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5 takeaways from Warriors-Celtics Finals rematch

Splash Bros. outshine Boston's duo, Jonathan Kuminga continues to grow and more takeaways from the 2022 Finals rematch.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson dominated in the Warriors' win over the Celtics.

SAN FRANCISCO — On the same night a blockbuster storm off the Pacific slammed much of California, a force of similar magnitude from the Atlantic made its way to Chase Center on Saturday night.

The Boston Celtics brought the NBA’s best record (21-5) and highest scoring offense (120.8 points per game) to San Francisco to face the Golden State Warriors in a rematch of the 2022 NBA Finals.

It had been 178 days since these teams last met on June 16, when the Warriors clinched their fourth title in eight years by winning the final three games of the series. Nearly six months later, the Warriors extended that win streak to four in a row as they topped the Celtics 123-107 behind a combined 66 points from Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. Here are five takeaways from the Warriors win in this marquee matchup:

1. Warriors keep first Finals rematch win streak alive

The Warriors have followed up each of their four championships during this current run by winning the first Finals rematch game against their championship opponent.

2015 Finals: Warriors 4, Cavaliers 2
First rematch (Dec. 25, 2015): Warriors 89, Cavaliers 83

2017 Finals: Warriors 4, Cavaliers 1
First rematch (Dec. 25, 2017): Warriors 99, Cavaliers 92

2018 Finals: Warriors 4, Cavaliers 0
First rematch (Dec. 5, 2018): Warriors 129, Cavaliers 105

2022 Finals: Warriors 4, Celtics 2
First rematch (Dec. 10, 2022): Warriors 123, Celtics 107

What makes Saturday’s game stand out from the rest of those initial rematches is the fact that for the first time, Golden State came into the rematch as the inferior to their previous Finals opponent. In 2015, the Warriors were 27-1 compared to the 19-7 Cavs. In 2017, the Warriors were 26-7 and the Cavs were 24-9. In 2018, the Warriors were 16-9 while the Cavaliers (following LeBron’s departure to L.A.) were 5-18. Entering Saturday’s game, the Celtics were an NBA-best 21-5 while the Warriors were playing .500 ball at 13-13.

“Definitely. Crowd was excited, we were excited,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said when asked if this game felt different than a regular-season game. “I mean just the feeling of going against a team you just played in The Finals and especially the way they’ve played this year. They’ve just been so good and so dominant. I thought we needed a game like that. We’ve been a little stuck in the mud and it feels like we’ve gotten better over the last few weeks, but not a whole lot to show for it. So, this was an important win for us.”

Boston entered the game averaging a league-best 120.8 points per game. The Warriors held them to 107, which is tied for Boston’s third fewest points in a game this season.

2. Splash Brothers prove to be the better duo on Saturday

Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown entered Saturday’s game averaging a combined 57.2 points per game. That not only makes them the highest scoring duo in the league this season, but it could be just the 11th such season in NBA history and only the fourth since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976-77, as they would join the Shaq and Kobe Lakers (2000-01 and 2002-03) and the James Harden and Russell Westbrook Rockets from 2019-20.

But on Saturday, it was another scoring duo that stole the show as the Splash Brothers combined for 66 points compared to 49 points for Tatum and Brown. Klay Thompson led all scorers with 34 points, while Curry added 32 for Golden State. Brown had a strong night for Boston, finishing with 31 points on 13-for-23 shooting, but Tatum was held to 18 points on 6-for-21 (28.6%) shooting – with each mark being his second-lowest of the season.

The Warriors improved to 14-0 all time when Curry and Thompson each score 30 or more points in the same game. The duo combined to shoot 26-for-27 (55.3%) from the field and 10-for-22 (45.5%) from 3-point range. Thompson had it going from the opening tip, scoring 12 of Golden State’s first 29 points. He scored a dozen points in each of the first two quarters, had 32 at the end of three quarters.

And this wasn’t a game that saw him just knocking down catch-and-shoot 3s. He scored from all over the court: four 3-pointers, four buckets in the paint, six from the mid-range and a pair of free throws. When Klay is scoring on all three levels like this, the Warriors are tough to beat, especially when Curry is also having a strong shooting night.

Ever the showman, Curry capped off the first quarter with a 30-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer, while turning his back on the shot with the ball still in mid-air. Curry finished 6-for-11 from beyond the arc as he and the Warriors consistently had answers to every Celtics’ push to cut into their advantage.

3. Jonathan Kuminga is coming along at the right time

Consistency has been a tough thing to find for second-year forward Jonathan Kuminga both in terms of minutes and production. This season, he’s had games where he’s played as many as 40 minutes but has seven games in which he logged fewer than 10 minutes. But the past three games have seen Kuminga play at least 21 minutes each night and score in double figures each night.

On Saturday, Kuminga finished with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting to go with five rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes off the Warriors bench. But as Kerr said after the game, it was much more than his offense that kept Kuminga on the floor against Boston.

“I thought JK was great,” said Kerr. “Just his athleticism in size and strength to be able to bring him off the bench and put him on either Brown or Tatum and then the he can switch and stay in front of people, whether it’s those two I just mentioned or Marcus Smart, (Malcolm) Brogdon or Derrick White, the guys who are attacking, JK has really helped solidify our defense and give us another weapon that we can put on the best players on the opponent.”

Kuminga’s signature moment of the night came early in the fourth quarter as he had back-to-back dunks to help push the lead to 16 points. The first dunk came on a fast break as Donte DiVincenzo found him on a cut to the basket. The second was the showstopper as he posted up Tatum on the left block, faced up and made a move to the basket. Tatum stripped him, but Kuminga recovered the ball and immediately went up for a dunk over Tatum.

Not only did the Chase Center crowd go crazy, but watch the celebration from Draymond Green, who may have celebrated harder than Kuminga after the dunk.

4. Can the Warriors build off this win? How will Celtics respond?

With a win on Saturday, Golden State improved to 14-13 on the season and 12-2 at Chase Center – tied with Cleveland for the best home record in the NBA. However, the Warriors are just 2-11 on the road, which is where their next six games will come as they get set to embark on a nine-day road trip with stops in Milwaukee, Indiana, Philadelphia, Toronto, New York and Brooklyn before returning to Chase Center for a Christmas Day matchup against Memphis.

“It just gives you the recipe on the intensity and focus you have to have to beat a team like that and then, knowing how hard it is to win on the road, we haven’t done it well at all this season,” said Curry. “So, for everybody to understand again, their role, when they’re going to be in the game, who they’ll be playing with, the defensive intensity that we need to give ourselves a chance knowing we haven’t been able to sustain that level in these first 27 games. We want to feel good about ourselves getting on the plan and going to these four cities and five games and figure out how to really take advantage of the opportunity in front of us.”

The Warriors enter the road trip in a crowded pack in the middle of the Western Conference standings. Golden State is ninth following Saturday’s win, but just a half-game back of sixth place. If they hope to emerge from this pack during this road trip, they’ll have to do so against some strong competition as they will face four team currently ranked three through six in the East. Can taking down the top team in the conference be the boost the Warriors need to translate their home success to the road?

For the Celtics, this was the fourth game of a six-game road trip that concludes with back-to-back games in Los Angeles against the Clippers and Monday and the Lakers on Tuesday. The Celtics follow up this six-game road trip with a seven-game homestand that takes them through the remainder of 2022, including a marquee Christmas Day game against Milwaukee.

Boston has not lost consecutive games since falling to Chicago and Cleveland on Oct. 24 and 28, respectively. In their four most recent losses, the Celtics have bounced back with wins by 18 points, four points, 13 points and 11 points for an average margin of victory of 11.5 points.

5. Warriors choose perfect moment to retire Bill Russell’s No. 6

Following his passing in August, the NBA and Players Association announced that they would honor the legacy of Bill Russell by retiring his No. 6 throughout the entire league – an honor that has never been bestowed upon another player.

A black No. 6 patch emblazons every player jersey this season, every coach wears a No. 6 pin, and every court has the No. 6 on the sideline near center court. Prior to Saturday’s game against Boston, the Warriors added Russell’s No. 6 to the Chase Center rafters, right next to longtime rival Wilt Chamberlain and other former Warrior greats. In addition to his record 11 NBA championships with Boston, Russell also won a pair of NCAA titles with the University of San Francisco.

The pregame ceremony included reflections from Russell’s daughter, Karen Kenyatta Russell as well as Warriors advisor Rick Welts — who first met Russell during the legend’s run as head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1970s. Warriors legend Tom Meschery joined them as they counted down from six to unveil the jersey.