Celtics or Warriors? Our writers share their NBA finals predictions | NBA finals

What the Warriors need to do to win

If Golden State play Warriors Basketball™ (the ball flies around like a hot potato, everyone eats), they can win this series pretty handily. They also have the luxury of a potential Steph Curry or Klay Thompson supernova on any given night, which is helpful. But if they play their brand of basketball, they don’t necessarily need one. CDL

If Golden State have proven one thing over the years, it’s that when they are healthy and play their style of basketball it’s hard enough to beat them in one game, let alone four. With three different players returning from injury for the finals, the health question is answered at least. TF

Stay healthy and keep their big three (Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green) out of the Covid-19 protocols? Honestly, if the well-rested Warriors play their style of basketball, exploit Boston’s mental weaknesses (see below) and prevent Jayson Tatum from having a finals performance for the ages, the Warriors should win their fourth title of the century. HF

The Warriors will win if they lean on their playoff experience and overwhelm the youthful Celtics. Curry, Green and Thompson have played in 82 NBA finals games combined. By comparison, the entire Boston team will be making their final debut. Additionally, the Warriors are equipped with a high-octane offense that can ignite at any time. Curry and Thompson will lead the way, but they’re close to unbeatable if Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins can also be explosive offensively. ARS

What the Celtics need to do to win

The Celtics got here thanks in large part to their defensive prowess. They’ve been the No 1 ranked defense in the league since the start of 2022. They’ll need to play the hardest-nosed version of that defense to topple an offensive juggernaut like the Warriors. CDL

Stay healthy. Several key players – mainly Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III – have been in and out of the lineup so much you’d think they were flipping a coin to decide if they were going to play on any given night. If that trend continues Boston are in danger. TF

When the Celtics are firing on all cylinders, they are unstoppable. Unfortunately for them, they always seem to get in their own way. Boston can’t afford to make their jobs harder by committing unforced turnovers, putting together inexplicably bad quarters and/or letting the officials get in their heads. The more experienced Warriors will make them pay if they do. HF

The Celtics will win if they remain tenacious on defense. While facing the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics held the Heat to multiple low-scoring quarters including an 11-point first quarter in Game 4. The Celtics can also increase their chances for victory if Al Horford and Robert Williams are able to dominate the paint. ARS

Your NBA finals MVP will be

Stephen Curry already has a pretty crowded trophy case (among his braces are three NBA championships and two regular season MVPs) but it contains a somewhat surprising, and at times controversial, omission: he has never won a finals MVP. I’d wager this is the year that changes for him. CDL

The man, the myth, the legend, Curry himself. I easily could have gone with Andrew Wiggins here, but when I look at the stars at night, they seem ever so aligned for Steph to finally get his finals MVP trophy and elevate his legacy just a little more. TF

The smart money is on Steph Curry, of course, but let’s not forget that fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson is capable of taking over by putting together a series-long long-distance shooting streak that could leave even Boston’s sustained defense struggling to find answers, especially if their gameplans concentrate on Steph to start the series. HF

Jayson Tatum. During the Eastern Conference finals, Tatum was able to consistently initiate his offense against a stingy Heat defense that stifled Trae Young and James Harden in the earlier rounds. Tatum will not face as much defensive pressure as he goes against adequate, but not great, defenders Thompson and Wiggins. Tatum will average close to 30 points per game to capture MVP honors. ARS

Unheralded player to watch

In a lot of ways, this series hinges on the efficacy of the Celtics defense and, by the transitive property, on the Time Lord, Robert WilliamsIII. He’s maybe their most versatile defender, but he’s battling a knee injury and definitely didn’t look like himself in the Miami series. If he can be even a fraction closer to 100% in the finals, his defensive skill set gives the Celtics a real chance. CDL

Gary Payton II has been out for several weeks breaking his elbow against Memphis, and some people may have forgotten how impactful he can be for the Warriors. That elbow injury could impact his shooting ability when he does return, but he is such a superb defender that may not matter too much. TF

Andrew Wiggins has arguably had the strangest career so far of any of the finals participants, going from the top pick in the 2014 NBA draft to the Rookie of the Year to borderline-bust with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Luckily for him, he rediscovered his shooting stroke with the Warriors and has saved some of his best basketball for the postseason. It’s hard not to root for him, even if you’re a Warriors hater. HF

Al Horford. The 15-year veteran will finally shed the dubious distinction of having played in the most postseason games without reaching an NBA finals. Throughout the playoffs, Horford has found ways to make game-changing plays with defense and timely three-pointers. He could be the biggest X factor in the series. ARS

Robert WilliamsIII
Boston center Robert Williams III, right, has been an important defensive presence for the Celtics. Photograph: Wilfredo Lee/AP

One bold prediction

Again, Stephen Curry should finally get his long overdue finals MVP this year, which would mean the Warriors won the chip. But should the Celtics pull off an upset here, I’m calling it now: Al Horford is going to get his moment in the sun and win finals MVP against all odds, Andre Iguodala style. CDL

Commentary teams will campaign for Mark Jackson to get a job. Jackson laid the foundation for the Warriors dynasty but to this day has not received another coaching job. Expect at least one of his fellow commentators to bang the table begging some team – any team – to hire this man. TF

We get a repeat of the Al Horford Game. The Celtics needed an all-time game from 35-year-old big man Al Horford to win Game 4 of their epic series against the Milwaukee Bucks, where he scored 30 points on 11-for-14 shooting. It was out of character for Horford, who is more of the consummate glue guy than someone who compiles flashy stat lines, but if Boston need him again, look for a repeat performance. HF

Nia Long and Deuce Tatum will find ways to go viral. Long, the fiancée of Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, and Deuce, the son of Jayson Tatum, have both captured the spotlight off the court with viral moments during the playoffs. We can expect Long, an accomplished actress, to celebrate victories with a happy dance and the four-year-old Deuce to provide support to his father’s teammates, both causing social media to go into a frenzy. ARS

How would this Warriors team have fared against LeBron’s Cavs in the 2015-18 finals?

This squad is actually a lot deeper, in many ways, than the pre-Kevin Durant Golden State teams of years past. But as an avowed LeBron stan, I can’t help but be optimistic that, at the peak of his powers, he could’ve conquered a Durant-less team featuring a 34-year-old Stephen Curry and an unpredictable version of Klay Thompson coming back from two major leg injuries. CDL

Pretty well. One of the few advantages the Cavs had over the 2015-18 Warriors was their superior athleticism. Even though Steph, Klay and Draymond may be older now the rest of this Warriors roster is hands down more athletic than their predecessors. TF

As fun as the Warriors’ story has been, if you’re going to transport them back in time to 2015-18, the Cavaliers win at least one more title. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are all older after all and Kevin Durant (who was the finals MVP in both 2017 and 2018) wouldn’t be making the return trip. These Warriors don’t quite have a Death Lineup, more of a Medically Induced Coma Lineup. HF

The 2021-22 Warriors are good, but the Warriors of 2015-18 were great. It was a team that could have competed with any of the best NBA squads in history, including the 1997 Chicago Bulls or 2001 LA Lakers. However, this year’s Warriors team would probably win two games against the Cavs team that featured LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. ARS

The winner will be…

Warriors 4-2 Celtics. There is plenty of nuance in predicting who hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy. But let’s keep it simple: We’ve lived through too many years of basketball to bet against a healthy Stephen Curry, who is still the greatest shooter the NBA has ever seen. CDL

Warriors 4-2 Celtics. Let’s focus on coaching and experience. However, in Boston’s case, the lack thereof. Ime Udoka has done an outstanding job reaching the finals in his first season as head coach but he made some questionable decisions at the end of the season. Steve Kerr and his core have been here many times before: that experience could prove crucial under the bright lights of the finals. TF

Warriors 4-2 Celtics. These Celtics could pull off the upset: while they had a rocky start to the season, struggling to maintain a .500 record while rookie head coach Ime Udoka adjusted to his new role, Boston ended up being the best team in the NBA since the start of 2022. However, their inexperience forced them to play more games in the postseason than they probably should have. Look for them to score a big road win before the Warriors take control of the series. HF

Celtics 4-3 Warriors. It’s conventional to side with Golden State, who have the edge in experience and the home-court advantage. However, this Celtics team appears predestined. They decimated a Nets team led by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving; they bottled up Giannis Antetokoumpo just enough to eliminate the defending fields; they outlasted a top-seeded Heat side. It’s a team that will not be denied, even against the more proven Warriors squad. ARS

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