Believe it or not, the Celtics absolutely and utterly believe they have the tools to not just beat the Warriors, but to dominate them in the National Basketball Association Finals. It doesn’t matter that they had to go the full length just to move past the hobbled Heat in the East, or that the Warriors will be heading into Game One with fresher legs borne of a longer rest period between best-of-seven series. As far as they’re concerned, they have more than enough to prevail.
How confident are the Celtics? Consider this: They believe they would have emerged with the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2018 against the Warriors — which then included all-world Kevin Durant — had they advanced to the Finals instead of the Cavaliers. Nothing will disabuse the core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford of the contention. Never mind that they couldn’t even get past competition that featured LeBron James and little else. In the do-or-die affair at the TD Garden, they lost 87-79, a low-scoring, elephant-walk contest in which the King played all 48 minutes and posted 35, 15, and nine. In any case, the Celtics will decidedly have a superior roster to start the 2022 Finals. Gone are Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, and Aron Baynes, with Grant Williams, Robert Williams, and Derrick White taking their place in the regular rotation. Meanwhile, the Warriors are arguably weaker sans Durant and with Klay Thompson having just convalesced from anterior cruciate ligament and Achilles tendon injuries that hitherto kept him off the floor for close to three years. That said, there can be no discounting the capacity of Stephen Curry to keep bending the defense and Draymond Green to anchor their own coverage.
Which, in a nutshell, is why conventional wisdom considers the 2022 Finals a tossup. The Celtics will be helped by their unflinching — perhaps even irrational — self-assurance, but experience in the big stage is a decided plus in the Warriors’ favor. And the latter possessing home court advantage may well tip the balance in the end.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.