Finals: Celtics vs. Warriors for the NBA title
MIAMI (AP) – Somewhere, Gregg Popovich must be content.
Ime Udoka and Steve Kerr have played for Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs, both serving as assistant coaches under him, and make no effort to hide the bond they have for the winning leader in the competition. NBA career.
And now, Udoka and Kerr are about to go head to head – in the NBA Finals.
Title showdown is set: Udoka and Eastern Conference champions, Boston Celtics face Kerr and Western Conference champions Golden State Warriors, the series kicks off Thursday night in San Francisco. Split teams meet twice in the regular season, each winning the other’s home ground.
The Warriors have been waiting for an opponent since this past Thursday after needing just five games to beat Dallas for the Western title. The Celtics got there the hard way, winning Game 7 in Miami on Sunday night to capture the East.
“We stayed with it. We trusted each other. We’re committed to defense,” said Celtics forward Al Horford, who, in 141 playoffs, will advance to the NBA Finals for the first time. “That’s the biggest thing, defense.”
For the Celtics, it was an 18th NBA championship opportunity – the league that would break ties with the Los Angeles Lakers the most in league history. For the Warriors, it was a seventh chance to win a title – which would break ties with the Chicago Bulls for a third-place finish in league history.
It was also a rematch of the 1964 final, when Bill Russell and the Celtics topped the Warriors in five games.
“I’ve said so many times: You get to the final, it’s been a nearly two-month journey full of stress and fatigue and everything else,” said Kerr, who gave his team Friday and Saturday off. before putting them back to work on Sunday. . “So it makes a lot of sense to get some rest. Hopefully, we can stay healthy and have a couple of days of really good prep and get ready to go into Thursday. ”
Golden State won at Boston 111-107 on December 17, 30 points behind Stephen Curry. The Celtics rolled at Golden State’s home ground in a rematch on March 16, winning 110-88 in a game where Curry injured his leg – and that’s where his regular season ended.
Curry is ready to go to the knockout round. So did the rest of the warriors. They are winning 12-4 in the knockout stages, overcoming Denver, Memphis and Dallas to enter the title round.
“It all started with Steph,” Kerr said.
Udoka has the chance to become the 10th coach to win the title in his first season. Eddie Gottlieb (1947 Philadelphia Warriors), Buddy Jeanette (1948 Baltimore Bullets), John Kundla (1949 Minneapolis Lakers), George Senesky (1956 Philadelphia Warriors), Paul Westhead (1980 Los Angeles Lakers), Pat Riley (1982 Los Angeles Lakers) ), Tyronn Lue (Cleveland Cavaliers 2016) and Nick Nurse (Toronto Raptors 2019) are eight of the coaches who made the achievement.
The other name on that list is Kerr – who did it with Golden State in 2015, starting this great streak of Warriors achievements. That was the start of six finals in eight years, the two exceptions being when injuries and a roster reset kept them out of the knockout stages in 2020 and 2021.
“You can’t take that for granted,” Curry said after the series on the Western title. “Nothing is guaranteed. We understand how difficult it is to win. We’ve been saying that until we turned pale for the past two years. This is definitely special. Proud of the people in that dressing room, that went with it all year. Now we have the opportunity to complete a job. ”
Udoka played for Popovich and later as an assistant to San Antonio. Kerr played for the Spurs, then assisted Popovich for the USA Basketball through last summer’s Tokyo Olympics – when the Americans won their fourth straight gold medal.
The Warriors’ Draymond Green was on that Olympic team. So does Boston’s Jayson Tatum. They celebrated the gold together, and now they will try to outdo each other to get their fingerprints on the gold trophy for NBA champion – Larry O’Brien.
“This is the opportunity that players dream of,” said Andrew Wiggins of Golden State. “To win them all.”
And if nothing else, a Warriors-Celtics match makes Green seem prophetic.
After the Warriors won the West, Green visited the TNT broadcaster set up after the game and was encouraged by Shaquille O’Neal to say which team from the Eastern series was undecided at the time that he wanted to play.
Green began to issue a diplomatic response, saying that both the Heat and the Celtics were tough. O’Neal forced him to be honest, and Green – never shy of his words – gave in.
“You are asking who I want to play. I’m going to tell who I think we’re going to play: We’re going to play in Boston,” Green said Thursday night. “That’s who we’re going to play.”
He was right.