OP-Ed: The Boston Celtics defense will help them hoist banner 18

With the Boston Celtics eliminating the Miami Heat in a tough seven game series, the Celtics now have their eyes on one thing: The Larry O’Brien Trophy.

After beating the Miami Heat in a rugged seven-game series, the Boston Celtics will represent the Eastern Conference against the Golden State Warriors. Both the regular season and postseason have brought forth a plethora of challenges for the Celtics, from falling to 18-21 at the hands of a bank shot winner from Knicks forward RJ Barrett, to getting matched up against arguably the most talented seven seed of all time, this team has faced an incredible amount of adversity to get to where they are now.

That is what makes it all the more redeeming for fans of this resilient, astute and gritty team. This team deserves heaps of praise for turning their season around in historic fashion, but this storied franchise celebrates Finals victories, not berths. Their final test of the season will be their most daunting to this point: beating the dynasty that is the Warriors. Let’s look at how each team can hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.

How the Warriors can win

No franchise in the entire NBA has had more success over the past decade than the Warriors. After handling the talent-deprived Dallas Mavericks with ease in the Western Conference Final, the Warriors have now been to the Finals six of the last eight years. When their seemingly eternal run of postseason success finally ends, they will surely be viewed as one of the greatest dynasties of all time. 

Their rank amongst the league’s most dominant teams of all time is thanks in large part to its core trio, headlined by flamethrowing guards Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and steady forward Draymond Green. That trio has played in an incredible amount of Finals games and easily will have the advantage of experience over these young Celtics. The entire team has a whopping 123 NBA Finals games under their belts. That is 126 more games of experience than the entirety of the Celtics team. When the going gets tough, as it surely will at points for both teams, this team will not crumble in ways that the Celtics have down the stretch of certain games in these playoffs. 

The Warriors have been downright dominant on the offensive side of the ball during the postseason. In both their first and third rounds they were able to put up some gaudy numbers, boasting the best offensive ratings out of every team in both rounds. This was due, in part, because the Warriors explicitly attacked the opposing team’s superstars, namely Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic in round one and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic in the latter round. Though they did struggle at times versus a tough Grizzlies squad, Thompson reminded the world that he can still be a walking microwave on any given night. 

Their five-man lineup of Curry, Thompson, Green, guard Jordan Poole and forward Andrew Wiggins has the best offensive rating of any lineup in the playoffs (minimum of 75 minutes played together) at 124.6 points per 100 possessions. This newly designated “death lineup” has the potential to give any team fits, even a defensive unit as dominant as the Celtics. Their ability to space the floor is simply unmatched, even when Poole is replaced by center Kevon Looney, who happens to be playing the best basketball of his entire career. 

Speaking of careers, Curry has had one of the greatest of all time, from revolutionizing the game of basketball (or ruining it depending on how you look at it) with his incredible long-range shooting abilities to winning three championships. The one thing missing from his exquisite resume? An NBA Finals MVP. Curry, shooting 39% from deep so far in the postseason, will certainly be looking to bolster his legacy and what better way to do it than to lead your team to a fourth championship as the best player on the team. 


Though he, Thompson and Green have all shown they still have plenty of gas left in the tank, they are all on the backend of their careers and one has to wonder how many opportunities they will get following this Finals berth. The West is still a dominant conference to reside in and, in theory, will only get tougher with the return of stars such as Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Lakers center Anthony Davis and Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray. 

The Warriors have been nothing short of spectacular for the majority of these playoffs and they just so happen to be playing their best basketball at the best time. They have a tremendous offense, stalwart defense and the experience to bring it all together. After two injury-riddled seasons, they look hungry to reclaim what was once theirs – the title of the best team in the world.

How the Celtics can win

Enter the newcomers. The team with zero players that have ever been to the Finals. The team that has been counted out more times than can be counted. The team that has gone through a gauntlet of NBA superstars to reach this point. The Boston Celtics.

The Celtics are playing in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010, when they were defeated by the late Kobe Bryant and his Lakers in seven games. Since then, the team has reached the conference finals five times and finally broke through in 2022 by defeating the Miami Heat using their depth to their advantage. 

That is what truly separates this team from teams that have consistently come up short in past seasons. They have the role players needed to complement star forwards Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Forwards Grant Williams and Al Horford have both had season saving performances at times throughout the playoffs. Guards Marcus Smart and Derrick White have been the best defensive backcourt in the playoffs, and will be even more important when matching up against the Warriors guard-heavy lineups. 

The playoffs are all about matchups and many, including myself, would argue that no one can match up better than these Warriors than the Celtics. No one will make life harder for Curry than Smart, as seen many times throughout their careers. Thompson, although still an obvious difference maker, is not the defender he was prior to his devastating injuries. This is good news for Brown, and bad news for anyone rooting for the Warriors. Although Wiggins made life tougher on Doncic than many expected, Doncic still put up gaudy numbers. I expect much of the same from budding superstar Tatum, as he continues to prove why many believe he will be the face of the league at one point. Horford and Green have similar playing styles and it will be very fun to watch the two seasoned veterans get after it on the biggest stage. Finally, if White can come off the bench and limit Poole’s offensive influence, the Celtics will be in great shape to pull off the upset. 

Anyone watching the Celtics play their past two series knows just how dominant their defense is. Their ability to switch everything makes them capable of hindering a lot of the Warriors’ off-ball action, which they use to free incredible shooters Curry, Thompson and Poole. The coaching chess match between rookie head coach Ime Udoka and legendary head coach Steve Kerr will be fascinating to watch.

Unfortunately, the Celtics are dealing with a bunch of injuries that have forced players to miss some key games. Center Robert Williams III’s knee inflammation is not going away any time soon. No one will debate Smart’s toughness, which makes it even more concerning to see him miss important games with a foot sprain. Brown has been battling a hamstring issue for weeks. Tatum continues to grab his left wrist when it takes any contact. It is fair to wonder how much gas is running in Horford’s tank as he nears age 36. The three days in between almost every game in this series will certainly work to the Celtics advantage, and fans of the NBA and Celtics alike can only hope that injuries will not deter the series in any way.


The Warriors deserve to be favored in this series. They have Curry, who many would consider being the best player in the series, and enough talent surrounding him to take home yet another title. It would also be foolish to overlook how many big moments their squad has been in over the past decade. This is a veteran-led team that has looked poised to compete for a championship since the beginning of the season. 

The same cannot be said of the Boston Celtics. At the beginning of January, many would have thought that the Celtics would have a better chance of winning the draft lottery than an NBA championship. And yet, that is why they will win this series in seven games. 

They have been the best team in basketball since the new year, and are the only team with the defensive versatility to beat the Warriors. Tatum will continue to impress on his way to his first NBA championship and second postseason MVP award. Udoka’s transformative first season at the helm will result in a championship. The Celtics will have some tough moments, allowing them to show the same resiliency that they have for the past five months. Banner 18 will be hung in the rafters. Game one begins Thursday night at 9:00 p.m.

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