The Boston Celtics have emerged as the Eastern Conference representative for the 2022 NBA Finals, while the Golden State Warriors will represent the West.
Boston’s defensive focus will mainly be on Stephen Curry, perhaps the best perimeter-oriented player in the League.
He gets to see the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year, Boston’s Marcus Smart, who will likely be stalking Curry the entire series. For opposing guards in the League, the assignment doesn’t get much more complex than Curry, let alone stopping him in the NBA Finals.
In an interview with Chris Haynes of YahooSports, Smart had said that guarding Curry on this stage is “special,” considering that this is also his first Finals appearance. The most important detail, as Smart noted, was getting his rest.
“Getting sleep in this series is huge, man,” Smart told Haynes. “You know they are going to make you run. You have to put on your track shoes, and you have to be ready. So for me, it’s about being able to get my rest and a good night’s sleep. My conditioning is there to keep up with these guys, but you have to be fresh for them.”
Perhaps Boston is the best-equipped team to deal with Golden State than previous teams, given their physical nature and how tall their lineups are. Players such as Smart and Jaylen Brown will be able to match up with Curry and Klay Thompson, given their similarities with physical tools.
The battle within the war also has some extra incentives to it as well because of the two times that Boston and Golden State met in the regular season, specifically during a Warriors-Celtics game on March 16 when Smart rolled Curry’s ankle while diving for a loose ball.
Smart is also seen as a target by players and fans because of his playstyle: a rigid, blue-collar attitude that reflects in Smart and how others perceive him. He plays as hard as anyone in the League, diving for everything on the floor, and plays perhaps the most exhilarating defense with a proud personality. Sometimes he can rub people the wrong way, but that doesn’t mean he will change to please people.
“I know I’m not the League’s favorite, I know I’m not the fan-favorite all the time, and I know I’m not a lot of people’s favorite player,” Smart suggested per Haynes. “My whole life has been like that. I’ve always been the underdog.”
This year’s Finals will be a matchup of polar opposite forces who are similar in many different ways. The Warriors are seen as the standard of the NBA, while Boston is more of an underdog team with hard-working players who fight for everything. And if Boston’s seven-game slugfest with Miami indicates anything, Golden State is in for a bumpy ride in these NBA Finals.