THE Golden State Warriors entered Boston last Thursday (June 16) one win away from capturing their fourth National Basketball Association (NBA) title in eight seasons, after taking game 5 on their home court in San Francisco three days earlier. If they hoped to clinch the title at the first bite of the cherry, they would have to do something they had yet to accomplish this post-season — close a series on the road. The Warriors were winless in three road closeout games while their opponents, the Boston Celtics, were 3-0 in elimination games.
Until their game 5 loss in these finals, the Celtics were unbeaten in postseason games following a defeat. They had been victorious in two win-or-go home games against the Milwaukee Bucks and a game 7 against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, they were up 2-1 in this series before losing two straight to the Warriors, including game 4 in Boston.
The Celtics began game 6 as they did the elimination games against Milwaukee and Miami, jumping out to an early lead. They made four of their first six shots, including back-to-back three-pointers by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, to open with a 14-2 point advantage, appearing ready to steamroll the visitors. But then, the Warriors hit the gas pedal and left the crowd in TD Gardens choking in their dust.
Golden State finished the first quarter leading 27-22 and went on to finish the first half with a 52-25 run which included 21 unanswered points — the longest one-sided scoring run in an NBA Finals game in the last 50 years. Draymond Green, not much of a shooter, came into game 6 having not made a single three-pointer in these 2022 NBA Finals, so when he was successful on an attempt to cut the deficit to 22-21 in the first quarter the writing was on the wall for the Celtics.
The Warriors were 19-1 this season, including 6-0 in the play-offs, when Green scored a single shot from beyond the arc. Then, adding insult to injury, he also nailed a second three-pointer in the third quarter, finishing with 12 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, two steals and only one foul – perhaps his best game of the play-offs but certainly his best game of the finals.
The Celtics failed to take care of the ball throughout the postseason, and their 22 turnovers in game 6 — including seven over the course of 11 possessions at the end of the second quarter — were more than this young team could handle. At the same time during these 11 Boston possessions, Golden States’s Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 14 points on a 17-3 run that extended the Warriors’ lead to 54-33. The Warriors scored 20 total points off Boston’s miscues and another 21 on 15 offensive rebounds to complete a dominant performance.
Brown led Boston with 34 points but Tatum was dreadful (13 points on 18 shots) and provided little help in the 103-90 defeat. Al Horford scored 12 of his 19 points in the third quarter to give Boston a lifeline, but it was hardly enough. Boston would get no closer than eight points as Curry and the Warriors had an answer for everything the Celtics threw at them.
Curry finished with 34 points (adding seven assists and seven rebounds), and the twice regular-season Most Valuable Player (MVP) was unanimously voted as the NBA Finals MVP for the first time. The 34-year-old point guard averaged 31.2 points in the six games and is the seventh player to win at least four championships and two regular-season MVP awards, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Bill Russell.
The victory gives the trio of Curry, Thompson and Green their fourth title together (all with head coach Steve Kerr), adding to their championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018; they lost the finals in 2016 and 2019. They have won 21 NBA finals together, having recently passed Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (with 19) for the most NBA final wins by a trio over the last 30 years.
Boston made the finals for the first time since the 2010 season but did so with a locker room that had no previous NBA finals experience. Golden State, on the other hand, came in with their combined finals experience of 123 games but had missed the play-offs over the past two years after finishing with a league-worst 15-50 record in the 2019-20 season.
The debate over the Warriors being a legitimate dynasty continues but in eight seasons they have appeared in six championships and won four. They beat the Dallas Mavericks to win the Western Conference and became the first team to reach the finals six times in eight years since the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. Now, with their seventh title overall, the Warriors are in sole possession of third place for the most titles in league history — only the Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers have more — and became only the second team to beat the Celtics at Boston in the 6th game of the NBA finals, joining the Lakers when Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the 1987 finals. The legitimacy of the Warriors’ dynasty appears to be a non-issue.
And just like that, another very thrilling season of NBA basketball is in the history books. It didn’t turn out exactly how predictors might have assumed — Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were swept in the first round, the super-team fielded by the Lakers failed to launch, the Phoenix Suns shone bright in the regular season but collapsed like a supernova in the play-offs, the Utah Jazz once again came up short, and the Memphis Grizzlies emphatically announced their arrival – but October can’t come soon enough.
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