The NBA Finals are set. After an 82-game regular season and blistering conference playoffs, the final two teams — Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors — are set to face off in the NBA Finals starting on Thursday at the Chase Center in San Francisco.
For diehard Warriors fans, the series is a long-awaited rematch after losing to the Celtics in 1964 featuring an on-court rivalry between Golden State’s Wilt Chamberlain and Boston legend Bill Russell.
For basketball fans, this should a lights-out NBA Finals to remember.
How did these teams get here:
In the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Celtics swept the Brooklyn Nets in four games before knocking off the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks in seven games.
In the conference finals against the Miami Heat, the Celtics had to trek down to Miami on Sunday night for a winner-take-all game after giving away a chance to close out the series at home in Game 6. The Heat had been 4-0 in Game 7s under coach Eric Spoelstra. The Celtics were 47-9 in Game 7s throughout their storied existence.
The Celtics seemed to be in a giving mood again as they allowed the Heat to rally from 13 points down with under three minutes to play and had to survive a big 3-point miss by Miami star Jimmy Butler that sealed a 100-96 win and the series for the Celtics. Jimmy Buckets combined to score 82 points Games 6 and 7.
In the West, the Warriors made quick work of the Denver Nuggets in five and then knocked off the Memphis Grizzlies in six games. The Grizzlies were actually favored to win the series, but the Warriors played great team basketball to advance.
In the conference finals, the Warriors faced the Dallas Mavericks, who had knocked off the conference’s No. 1 seed, the Phoenix Suns. Golden State scooted to a 3-0 series lead and finished off the Mavs in 5.
Notes on a scorecard:
• This is the sixth NBA Finals appearance for the Warriors in the last eight years.
• The Celtics are tied with the Los Angeles Lakers with 17 NBA championships.
• The Celtics last visit to the Finals was in 2010.
• In the playoffs, Boston is shooting 45% FG, 36% 3PT and 82% FT; Golden State is shooting 49% FG, 37% 3PT and 75% FT.
• Boston’s Jayson Tatum leads all scorers in the playoffs with 486 points. Averaging 27 points per game.
• Road teams in the Eastern Conference finals won five of the seven games. The Celtics will play four games in San Francisco if the series goes the distance.
• Celtics big man Al Horford’s record of 141 playoff games played without a trip to the NBA Finals has officially ended.
• It was a short two years ago that the Warriors won 15 games and lost 50. And they missed the playoffs the next season as well.
• The teams split their head-to-head meetings this year, with both winning on the road: Golden State, 111-107 in Boston in December, and Boston, 110-88 in San Francisco in March.
• Klay Thompson, who missed the last two years due to severe Injuries, returned this season. Hard not to root for him.
• Golden State coach and North County resident Steve Kerr has been tremendous this season. This team is close-knit and well-coached.
• First-year Celtics coach Ime Udoka has been spot on, taking a team that was under .500 in January and finishing on a 26-6 roll to head into the playoffs as the East’s No. 2 seed.
The teams are carbon copies of each other. Whoever wins deserves it.
Who do you like?
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