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It’s been over five months since the start of the 2021-2022 NBA regular season, and we’ve finally reached the finish line.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals tips off Thursday night in San Francisco, when the Boston Celtics head to Chase Center to take on the Golden State Warriors.
It’s a matchup between one of the NBA’s most storied franchises, and the organization that has been “light years” ahead of the rest of the league for the past decade.
Here’s a brief look at each team as the NBA prepares to crown a champion.
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum after making a three point basket against the Heat during the Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena in Miami, Florida, on May 29, 2022. (Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
As 2021 turned into 2022, the Celtics were dead and buried. Sitting at 16-19, and looking like a team that would be in the NBA’s play-in tournament, the future for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum as the cornerstones of the franchise was very much in doubt.
First-year head coach Ime Udoka’s message was clearly not resonating, and the thought that Boston would be a championship contender was laughable.
And then it all turned around.
Led by the best defense in the NBA, Boston won 35 of its final 47 games, securing the two-seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
After a sweep of the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, Boston came back from a 3-2 deficit to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round, winning Game 7 on the road to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat.
The Celtics managed to survive a grueling series against the Heat, winning their second Game 7 of the playoffs to advance to the organization’s first NBA Finals since 2010.
Tatum is Boston’s leading postseason scorer, averaging 27.0 points per game, while center Al Horford is averaging 11.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.6 blocks per game.
The Celtics are vying for the 18th NBA championship in franchise history, breaking the tie with Los Angeles Lakers for the most championships won by a team.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors during the Western Conference Finals on May 26, 2022, at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. (Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
It’s been a fascinating journey for Golden State, falling from the top of the league all the way to rock bottom and back again in just a few short years.
After going to five consecutive NBA Finals from 2015-2019, Golden State was the worst team in the NBA in the pandemic-shortened 2019-2020 season. The departure of Kevin Durant and a devastating knee injury to Klay Thompson doomed Golden State from the start of the regular season.
Last year, Golden State was at least respectable, going 39-33 before losing back-to-back games in the NBA’s first ever play-in tournament to miss out on the postseason once again.
Entering the 2021-2022 regular season, no one was quite sure what to expect of the Warriors. The return of Thompson from a torn Achilles was on the horizon, but what he would look like after two and half years away from the game was the great unknown.
And while Thompson’s return in January was a welcome sight for NBA fans everywhere, Golden State was already rolling without him. Sitting at 30-9 when Thompson returned to the court, the Warriors had found a way to succeed without one of their core stars, getting back to their old way with the additions of Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins and others.
Golden State entered the playoffs as the third seed, and have had a relatively easy path to the Finals.
The Warriors dispatched the Denver Nuggets and back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic in five games, the upstart Memphis Grizzlies in six, and the Dallas Mavericks in five games.
Steph Curry is leading Golden State in scoring during the postseason, averaging 25.9 points per game.
Golden State will be vying for the organization’s fourth championship in eight years.
The Chase Center before the start of the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors on June 1, 2022, in San Francisco, California. (Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Game 1 – June 2: Celtics at Warriors, 9 p.m. ET
Game 2 – June 5: Celtics at Warriors, 8 p.m. ET
Game 3 – June 8: Warriors at Celtics, 9 p.m. ET
Game 4 – June 10: Warriors at Celtics, 9 p.m. ET
*Game 5 – June 13: Celtics at Warriors, 9 p.m. ET
*Game 6 – June 16: Warriors at Celtics, 9 p.m. ET
*Game 7 – June 19: Celtics at Warriors, 8 p.m. ET