After six weeks of intense playoff action, the 2022 NBA Finals matchup is finally set, and two of the league’s oldest franchises will vie for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The Golden State Warriors will host the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Finals at San Francisco’s Chase Center on Thursday, and there are weighty stakes on both sides. Stephen Curry and company are seeking their fourth title since 2015, and Jayson Tatum is eyeing the Celtics’ 18th championship, which would move them one past the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA record.
While the Warriors, who were then located in Philadelphia, and the Celtics joined the Basketball Association of America (which later merged with the National Basketball League to become the NBA) in 1946, they haven’t squared off in the Finals since 1964. That year, Hall of Fame center Bill Russell led the Celtics past his rival Wilt Chamberlain’s San Francisco Warriors in five games.
Persistence has paid off for the Warriors and the Celtics. Two years ago, Golden State finished with the NBA’s worst record following Kevin Durant’s free-agency departure and long-term injuries to Curry and Klay Thompson. The Warriors bounced back by cruising through the West with a 12-4 postseason run, knocking off the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks.
Boston has reached its first Finals since 2010 after making the Eastern Conference finals in four of the past six years. To get there, the Celtics knocked off the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat with a 12-6 record.
Golden State enters the Finals with the top-ranked offense in the playoffs, and Boston boasted the NBA’s No. 1 defense in the regular season.
The Finals also feature a coaching showdown between Golden State’s Steve Kerr and Boston’s Ime Udoka, both of whom were assistants under Greg Popovich for USA Basketball’s gold-medal-winning team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.