Saturday’s highly anticipated rematch of the 2022 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics marks the season premiere of NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC with the action tipping off at 8:30 ET from Chase Center in San Francisco.
This is the first meeting between the Celtics and Warriors since Golden State clinched its fourth title in eight seasons with a Game 6 win at TD Garden in Boston. A lot has happened in the 178 days since that game was played; here are five things you must know entering Saturday’s game.
1. Boston enters Saturday with top record in NBA
Boston comes into this matchup as the best team in the league through (21-5) the first quarter of the 2022-23 season. They hold the No. 1 spot in NBA.com’s Power Rankings and Jayson Tatum is once again the top player in the Kia MVP Ladder.
Boston has won 17 of its last 19 games and is coming off a 125-98 shellacking of Phoenix (16-8 entering the game) in a matchup of conference-leading teams on Wednesday. Tatum and Jaylen Brown each had 25 points in the win while playing fewer than 30 minutes apiece.
Boston is a perfect 7-0 against Western Conference teams so far this season, and of their five losses, three have come in overtime. And keep in mind, they are doing all of this with an interim head coach as Joe Mazzulla took over for the suspended Ime Udoka on Sept. 23, less than a month before the start of the season.
Last season, Boston got off to a slow start in Udoka’s first season, posting a 17-19 record through their first 36 games to close out the 2021 calendar year. But since the calendar flipped to 2022, the Celtics have posted the top record of any team in the NBA. Boston and Golden State have each played 96 games in 2022, spanning the end of the 2021-22 regular season, the 2022 playoffs and the start of the 2022-23 season. The Celtics are 69-27 (.719) in those games, while the Warriors are 55-41 (.573). Of course, Golden State got the four wins of 2022 that matter most – the winning requirement in that NBA Finals.
Boston isn’t waiting for a second-half turnaround like last season; they have started the season hot and are determined to return to the Finals and handle their unfinished business. It is reminiscent of the 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs, who lost the 2013 Finals to Miami and returned the following season on a vengeance. Ironically, that Spurs team was also 21-5 through their first 26 games of the season.
Meanwhile, Golden State (13-13) has opened its title defense by playing .500 ball through their first 26 games and would currently need to win a pair of Western Conference Play-In Tournament games just to qualify for the playoffs.
After opening the season 3-7 though their first 10 games, the Warriors have gone 10-6 since. They enter Saturday’s game coming off consecutive losses for the first time in a month, after surrendering a four-point lead to Utah in the final 13 seconds on Wednesday. The Warriors were without Stephen Curry (ankle), Draymond Green (hip) and Andrew Wiggins (adductor) in that game, but it was still one they should have closed out. Wiggins will miss Saturday’s game, but Curry and Green will return.
2. Tatum and Brown scoring at historic rate, fueling top-ranked offense
Boston’s Jayson Tatum (30.5 points per game) and Jaylen Brown (26.7 ppg) rank 4th and 12th in the NBA in scoring, respectively, entering Saturday’s game. Their combined 57.2 points per game put them in an elite club of scoring duos in NBA history. If they can maintain this average, they would be only the 11th set of teammates ever – and fourth since the NBA/ABA merger (1976-77) to combine to average more than 57 points per game.
|1961-62||Philadelphia Warriors||72.3||Wilt Chamberlain (50.4); Paul Arizin (21.9)|
|1961-62||Los Angeles Lakers||69.1||Elgin Baylor (38.3); Jerry West (30.8)|
|1960-61||Philadelphia Warriors||61.6||Wilt Chamberlain (38.4); Paul Arizin (23.2)|
|2019-20||Houston Rockets||61.5||James Harden (34.3); Russell Westbrook (27.2)|
|1962-63||Los Angeles Lakers||61.1||Elgin Baylor (34.0); Jerry West (27.1)|
|1959-60||Philadelphia Warriors||59.9||Wilt Chamberlain (37.6); Paul Arizin (22.3)|
|1962-63||San Francisco Warriors||58.7||Wilt Chamberlain (44.8); Guy Rodgers (13.9)|
|1964-65||Los Angeles Lakers||58.1||Jerry West (31.0); Elgin Baylor (27.1)|
|2002-03||Los Angeles Lakers||57.5||Kobe Bryant (30.0); Shaquille O’Neal (27.5)|
|2021-22||Boston Celtics||57.2||Jayson Tatum (30.5); Jaylen Brown (26.7)|
|2000-01||Los Angeles Lakers||57.2||Shaquille O’Neal (28.7); Kobe Bryant (28.5)|
Note: bold = since NBA/ABA merger
By comparison, the top combined scoring average for Golden State’s Splash Brothers came in 2015-16 when Curry led the NBA in scoring at 30.1 ppg and Klay Thompson ranked 12th at 22.1 ppg for a combined 52.2 points per game – five fewer than Boston’s dynamic duo this season.
The Celtics enter Saturday’s game with the NBA’s top-ranked offense in terms of points per game (120.8) and points per 100 possessions (119.9). Those marks would give Boston the highest scoring average in an NBA season since the 1983-84 Denver Nuggets (123.7) and the highest offensive efficiency rating on record.
With more than 30% of the 2022-23 season complete, we’re getting past the point of calling this a small sample size. Plenty of teams have gotten off to hot starts that they could not maintain and eventually regressed toward the mean. But so far, that is not happening in Boston, which also owns the top shooting percentages in the league: 58.9 effective field goal percentage and 62.6 true shooting percentage.
3. No Wiggins could mean Poole Party for Golden State
The Warriors’ starting five of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney has outscored its opponents by a league-best 132 points in 278 minutes on the court together over 19 games. However, with Wiggins out for Saturday’s game, the Warriors will need to change their lineup rotations.
Golden State’s three most effective lineups in terms of plus/minus without Wiggins all feature Jordan Poole. In Saturday’s game against Indiana — the first game that Wiggins missed with this injury — head coach Steve Kerr inserted Poole into the starting five alongside Curry, Thompson, Green and Looney. Poole scored 23 points on 10-for-21 shooting in the loss. He followed that up with a 36-point effort for the short-handed Warriors against the Jazz on Wednesday.
Overall, Poole is averaging 27.4 points with a 63.1 true shooting percentage in seven games as a starter compared to just 14.1 points with a 52.9 true shooting percentage in 19 games coming off the bench.
4. Get ready for some 3-pointers
If you love hearing ABC’s Mike Breen break out his famous “BANG!” call after a big 3-point shot, then this is the game for you. No two teams attempt or make more 3-pointers than the Celtics or the Warriors.
Boston leads the NBA in both 3-pointers made per game (16.6) and 3-point percentage (40.0%), while Golden State ranks second in 3-pointers made (16.4) and leads the league in 3-point attempts (43.5). No other team in the league is averaging more than 14.6 3-pointers made per game.
When it comes to individual players, it comes as no shock to see Curry at the top of the list in 3-pointers made – he’s led the NBA in 3-pointers made per game every season for the past decade with the exception of 2019-20, when he played only five games due to injury. Curry leads the league at 5.1 3-pointers made per game, while Thompson ranks fourth in the league at 3.9 triples per game.
The chart above illustrates a key difference in terms of 3-point shooting for these teams. The Warriors have the two most prolific 3-point shooters in the Splash Brothers, but Golden State has just three other players that average more than one 3-pointer per game. In contrast, the Celtics have eight players averaging at least 1.7 3-pointers made per game, led by Tatum at 3.4 a night.
The 3-point shot accounts for more than 40 percent of each team’s offense – 42 percent for Golden State and 41.3% for Boston. Which defense will be most effective at slowing down the other team’s shooters? Boston may have more players to cover from beyond the arc, but the Warriors have two of the best to ever shoot from deep in Curry and Thompson. Speaking of Thompson, he needs just six triples to become the 13th player in league history to reach 2,000 career 3-pointers made.
5. Boston leads all-time series
While the Warriors have the three most recent wins against the Celtics – Boston led the 2022 NBA Finals 2-1 before the Warriors closed the series by winning three straight – the Celtics lead the all-time series 226-149 in 375 total games played in the regular season and playoffs.
- Regular Season: Celtics 208, Warriors 138 (346 games)
- Playoffs: Celtics 18, Warriors 11 (29 games)
- Total: Celtics 226, Warriors 149 (375 games)
This is a rivalry that dates back to the inaugural season of the NBA back in 1946-47 when the league was known as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) with the Warriors located in Philadelphia and the Celtics in Boston.
The 2022 NBA Finals was the fifth time that the Warriors and Celtics had met in the playoffs – and the first time that the Warriors beat the Celtics in a playoff series. The two teams met in the postseason four times in seven seasons from 1958 to 1964. The first three of those meetings were in the Eastern Division Finals during the Warriors’ time in Philadelphia, while the fourth was in the 1964 NBA Finals with the Warriors in San Francisco. It would take nearly six more decades for the teams to meet in the Finals again in 2022.
- 1958 NBA Eastern Division Finals: Boston Celtics 4, Philadelphia Warriors 1
- 1960 NBA Eastern Division Finals: Boston Celtics 4, Philadelphia Warriors 2
- 1962 NBA Eastern Division Finals: Boston Celtics 4, Philadelphia Warriors 3
- 1964 NBA Finals: Boston Celtics 4, San Francisco Warriors 1
- 2022 NBA Finals: Golden State Warriors 4, Boston Celtics 2
We’re months away from finding out if another line will be added to that playoff history between the Celtics and Warriors. Saturday’s game is the first of two regular-season meetings this season as the two will meet in Boston on Thursday, Jan. 19 on TNT.