I'm starting this blog at, let's call it, 3:45 pm EST, just a shade over five hours before tip-off, and I still can't believe the Celtics are here (especially after the final 3ish minutes of ECF Game 7).
In my rookie year at DOL, I previewed the 2016 NBA Finals between the 73-9 Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers and picked the Cavs to pull off the upset. Six years and three ECF losses later, the Boston Celtics are back in the Finals for the first time since 2010.
Before diving into everything, much like the Celtics players who battled to get to this point after years of disappointment, I can't help but feel the same as a niche blogger. I've written literally thousands of blogs to get to this point. I've lived a LOT of Doz ON life. I'll break through to the next level one day, but for now, let's look at the series. #HireDozo (I need a 2022 updated version stat because a lot has happened since 2019)
There are so many narratives to digest: The Warriors are back in the Finals after two down years; The Celtics finally getting over their ECF bugaboo; current DPOY on one side and the 2017 winner on the other; youth vs. experience (GSW's roster has 123 games of Finals experience vs. ZERO for Boston); extending a dynasty vs. a young core looking for its first ring; rookie Head Coach vs. a dude who thought it was a good idea to name his son "Nick Kerr" (I do fw Steve Kerr, but like c'mon bro?!); elite defense vs. two of the greatest shooters in the 75-year history of the Association; the Robert Parish trade I blogged last night; 18-21; what role players step up?; can the Jays have great games at the same time?; the health of banged-up guys on both sides; can Tatum take the next step in this series to truly become a superstar?; Will Steph Curry finally win Finals MVP? Annnndd more!
I'm not a usage rate guy; I'm not against sabermetrics by any means. I just am not up to date with all the advanced stats, so this blog is purely about feel, but that's why you come to DOL. (and thank you for coming!) That being said, these are statistically the two best defenses in the league from a rating standpoint.
Of course, I'm gonna pick the Celtics, but no outcome would shock me. I have this bad feeling the Warriors are gonna win in 5, but luckily, I'm wrong hundreds of times a year.
The Celtics have survived this long into the playoffs despite giving away games in the last two series, but against a battle-tested, experienced team like GSW, to steal a baseball term, you can't give away outs. Second chance points have killed the Celtics all playoffs (no, I don't have official stats to back that up, but I do have eyes and memory), and with a sharp shooting team like GSW, you can't give them two or three looks a possession. If they do, the Warriors could break out the brooms.
That's why the health of Robert Williams is the biggest X factor to me in this series. He's already missed seven games these playoffs and is averaging a tick above 21 minutes per game. They've missed his presence on the glass defensively and lob abilities on offense. I love Al (and we'll get to him), he's been a beast on the glass, but there's no replacing what Time Lord gives the C's. Marcus may be the DPOY, but Rob Will might be the Celtics most important piece defensively.
I don't hate the idea of sitting Time tonight to give him a whole week off before Game 2, especially with the Celtics winning the last two series despite dropping the first game, but if he can go, he's gotta try. (wow what insight, Dozie!)
Then there's Al Horford. After playing the most playoff games in NBA history without a trip to the Finals, he's finally here.
One of the biggest narratives going into this series is the Celtics success vs. Golden State during their championship window. Boston is 9-7 vs. GSW since the 2014-15 season and 9-4 since the calendar turned to 2016. They ended the Warriors 54 game home winning streak and played them tougher than any other team during their dynasty. Of course, the rosters have changed a little both ways, but the Celtics defense has been able to (sort of) keep them in check.
That being said, Steph is so wet that defense almost doesn't matter. His shot-making ability is the best I've ever seen. You can be in his mouth 40 feet from the hoop, and he can still swish it. Klay is fantastic too, but admittedly I haven't watched the Warriors play a ton this year. I know he's not 100% who he was before both injuries, but he's still an elite shooter. Also, I gotta give a little love to Wiggins for turning his career around after being called a bust (even though if you look at his basketball-reference page his numbers are respectable).
Just like the Heat going into the ECF, the Warriors are undefeated at home in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Boston's had one of the best road postseasons in NBA history: 7-2 so far, with multiple road wins in all three series. Golden State's won a road game in like 26 straight series or something stupid like that. Somethings gotta give. Gun to my head, the Warriors win tonight, and the Celtics tie things up on Sunday, but it's be really nice to start a series in the driver's seat again.
I liked the Warriors during their first championship run, then thought it was super lame when they added KD, and that kind of ruined the league for a couple years, but even with my Celtics blinders, I respect the fuck out of this organization. Incredibly, they're back on this stage after what they've gone through since the 2019 Finals. If they weren't playing the Celtics, I'd be rooting for them because I love that they're back as a narrative guy. They've gone full circle and are likable again, but once tip-off starts, I'm gonna hate every one of these guys (except Klay...he's just too fucking cool).
Experience definitely matters and is one of my biggest worries in this series. Sure this Celtics core has had some deep runs before this season, but it's not the same as being in the Finals. Like I mentioned earlier, the Warriors roster has 123 games of Finals experience to the C's goose egg. They've seen it all and are truly never out of games with their shooting. With how sloppy the C's can play (I'm VERY worried about the Jays turnover problems) and their volatility from game to game, the smart pick for this series is the Warriors. But I'm going with the Marcus Smart pick and saying Celtics in 6.
I think it goes:
Game 1: Warriors
Game 2: Celtics
Game 3: Warriors
Game 4: Celtics
Game 5: Celtics
Game 6: Celtics
MVP: Jayson Tatum (sleeper pick: Al Horford)
I am just soooo happy the C's are here and the series schedule avoids Friday and Saturday games to start. Huge for me on the ub** streets. Here's the schedule and what both teams will be rocking.
My self-critical ass probably could've given you more information, but I've got two episodes of Strangers Things left and need to bang them out before tip-off because I'll have no time this weekend and don't wanna get spoiled before I'm caught up. GO CELTICS. BLEED GREEN!!!!