The Warriors are back in the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight years, and the result of their series against the Eastern Conference champion Celtics could go a long way toward defining the legacy of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson.
But championships are often won or lost in the details. The Celtics have the NBA’s best defense, and though the Warriors offense is potent, it’s vital to fight for every available possession. Throughout the 2022 NBA Playoffs, Golden State has done just that, often outrebounding larger opponents, especially on the offensive glass.
That strength of the Warriors could be tough for the Celtics to combat, according to The Athletic’s Anthony Slater, who points out that Boston is an “average” rebounding team.
Two players are tied for the most offensive rebounds in the playoffs: Wiggins and Looney. Both have 42 in 16 games. That combo has the Warriors averaging 14.5 second-chance points per game, an underrated force in what’s been a strong offensive month.
The Celtics are long and active defensively, but they’re an average rebounding team. Their defensive rebounding rate (grabbing 72.5 percent of opponent misses) ranked 16th in the regular season. It’s been slightly worse — 71.2 percent — in the playoffs.Anthony Slater/TheAthletic
Though the Celtics are no doubt aware of this weakness, it will be difficult for them to protect the paint against the Warriors. With so much for Boston to worry about while defending the Warriors’ spread-you-out attack, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney know they have an advantage at the rim as the defense scrambles to guard Curry, Thompson, Jordan Poole, and others.
It will be key for the Warriors to get more shots up than the Celtics, as turnovers are another factor for both teams. Rebounds clearly play a huge role, too, and could continue to be the underrated force that Slater identified.
As with every NBA Finals, this one will be decided in the margins. This matchup, however, appears even closer than most. Rebounding — yep, good old-fashioned boring rebounding — could be a big factor for Golden State as Curry, Green, and Thompson look to take their careers to new, rarely-seen heights.