Celtics vs. Warriors Game 1 Preview: Golden State Has Edge in NBA Finals Opener

Action's Joe Dellera breaks down how to bet Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics.

Celtics vs. Warriors Odds

Celtics Odds +3.5
Warriors Odds -3.5
Over/Under 212.5
Time 9 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The NBA Finals are here!

The Golden Warriors are back for their sixth NBA Finals in eight years while the Boston Celtics are returning for the first time since 2010.

Both of these teams have storied histories in the NBA Finals, but this is a new day, a new season, and a new opportunity for these teams. However, there may be some notable trends that we can lean on to help pick a winner in the series opener.

Let’s break down Game 1 on the NBA Finals.

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How Will the Celtics Cope on Defense?

The Celtics have traversed a treacherous road to the NBA Finals — they swept the preseason title favorite Brooklyn Nets, conquered the reigning champion the Milwaukee Bucks, and took down the No. 1 seeded Miami Heat. Now, they face the Splash Bros to secure their legacy in Celtics’ lure.

While Boston’s biggest stars have remained relatively healthy throughout the playoffs, they have suffered injuries to both Robert Williams and Marcus Smart the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. Both players are listed as questionable for Game 1 of the Finals, but given that it’s the Finals, I’d expect them to take the floor.

There are a few questions marks regarding the Celtics going into the Finals. Most notably, how they will find consistent offense and what defensive schemes they will deploy against the Warriors’ perpetual motion offense.

It’s tough to play zone against Golden State and I do not expect much of that, and while playing drop and giving up the 3-point line may seem terrifying against the greatest shooter of all time, it may be the only method to viably keep Robert and Grant Williams on the floor because both struggle with switching defenses.

The Celtics have lead their way through the postseason with the second best Defensive Rating in all of the Postseason with a 106.0 mark and the best Point Differential at +7.4 in non-garbage time minutes, per Cleaning the Glass. This is their strength and their defense will need to be at its best to stop this Warriors’ offense.

Can the Warriors Find Magic on Offense?

The Warriors are back in the Finals and look to reclaim their throne atop the NBA. However, this is a different iteration from those dynastic Warriors teams even though some of the pieces remain the same.

While the Warriors’ stars are healthy, they have a few questionable pieces for Game 1, namely Otto Porter Jr (foot), Andre Iguodala (neck), and Gary Payton II (elbow). Payton’s return would be a boon for their defense and give them more flexibility if they want to run a smaller lineup.

The Warriors have been incredible during the postseason. They have the second-best point differential +5.3 and the best offense during the postseason scoring 117.8 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. This is notable because the Warriors scored just 112.8 points per 100 possessions during the regular season and were primarily buoyed by their defense, which was the second-best in the league behind Boston.

In the playoffs, we have seen these flip but I think much of that is due to the Warriors finally being healthy and the offenses they’ve played, Dallas, Memphis, and Denver all were in the top half of offenses in the league. Boston is ranked 10th, but we’ve seen Golden State succeed against elite offenses and strong defenses (i.e. Dallas and Memphis).

The pivot for the Warriors is that during the regular season they took 46 and 48 3-point attempts in their two games against Boston (53% of their attempts) and that’s a significant uptick from their 45.6% mark during the regular season (second-highest in the league).

However, during the postseason, the Warriors are taking just 41.5% of their shots from 3-point range because opponents have refused to allow them easy access to 3s; however, this has exposed the interior and the Warriors shot 70.9% from the rim and 50.4% from midrange during these playoffs, some of the top marks in the NBA.

I don’t expect Boston to do this, at least not in Game 1, and with the Warriors’ perpetual motion it’s extremely difficult to adjust to them in a Postseason setting. This Warriors’ offense is far more complex and talented than Miami’s; it’s healthier than the Bucks’ and it is not nearly as predictable as Brooklyn’s. The Warriors will come out swinging.

Celtics-Warriors Pick

The Warriors have a combined 123 games of NBA Finals experience to the Celtics’ zero. While experience is not everything, it gives us some history to draw upon.

In Game 1s under Steve Kerr, the Warriors are 21-2 SU and 9-2 ATS as single-digit home favorites. Couple this with the fact that Boston just played a grueling seven game series against Miami and this sets up for Warriors’ success. Teams haven’t performed well in the following round after a Game 7, going 32-51 (38.6%) straight up in the ensuing Game 1. 

The Warriors are brutal to adjust to due to their offense, and they are no slouch defensively either. While I have my reservations regarding the Warriors on the series, I am extremely confident in them to take care of business in Game 1.

Lay the points, back the Warriors, and enjoy Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Pick: Warriors -3.5