Sports

Celtics vs. Warriors for NBA title

MIAMI – Somewhere, Gregg Popovich will have to be happy.

Ime Udoka and Steve Kerr performed for Popovich with of the San Antonio Spurs, each served as assistant coaches beneath him, and neither makes any effort to cover the affinity they’ve for the NBA’s profession victory chief.

And now, Udoka and Kerr are about to move head-to-head — within the NBA Finals.

The identify matchup is about: It’ll be Udoka and the Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics going through Kerr and the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors, a sequence that starts Thursday night time in San Francisco. The groups cut up their two regular-season conferences, every profitable at the different’s house ground.

The Warriors were looking ahead to an opponent since this previous Thursday after wanting simplest 5 video games to overcome Dallas for the West identify. The Celtics were given there the exhausting approach, profitable Game 7 in Miami on Sunday night time to seize the East.

“We stayed with it. We believed in each other. We made a commitment on the defensive end,” said Celtics forward Al Horford, who, after 141 playoff games, is headed to the NBA Finals for the first time. “That was the biggest thing, defending.”

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For the Celtics, it’s a chance at an 18th NBA championship — which would break the tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most in league history. For the Warriors, it’s a chance at a seventh crown — which would break a tie with the Chicago Bulls for third-most in league history.

It’s also a rematch of the 1964 finals, when Bill Russell and the Celtics topped the Warriors in five games.

“I’ve said it many times: You go to the finals, it’s almost a two-month journey filled with stress and fatigue and everything else,” mentioned Kerr, who gave his crew Friday and Saturday off ahead of bringing them again to paintings Sunday. “So, if you can get a little bit of a break, it’s very meaningful. Hopefully, we can get healthy and have a few days of really good prep and be ready to go on Thursday.”

Golden State gained at Boston 111-107 on Dec. 17, at the back of 30 issues from Stephen Curry. The Celtics rolled on Golden State’s house ground within the rematch on March 16, profitable 110-88 within the recreation by which Curry injured his foot — and that’s the place his steady season ended.

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Curry used to be able to move for the playoffs. So have been the remainder of the Warriors. They’re 12-4 within the playoffs, getting thru Denver, Memphis and Dallas to get to the identify spherical.

“It all starts with Steph,” Kerr mentioned.

Udoka has an opportunity to transform the tenth trainer to win a identify 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 (2016 Cleveland Cavaliers) and Nick Nurse (2019 Toronto Raptors) are 8 of the coaches who’ve pulled off the feat.

The different identify on that record is Kerr — who did it with Golden State in 2015, the beginning of this run of greatness from the Warriors. That used to be the start of six finals appearances in 8 years, the 2 exceptions being when accidents and a roster reset stored them from the playoffs in 2020 and 2021.

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“You can’t take it for granted,” Curry mentioned after the West identify collection. “Nothing’s ever guaranteed. We understand how hard it is to win. We’ve said that until we’re blue in the face the last two years. This is definitely special. Proud of everybody that is in that locker room, that came with it all year. Now we have an opportunity to go finish a job.”

Udoka performed for Popovich and later used to be a San Antonio assistant. Kerr performed for the Spurs, then assisted Popovich with USA Basketball thru closing summer time’s Tokyo Olympics — when the Americans gained a fourth consecutive gold medal.

The Warriors’ Draymond Green used to be on that Olympic crew. So used to be Boston’s Jayson Tatum. They celebrated profitable gold in combination, and now they’ll attempt to undergo one some other to get their fingerprints at the gold trophy that is going to the NBA champions — the Larry O’Brien.

“This is an opportunity that players dream of,” Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins mentioned. “To be put in a position to win it all.”

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And if not anything else, a Warriors-Celtics matchup made Green appear prophetic.

After the Warriors gained the West, Green visited the TNT broadcast set after the sport and used to be prodded through Shaquille O’Neal to mention which crew from the then-undecided East identify collection that he wish to play.

Green started giving a diplomatic resolution, pronouncing that each the Heat and Celtics have been difficult. O’Neal pressed him to be truthful, and Green — by no means shy with phrases — gave in.

“You’re asking me who I want to play. I’m gonna tell who I think we’re going to play: We’re going to play Boston,” Green mentioned Thursday night time. “That’s who we’re going to play.”

He used to be proper.

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