds, five blocks, two steals and just one foul.

Game 6 will head back to Boston, meaning the first-seeded Heat need to win on the road to save their season and force a Game 7.

The Miami Heat warded off a gritty fightback from the Boston Celtics to win 109-103 on Saturday, reclaiming home-court advantage and taking out Game 3 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics were down by 26 points in the first half and clawed their way back to make it a one-possession game down the stretch, but clutch baskets from Max Strus and Bam Adebayo were able to halt momentum.

Erik Spoelstra's side eventually saw the game out from the free-throw line.

With Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro off injured in the second half, Adebayo finished with 31 points on 15-of-22 shooting, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals in a big performance.

Jaylen Brown led the late charge for the Celtics, scoring a game-high 40 points off 14-of-20 shooting from the floor, but turnovers were critical as the team failed to take care of the ball.

Brown was responsible for seven of his own while Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart combined for 10 with the Celtics committing 23 turnovers.

Boston shot 37.5 per cent from three-point range but following a 39-14 first quarter, were facing an uphill battle.

The Heat scored 33 points off those turnovers in contrast to Boston's nine points, with double-digit margins for points in the paint (48-34) and bench points (26-16).

Butler came up with eight points and three rebounds as well as two assists and steals, but knee inflammation saw him miss the second half. 

Kyle Lowry's return to the floor was pivotal for the Heat, however, finishing with 11 points, six assists and four steals.

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