Steve Kerr admitted he was still in awe of Stephen Curry after his starring role in the Golden State Warriors' NBA Finals success.

The Warriors beat the Boston Celtics 103-90 in Game 6 to seal an unassailable 4-2 series lead and claim a fourth title in eight years.

Kerr, who also won five championships as a player, has been at the helm for all of those successes, but he has not lost the ability to be impressed by the feats of his star players.

And nobody has played a greater role in this season's triumph than league and Finals MVP Curry.

"He does [still inspire awe], because what he does at his size is so different from the traditional greats in this league," Kerr said of the 34-year-old.

"I've said it so many times, Steph reminds me so much of Tim Duncan. Totally different players. But from a humanity standpoint, talent standpoint, humility, confidence, this wonderful combination that just makes everybody want to win for him.

"And I'm obviously thrilled for everyone in that room, and a lot of people had a big hand in this, but I think the thing with Steph is, you know, without him, none of this happens.

"That's not taking anything away from Joe [Lacob] and Peter's [Gruber] ownership, because they have built an incredible organisation.

"Bob Myers, hell of a GM. Our players, we have had so many great players, but Steph ultimately is why this run has happened. Much like Timmy in San Antonio.

"So I'm happy for everybody, but I'm thrilled for Steph. To me this is his crowning achievement in what's already been an incredible career."

Curry averaged 31.2 points, six rebounds and five assists in the Finals to earn the first Finals MVP of his career.

He put up a team-high 34 points in Game 6 on 12-of-21 shooting, hitting six-of-11 threes while adding seven rebounds and seven assists.

Curry also became the first player to ever win a unanimous league MVP and a unanimous Finals MVP.

Asked what distinguished this title from the rest, Kerr added: "They are all unique, they are all special. I think this one may have been the most unlikely just from the standpoint of where we've been the last couple years.

"A lot of unknowns, the injury to Klay [Thompson], Draymond [Green] at the end of the year, Steph at the end of the year. A lot of young guys, a new core, or a new group around our core, I should say.

"But it's really special to see guys like Wiggs [Andrew Wiggins] and Loon [Kevon Looney] and Gary Payton, just how far they have come, the impact they made, Jordan Poole, the same thing.

"I know I'm going to forget people but it takes a full team effort to do this, and we just had a great group who do get it done."

Golden State Warriors icon Stephen Curry took the time to sit back and soak in the journey from Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals to Thursday's Game 6, championship-sealing win against the Boston Celtics.

Curry, who averaged 31.2 points, six rebounds and five assists in the Finals to earn the first Finals MVP of his career, scored a team-high 34 points in Game 6 on 12-of-21 shooting, hitting six-of-11 threes and adding seven rebounds and seven assists.

It is the Warriors' fourth championship in the past eight seasons, with Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and coach Steve Kerr there for all four.

Speaking to the media while still wearing his goggles from the champagne celebrations in the locker room, Curry pushed back on the first question being about his elusive Finals MVP.

"Forget that, we're champs," he said. "We've got four championships.

"God is great, the ability to be on this stage and play with amazing teammates against a great Boston Celtics team that gave us everything to try to get to the finish line… this one hits different for sure.

"Knowing what the last three years have meant, and what it's been like. From injuries, to a changing of the guard with the roster, 'Wiggs' [Andrew Wiggins] coming through, our young guys. Carrying the belief that we could get back to this stage and win, even if it didn't make sense to anybody when we said it.

"All that stuff matters, and now we've got four championships. Me, Dray, Klay and Andre – and I finally got that bad boy [motioning to Finals MVP trophy] – it's special, man. Special.

"All the work that went into it, all the faith and belief, everybody in that locker room that's getting to spray champagne around the locker room – everybody mattered in that process. I'm proud of everybody."

Curry was superb down the stretch in the close-out win, scoring 13 of the Warriors' 27 fourth-quarter points, and he was overtaken by emotion as the finals seconds ticked down.

Touching on what was going through his head, he said it was thoughts of the long road back to the top after the 2019 Finals ended in devastating fashion, with a loss and serious injuries to Thompson and Kevin Durant.

"These last two months of the playoffs, these last three years, these last 48 hours, every bit of it has been an emotional rollercoaster, on and off the floor," he said.

"You're carrying all of that on a daily basis, trying to realise a dream and a goal like we did tonight – you get goosebumps just thinking about all those snapshots and episodes we went through to get back here.

"That's why I said this championship hits different – that's why I've got so many emotions, and still will – because of what it took to get back here. 

"When we started this season, there was a lot of conversation about who we were as a team, and what we were capable of, and I clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero for how many more championships we'd have going forward.

"We hear all of that, we carry it all, and you try to maintain your purpose and not let it distract you, but you carry that weight, and to get here, it all comes out."

He added: "It was definitely overwhelming – it was surreal – just because you know how much you went through to get back to this stage.

"Me personally, my workouts from the offseason last year when we lost the play-in tournament, it's been a year and six days since I started the process of getting ready for this season – and it all paid off.

"I didn't know how it was going to happen, I didn't know what the environment was going to be like, but it hits different.

"Out there on the floor – I mean, I didn't even know [my dad] was down there – and I saw him, and I just lost it… I just wanted to take in the moment."

Curry also became the first player to ever win a unanimous league MVP and a unanimous Finals MVP, further cementing his legacy as one of the greatest players to ever lace them up.

The Golden State Warriors showed their championship pedigree in Monday's 104-94 home win against the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

With the win, the Warriors have taken a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven. Historically, when a seven-game series is tied at 2-2, the winner of Game 5 has gone on to win the series over 82 per cent of the time.

While it has been all Stephen Curry for the Warriors up this point, Game 5 was a true team performance as Curry struggled.

It started on the defensive end for the Warriors, holding the Celtics to just eight points in the first nine minutes of action on the way to a 27-16 opening frame.

Andrew Wiggins had seven points in the first quarter, and backed it up with another nine in the second, clearly the Warriors' best player in the first half as they won the second frame 24-23 to head into half-time leading 51-39.

A classic Warriors third quarter would have put the game to bed, but it was the Celtics' turn to flip the game on its head, starting the second half on a 10-0 run.

The road team would hit six-of-eight three-pointers in the period to pull ahead 74-72 in the closing stages, before a running heave from Jordan Poole banked in off the backboard to beat the buzzer. Replays showed the ball left Poole's fingertips with 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock, giving the Warriors a one-point lead.

Poole's launch ignited the crowd, and they carried that momentum in the opening stages of the fourth, starting the quarter on a 10-0 run of their own to take a stranglehold on the contest.

In the biggest moments, Wiggins did not cede the floor to Curry, scoring 10 points in the last quarter, capped off with an emphatic slam dunk.

Wiggins finished with a team-high 26 points on 12-of-23 shooting, backing up his career-high 16 rebounds in Game 4 with another 13 rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.

Averaging 34.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the first four games, Curry went ice cold from long range as the series returned to Golden State, going seven-of-22 from the field and a shocking zero-of-nine from deep for his 16 points and eight assists.

It was the first of Curry's 133 career playoff games that he has not made a three-pointer, and breaks a streak of 233 consecutive total games without hitting one, and a streak of 38 straight playoff games with multiple makes.

Incredibly, Curry and Wiggins combined to shoot zero-of-15 from long range, but they received some crucial shooting performances from Klay Thompson (five-of-11 from three, 21 points) and Jordan Poole (three-of-six from deep, 14 points in 14 minutes).

Gary Payton II also played a big part in the win, coming off the bench to score 15 points on six-of-eight shooting, ripping away three steals and providing a game-changing presence on the defensive end of the floor.

Ultimately, the Warriors played playoff-proven, winning basketball. They finished with six combined turnovers as a team, with just four coming from the starters, and hit 86 per cent of their free throws (13-of-15).

For the Celtics, their big three of Jayson Tatum (four turnovers), Jaylen Brown (five) and Marcus Smart (four) combined for 13 of their side's 18 total turnovers, while they shot 67 per cent from the free throw line (21-of-31).

Tatum was the visiting side's top performer, finishing with 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting, going five-of-nine from long range, adding 10 rebounds and four assists, although he did miss four of his six free throws.

The Warriors now have a chance to close out the series – and secure their fourth championship in eight seasons – when they head to Boston for Game 6. If the Celtics are able to win Game 6, Game 7 will head back to Golden State.

After two-and-a-half seasons on the sidelines due to injury, Klay Thompson is savouring every moment before the Golden State Warriors face the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday.

The Warriors were on the verge of forcing a Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals, when Thompson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee with two minutes remaining in the third quarter of Game 6.

On 28 points at that point on eight-of-12 shooting, he ended up sinking both free throws before being forced off the court and did not return for the Warriors until January this year, missing the whole of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

Monday is the three-year anniversary since that game but ahead of Game 5 against the Boston Celtics, Thompson revealed he did not realise the extent of his knee injury and had only one thing on his mind.

"I never had such a severe injury, so I didn't think it was that serious," Thompson said. "I thought I might have sprained something in my knee, but when you're playing in front of your fans, your adrenaline is so high, you kind of disregard anything that makes sense.

"Running around on a torn ACL doesn't make very good sense. I just thought, 'I don't want to leave these points on the board, man. This is the Finals, I'm going to go get this 30-ball.'

"On top of that, I went to the back, and they did a little test, and they came out with the conclusion that I should probably put some crutches on. Wow, what a time, three years ago. It goes by fast."

The 32-year-old has been in patchy shooting form over these playoffs and hit a nadir in the opening two games of the NBA Finals, going a combined 10-of-33 from the floor.

Thompson found his feet as the Warriors evened up the series in Game 4, coming up with big shots on the way to 18 points and 40 per cent shooting from the perimeter.

Playing in his sixth-straight NBA Finals on an individual level, following that absence due to injury, Thompson is not taking the magnitude of the occasion for granted.

"Man, it seems routine, but I know how special this is," he said. "I mean, I'm trying to just be present in everything I do during this time – even this interview. Not even looking ahead to tomorrow but just enjoy this day before the big one.

"I mean, the NBA Finals is such a cool thing to be a part of. I remember being in Istanbul, Turkey in 2013, doing some stuff for the NBA and waking up real early just to watch it. To realise that these games are broadcast worldwide just reminds you how special it really is.

"I know when my dad [Mychal] played back in the day, the NBA was not as global so to be here now, it's special."

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.

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry left no doubt about his status for Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday. 

"I'm going to play," Curry told reporters on Thursday, a day after injuring his left foot while diving for a loose ball late in a Game 3 loss to the Boston Celtics. 

"I don’t feel like I'll miss a game," Curry added. 

The Athletic reported on Thursday that Curry will not need an MRI before Game 4. 

During a scrum to recover possession in the fourth quarter, Boston big man Al Horford leapt into the fray and landed on Curry's left foot, leaving the two-time MVP hobbled. 

Curry remained in the game initially but was removed with 2:19 remaining and Golden State down 14 points. 

With the Warriors trailing the series 2-1 and a 48-hour turnaround before Game 4, Curry's status quickly became the focal point. 

"I'll be alright," Curry said after Game 3. "I got caught underneath Al. Obviously there'll be some pain, but I'll be alright.

"Figure out how it feels tomorrow and get ready for Friday. [It was] the same thing I did against Boston during the regular season, but not as bad."

Curry is shooting 48.6 percent from three-point range in these Finals and is averaging over 31 points per game, almost double the Warriors' second-leading scorer in the series: Klay Thompson at 17 points per game. 

"Curry will be needed if the Warriors are to claim a fourth NBA title in eight years. 

"We need him if we want to win this thing," Thompson said of his Splash Brother and team-mate. 

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.

Andre Iguodala defended the Golden State Warriors and stalwarts Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green ahead of Game 2 of the NBA Finals, claiming their incredible careers should be appreciated "a lot more".

Iguodala, like Curry, Thompson and Green, is playing in his sixth Finals in eight years with the Warriors.

The veteran wing was the NBA Finals MVP in 2015, but his three team-mates have been the chief protagonists of a remarkable Golden State dynasty.

The previous five Finals have yielded three titles, yet the Warriors have work to do to add a fourth with this team after losing 120-108 in Game 1 at home to the Boston Celtics.

This is the first time the Warriors have lost Game 1 at home in the Finals, although the last team to suffer such a defeat were the 2013 Miami Heat, who recovered to win the championship.

Although these circumstances are new, there is little Curry, Thompson and Green have not yet achieved, and they were the subject of praise from Iguodala on Saturday.

"The overall sentiment for those three guys, after we won the first one, was that they were going to continue to be this dominant for this long," he said.

"I think we take it for granted because we're so close to our athletes now, we're so close to them on social media. We start to forget and take for granted.

"We should appreciate them a lot more. It's a really long run to go to the Finals, for this group, six out of eight years. It doesn't happen every day.

"Only the greats, real greats do it – LeBron's the only one around our era that's been able to have the same effect in terms of winning and getting this far.

"We've made it look normal, where people take it for granted and take certain shots at us. In previous generations, throughout sports in general, people understood how tough it really was."

Coach Steve Kerr is backing his key men to bounce back, even if the series opener was particularly painful as the Warriors threw the game away in a fourth quarter in which they were outscored 40-16.

Aided by a 17-0 run, that is the Celtics' biggest point differential in any single quarter of any road playoff game in their history.

"Draymond and Steph have been in the Finals six times now," Kerr said.

"They've seen it all, they've seen everything. They've won championships, they've lost championships. They've had their hearts broken, they've had parades.

"This is all part of it. That's the right mental approach, and it's one that is borne out of experience."

Meanwhile, Thompson suggested the early setback could benefit the Warriors after they "got comfortable".

"It was a harsh reminder but something we all needed to go through, including myself," he said. "It's about how we respond tomorrow, which I am very excited for."

The Boston Celtics stole home-court advantage with their impressive win against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals – but it is a long series, and both teams have some adjustments to make.

In the Celtics' 120-108 victory, Jayson Tatum did not shoot the ball well (three-of-17 from the field), but made up for it with his playmaking, dishing a career-high 13 assists to take advantage of an outlier shooting performance from the rest of his team.

For the Warriors, a dynamic 38-24 third period had them leading by 12 heading into the last, before a fourth-quarter bombardment saw a 103-100 lead turn into a 117-103 deficit courtesy of a 17-0 run.

Stephen Curry was spectacular, with 21 points and a Finals-record six three-pointers in just the first quarter, going on to finish with 34 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.

With Game 2 scheduled for Sunday night, here is one key adjustment we could see from both teams as the series progresses, and a storyline to watch.

 

Warriors play no more than one big at a time

When the Warriors were at the peak of their dynasty, Draymond Green would play center, surrounded by four perimeter players.

Due to his excellent play this postseason – as well as playing all 82 regular season games, starting 80 – center Kevon Looney has earned a significant playoff role. 

He was the difference-maker when trusted with an extended run in his side's Game 6 closeout against the Memphis Grizzlies, collecting 22 rebounds, and he was terrific against a Dallas Mavericks side lacking a true center, averaging 10.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and three assists per game for the series.

To put the blame of the Game 1 loss on Looney is simply wrong. He was not just serviceable, he was good, with nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks in his 25 minutes – but the Warriors are simply not the same beast on the offensive end when he and Green are on the floor at the same time.

However, this does not mean they must bench Looney, but instead the Warriors may be forced into some difficult conversations about the effectiveness of Green in this series.

Green is no longer the explosive athlete he was at the peak of his powers – when he was clearly the best defensive player in the NBA – and without that athleticism he begins to feel like the 6'6 center that he is.

Calling him a non-factor on the offensive end is disrespectful due to his incredible basketball IQ and the value he adds with his ball-movement, passing and screening – but these are areas Looney has quietly excelled in as well.

Looney, significantly bigger at 6'9, matched Green with five assists, showing plenty of similar reads and the ability to function in a largely similar role on the offensive end. He also grabbed six offensive rebounds, providing serious tangible value in the form of extra possessions, while also being the Warriors' only real rim protector.

Green will likely not shoot two-of-12 from the field again – missing all four of his three-point attempts and all three of his free throws – but if he is weighing you down offensively while not bringing his once-outlier defensive ability, it just may be a Looney series against the real size of Al Horford and Robert Williams III.

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."

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.

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.

The Golden State Warriors moved a step closer to a sixth NBA Finals appearance since 2015 with a 109-100 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, taking a 3-0 series lead.

After shooting six-of-10 from beyond the arc in Game 2, Stephen Curry was again in fine shooting touch as the series moved to Dallas, scoring 31 points on 10-of-20 shooting.

The former unanimous MVP tripped over a vendor early in the first half, but went on to overtake Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki for career 30-point playoff games while also shooting an even 50 per cent from the perimeter, adding 11 assists and five rebounds.

The Warriors found the right balance and took care of the basketball while still assertively moving it, with only 10 turnovers and 28 assists off 38 made field goals for the game.

Five Warriors scored in double figures in the Game 3 win while the team finished with a 12-point margin for points in the paint (46-34).

It counteracted their relatively disappointing shooting performance on the night, along with a big rebounding night from the team, doubling the Mavericks in offensive rebounds (14-7) for the game.

Andrew Wiggins was critical in that respect, grabbing six offensive rebounds of his own for 11 total rebounds, along with 27 points and three assists.

The Mavs could not get anything going in the half-court and generate good attempts from the perimeter despite a high volume on home court, going 13-of-44 as a team.

Luka Doncic put up 40 points on 11-of-23 shooting along with 11 rebounds but the Warriors worked to restrict the Mavs' shooters, with Reggie Bullock and Maxi Kleber shooting a combined zero-of-12 from beyond the arc.

 

 

Golden State Warriors wing Klay Thompson emphasised that it all starts on the defensive end, while highlighting the performance of Andrew Wiggins after his side's 112-87 Game 1 blowout of the Dallas Mavericks.

The Warriors had seven players score in double-figures, led by Stephen Curry with a game-high 21 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, along with tying for the game-high with four assists.

While the Warriors' offense was strong, shooting 56.1 per cent from the field, it was their defense that won them the game, holding the Mavericks to 18 points in the first quarter and igniting a 15-4 run to start the third.

A main talking point from the series opener was the impressive performance of Andrew Wiggins, scoring 19 points while being the primary defender on Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic, holding him to 20 points on six-of-18 shooting with seven turnovers.

Speaking after the game, Thompson discussed the narrative that he is not the defender he once was and what he thinks makes the Warriors defense so good.

"I think our length, starting with Andrew [Wiggins] – he was moving them puppies tonight," he said.

"I still take pride in my defense, no matter what people say about if I've 'lost it' or not, I still think I'm a very good defender. Steph is in the [passing] lanes, obviously Draymond [Green], we can count on him every night on that side of the ball.

"I don't really pay attention to the noise [about criticism of his defense] – I know what I'm capable of, and I know what my team-mates are capable of. I knew we were able to do what we did tonight – it was just going to take a lot of focus and trusting each other.

"I'm trying. It's hard. Marking the best player every night for 40 minutes is not easy, and going to get buckets on the other end, but it's something I love to do. 

"All the best two-guards to ever play the game played both sides of the ball – whether it was Mike [Jordan], Kobe [Bryant], [Dwyane Wade], guys I really idolised as a kid – they all competed on that side, so I just try to follow the same mould."

Thompson went on to touch on the mediocre performance from Doncic, before showering Wiggins with further praise, saying he is happy people are finally seeing "who he really is".

"Luka is obviously one of the best players in the world," he said. "It didn't help that they played two days ago, off that emotional high of winning a Game 7, so we expect them to come back with a much better effort on Friday. 

"That's why [Wiggins] was the number one pick [of the 2014 NBA Draft]. You can't teach that athleticism, you can't teach that length or his timing. 

"I'm just happy the world is getting to see who he really is – an incredible wing player – and he will be like this for the next 10 years.

"I think him being here, he's allowed to be himself. We have so many great, talented players that it can be somebody's night and the ball will find them. 

"Andrew was incredible tonight, I can't say enough good things about him. 

"He makes my job so much easier, I don't have to check the best player every night – after what I've been through, that's a nice change of pace. He doesn't seem to get tired, his outside shot has greatly improved, and he's just coming into his own.

"It's just one game, and we can feel good now, but [the Mavericks] were down 2-0 and won their series last round."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr echoed Thompson's sentiments about Wiggins.

"I thought [Wiggins] was fantastic," he said. "Doncic is as difficult a cover as there is in this league, and we just asked Wiggs to try to hound him and guard him as best as he could. 

"He did a fantastic job – Wiggs is just a huge part of our defense and our team. I thought he was great offensively as well, so great night for Andrew."

When asked about the job the Warriors defense did on him, Doncic was respectful but had little to add.

"They did a great job – that's it, that's all I have to say. They did a great job," he said. 

"It's one game, that's what the playoffs is about. Whether you lose by one or you lose by 40, it's a loss, so we just have to get ready for Game 2 now."

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