2022 NBA Finals Preview & Prediction
At the beginning of the 2021-2022 NBA regular season, the Brooklyn Nets stood atop the rankings with the best odds to win the title. Ironically, Nets’ superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will be watching their former teams face-off in the finals this year while they sit at home.
Beginning with the Eastern Conference Champions, whom Kyrie Irving left in the dust just a few years back, the Boston Celtics have justified their regular season ranking as the #1 defense in the NBA. Led by Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Smart, the head of the snake, Boston has finally come alive on the defensive side of the ball, something former head coach Brad Stevens could not get through to the young stars.
With Ime Udoka at the helm and one of the best scoring duos in basketball with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics have firepower that Golden State has yet to face. To this point, the Warriors have had the leisure of scheming a defense against one star, as seen in the Denver, Memphis, and Dallas series, but Boston presents a completely different animal.
While Steve Kerr could put Andrew Wiggins on Luka Doncic with one or two lines of help in the Dallas series and have Draymond Green and Kevon Looney double team Nikola Jokic in the Denver series, he cannot afford to sacrifice as much against Boston because they have too many weapons surrounding Jayson Tatum.
Kerr will likely start Wiggins on Tatum and then eventually mix in a zone defense as he typically does, but he does not have the option to double team Tatum as Jaylen Brown has proven he can drop 40 on any given night, Derrick White can knock down 5+ threes when you least expect it, and Al Horford and Grant Williams cannot be left wide open behind the arc because they have proven they will take and make big shots.
Overall, Boston’s relentlessness and defensive backbone may overwhelm Golden State, but they need to clean-up their turnovers on the offensive end if they want to steal a game in the Bay. Ahead of game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics had only lost 2 quarters of the 20 quarters played in the first 5 games. The 2 quarters they lost to the Heat were strictly due to careless, nonchalant turnovers that led to losses in both games. Ultimately, if Boston can limit its incoherent turnovers and maintain their defensive dominance, they could steal game 7 in Golden State to win the NBA Finals.
The Golden State Warriors, who I predicted would win the West, have not yet faltered these playoffs as they have made it to the Finals without a single game 7. Head coach Steve Kerr has found a young star in Jordan Poole to pair with the two splash brothers and Kevon Looney has exceeded expectations on both ends of the floor so much that Kerr’s “death line-up” has yet to return since the Memphis series.
Golden State will continue to shoot the lights out behind the arc, score in transition, and move the ball around on offense, but they will need to find an answer to Tatum and Brown on the defensive end and just as Ime Udoka will tell his young team, Steve Kerr will likely have to talk about turnovers with players like Stephen Curry and Draymond Green who seem to be due for two or three errant passes respectively per game.
Despite the turnovers, Golden State continues to overcome their mishaps on the defensive end and one significant x-factor in this series will be Gary Payton II. Payton II, son of Gary Payton “The Glove,” broke his arm in a controversial incident with Memphis’s Dillon Brooks and may make an unexpected return during the Finals to help Wiggins and Green defend Tatum and Brown on the defensive end. If Payton II does in fact return for the Finals, Golden State will be hard to pick against considering their firepower on the offensive side of the ball will be difficult to match.
In the end, both teams have suffered injuries throughout these playoffs and both have overcome said injuries to get to where they are today. It is highly probable that this series will go the distance and the teams will battle it out in the Bay in a game 7 to take home the title. Due to their consistency at home and overwhelming playoff experience, I am going to ride with the Golden State Warriors, who I initially picked to lose to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Finals at the beginning of these playoffs, but with the Bucks eliminated, I believe Boston is a much more favorable match-up for Golden State and I think they will win it in 7.