Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr acknowledged his team were second-best on Thursday, losing Game 1 of the NBA Finals at home to the Boston Celtics 120-108.

The Celtics were automatic in the fourth quarter and comfortably overturned a 92-80 deficit at the final interval, shooting nine-of 12 from beyond the arc to outscore the Warriors 40-16.

Al Horford hit a career-high six-of-eight from the perimeter on the way to 26 points, while Derrick White hit five-from eight as he put up a critical 21 points off the bench.

After the loss, Kerr conceded there was not much the Warriors could do to defeat the Celtics amid that kind of shooting performance, despite going 42 per cent from the perimeter themselves.

"To beat Boston if they're making 21 threes, getting a combined 11 from Horford and White, give them credit," Kerr said post-game. "They knocked down every big shot in the fourth quarter. Boston just played a brilliant quarter, they came in and earned the win.

"I thought we had a couple of turnovers, a couple of bad possessions offensively and they just pounced. They took advantage of every opportunity, and moved the ball well. You make five-six threes in a row in the fourth quarter, that's tough to overcome.

"We'll watch the tape and learn from it and see what we can do better. My gut reaction to what I just witnessed, they just came in and played a hell of a fourth quarter, and you've got to give them credit."

After a finely poised first-half, the Warriors were led by Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole, who combined for 28 points off 10-of-15 shooting from the floor.

Kerr insists that despite the fourth-quarter turnaround, his side will be able to adjust to cause and effect of that late Celtics barrage.

"We feel confident with our ability to score against them but, like I said, you give up 40 in the fourth and the other team makes 21 threes, it's going to be tough to win.

"It felt to me like we didn't close out very well in the first half and that allowed them to get going a little bit. Again, have to watch the tape and see where the breakdowns occurred."

The Boston Celtics won Game 1 of the NBA Finals 120-105 on the road against the Golden State Warriors, with the teams combining for the most made three-pointers ever in a Finals game.

Early on it looked like it was going to be the Stephen Curry show, as he finished the first quarter with 21 points – hitting an NBA Finals record six threes in a quarter, from eight attempts – as the Warriors led 32-28 at the first break.

Boston's adjustments at quarter-time had an immediate effect, holding Curry scoreless in the second period while winning the quarter 28-22, heading into half-time leading 56-54.

Jayson Tatum struggled with his shooting, but made up for it with his playmaking, with seven assists in the first half, while Jaylen Brown had 12 points and Marcus Smart had 10 to pick up the slack.

A consistent theme with the great Warriors teams of recent years, their ability to explode in the third quarter in front of their home fans was on full display, hitting six-of-11 threes coming out of half-time.

Andrew Wiggins had 12 points in the quarter, Curry had nine, and Jordan Poole had seven, as that trio combined for 28 to carry the Warriors to a 38-24 period, earning a 92-80 lead heading into the last.

As impressive as the third quarter was for the Warriors, the fourth was even more so for the Celtics, as their red-hot shooting coincided with their best defensive stretch of the game.

The Celtics shot nine-of-12 from long range in the fourth, and 15-of-22 from the field, while holding the Warriors to just seven made field goals, turning the last period into a 40-16 rout.

It was a historic game from beyond the arc as the two sides combined to hit an NBA Finals record of 40 threes, with the Celtics shooting a blistering 51 per cent (21-of-41) while the Warriors were also terrific at 42 per cent (19-of-45).

Boston's Al Horford hit a career-high from long range, going six-of-eight on his way to 26 points, while Derrick White set a new season-high from deep, hitting five-of-eight for his crucial 21 points off the bench.

Tatum finished three-of-17 from the field, scoring 12 points, but he was the architect of the Celtics' hot shooting night as he dished a career-high 13 assists, punishing Warriors defensive collapses after his initial dribble penetration.

Jaylen Brown finished with 24 points (10-of-23 shooting) with seven rebounds and five assists, while Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart had 18 points (seven-of-11 shooting, four-of-seven from deep) to go with five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

For the Warriors, Curry finished with 34 points (12-of-25 shooting), five rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Andrew Wiggins had 20 points (eight-of-15 shooting) with three steals and one block.

Game 2 will remain in San Francisco, before they head to Boston for Game 3 and Game 4.

The NBA Finals are here with a mouth-watering matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics.

This Warriors team are used to this stage, playing their sixth Finals in eight years, but this is the first trip for the 17-time champion Celtics since 2010.

Ahead of Thursday's highly anticipated Game 1, Stats Perform delves into the best STATS numbers going into an intriguing series...

HISTORY SIDES WITH CELTICS

Only the Los Angeles Lakers (32) have been to more NBA Finals than the Celtics (now 22) and the Warriors (now 12), yet this is only the second time they have met at this stage of the season.

The Celtics beat the Warriors in five in the 1964 Finals, the sixth in a run of eight straight Boston titles.

But that is not their only postseason encounter to date, with the Warriors based in Philadelphia until 1962. They fared no better against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoffs, however, losing all three series, as the Warriors have never beaten Boston in the postseason.

More recently, the teams split the two-game series this year, but the Celtics have won six of the past seven meetings between the sides by an average of 14.0 points.

THE THREAT FROM THREE

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will have played in half of the Warriors' Finals appearances, although neither of them have yet won a Finals MVP award.

They will certainly be key to any Golden State success this year and head into the series in form, having again displayed their outstanding ability from three-point range.

Curry has made multiple threes in every game in this playoff campaign and in 34 straight postseason games dating back to 2019. It is the longest streak of games with two or more made threes in playoff history.

In fact, with runs of 27 games between 2014 and 2016 and 20 games between 2016 and 2017, the point guard owns three of the four best such sequences.

Thompson's longest run of playoff games with multiple made threes was 14 in 2016, but he passed team-mate Curry in another regard while scoring 32 points in the closeout Game 5 against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals.

Thompson knocked down eight shots from deep for his fifth playoff game with eight or more made threes – now the outright most ahead of Curry, Ray Allen and Damian Lillard (four each).

DEFENSE TO BE DECISIVE?

The Celtics have their own scorers, with Jayson Tatum (27.0) on course to average at least 25.0 points in the playoffs for a third straight year.

He would become only the third Celtic to achieve that feat, following in the footsteps of Larry Bird and John Havlicek, who each scored at that rate in four consecutive postseason campaigns.

But what Boston do on the other end of the floor will likely be decisive, as it has been so far in their run to the Finals.

The Celtics beat the Miami Heat 100-96 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals for their 31st win across the regular season and postseason in 2021-22 while holding their opponents to fewer than 100 points. That is the most in the NBA.

If Tatum drives the offense, Al Horford is the key man on defense, and the Celtics have outscored opponents by 10.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the court. They have been outscored by 2.2 points per 100 possessions with Horford off the court.

In Game 7 against the Heat, Horford had 14 rebounds, two blocks and a team-high plus/minus of 10.

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry believes this NBA Finals appearance has a deeper significance than his previous trips, heading into Thursday's series opener against the Boston Celtics.

The Warriors booked their sixth NBA Finals berth in the past eight seasons after defeating the Dallas Mavericks in five games, with Curry also taking out the inaugural Western Conference Finals MVP.

With long-term injuries to Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, as well Kevin Durant's departure for the Brooklyn Nets, the Dubs finished with the NBA's worst record in the 2019-20 season. This campaign has seen them rejuvenate the fluid ball-movement and intelligent basketball on both ends that propelled them to the 2014-15 title, however.

Given the journey back to the top of the NBA landscape, after that Game 6 loss in the 2019 NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors without Durant - and in which Thompson sustained his ACL injury - Curry insisted this run feels different to the other five.

Asked what separates this appearance from the other at the NBA Finals media day, Curry said: "The context of the past four years – from Game 6 of the 2019 Finals to now – what we've been through as a team.

"With injuries, obviously the pandemic that's happened over the last two-and-a-half years, everything that we've all been through – with this as the ultimate goal. Getting back on this stage with a chance to play for another championship.

"Then you look up and all the work you've put in over the last two years has paid off. They built on the experience, and the veteran presence we have. All that stuff is built into the context of what's happened since Game 6 of the 2019 Finals, and we're back here, so it's pretty special."

The end of last season was a precursor of sorts as the Warriors went all-in on their distinct brand of basketball, with Kelly Oubre Jr. only playing five of the final 20 regular-season games, where they went 15-5.

After adding Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica and giving more scope to Jordan Poole, the Warriors flew out the gate this season with an 18-2 start, before injuries to Curry and Green halted momentum.

Coming out of the Western Conference again this season, the former unanimous MVP said it spoke to the Warriors' core organisational values and identity.

"I shared similar sentiments with Draymond on options of what could happen last off-season, and what we should, or shouldn't do," Curry said.

"It also speaks to the culture of our organisation, and who we are, and what it takes to win at the highest level. However the young guys can learn that, and however they have learned that, it has been amazing to watch."

Golden State Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green took some time during Wednesday's NBA Finals Media Day to reflect on the evolution of their once-mocked franchise since their arrival.

Curry was drafted in 2009, Klay Thompson followed in 2011, before Green was selected in 2012, setting the foundation for one of the league's greatest dynasties.

After announcing themselves on the world stage through gutsy performances against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 playoffs and a seven-game series against the 'Lob City' Los Angeles Clippers in 2014, the Warriors began a five-year streak of making the NBA Finals, winning titles in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

When asked about his thoughts on the Warriors before he was drafted, Curry admitted he truly believed he was going to be selected by the New York Knicks, and discussed the turmoil that followed his selection.

"What did I think about the organisation? I didn't think much about it," he said.

"I grew up on the east coast, so I mean I watched games, but all I really knew was the 'We Believe' team, and the Baron Davis dunk, and beating Dallas [in 2007].

"When I got drafted I thought I was going to New York, and I didn't really have Golden State on the radar at all.

"Then there was a lot of drama with my rookie year, with a potential Phoenix trade on draft night, [if] me and Monte [Ellis] could play together as a small back-court – 'can we play together?' – and obviously what his answer was at the time."

In a 2009 interview, Ellis replied "we just can't" when asked if he can see himself and Curry playing together, going on to say they "are not going to win that way".

Curry continued: "So there's a lot going on in that sense, but to see the evolution from that year to now, and the fact that six out of the last eight years we've been in the Finals. It's crazy to think about, for sure.

"It speaks to all the different people who have played a part in that – myself, Draymond, Klay, Andre, all the vets who have played significant roles for us, our front office… it's been an amazing run, and we obviously feel like we have a lot left in the tank, that's why we're here."

Green arrived three years after Curry, but he had similar stories, going as far as calling the Warriors "the laughing stock of the NBA".

"I knew [Golden State] won 23 games the year before, and they were the laughing stock of the NBA – but I also knew they had two guys who could really shoot the lights out of the ball," he said.

"Everybody was like man, we were the last-ranked defense in the league, we won 23 games last season, we've been to the playoffs one time in 10 or 11 years – that was kind of the aura that was around.

"We just came in hungry, we wanted to change that, and we did. But it wasn't always this.

"I remember walking downtown Oakland giving away tickets to the game as a rookie – for one of our team activation or community things we had to do – certain guys had to go to the park and give tickets away.

"I remember that, it wasn't that long ago. It was a much less-respected franchise, but we were able to change that, and that's what it's all about."

It wasn't all looking backwards for Green, though, as he also shared his respect for the Boston Celtics and Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart.

"You respect and admire that everyone is defending – there is not a guy who comes on the floor that isn't giving 110 per cent on that side of the ball," he said.

"You have to give a lot of respect to [coach] Ime [Udoka] – that's not a much different squad than we've seen… since Kyrie left. It's not a much different team, yet more has been required of them, and they've answered that bell.

"You have to give a lot of credit to them, and you have to give a lot of credit to Marcus Smart, who is their leader on that side of the ball.

"In order to have everyone come in and play [hard], there has to be some leadership there that's holding it all together, and is holding somebody responsible, and to me I think that's Marcus Smart… I appreciate that more than anything."

The NBA got a two-season break from the Golden State Warriors.

Now, the Warriors are back in extremely familiar territory – the NBA Finals, where they will face the Boston Celtics in a mouth-watering series.

Golden State saw off the Dallas Mavericks in five games in the Western Conference Finals, reaching the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight seasons.

And, thanks to what Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob described as a "two-tiered strategy", the Warriors may well be competing to remain on this stage in both the short and the long term.

The Warriors' success in returning to the Finals this season is down primarily to the three players that powered the start of their dynasty: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

Curry has seven games of 30 points or more this postseason and is averaging 3.8 made threes per game, the most among players to have featured in at least 10 games in these playoffs.

Tied second on that list is Thompson (3.6), whose return after two years on the sideline has been a critical feel-good story for the Warriors. Despite his lengthy absence, Thompson has retained his ability to come through with clutch shooting, converting eight three-pointers in closeout games against both the Memphis Grizzlies and the Mavericks.

Meanwhile, Green, the undisputed heartbeat of the Warriors, has illustrated his all-round value in superb fashion. He is averaging 13.7 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists per 48 minutes in the playoffs, with his influence on both ends of the floor encapsulated by an average plus-minus of plus-6.1 that is seventh for players with a minimum of 10 postseason games under their belt.

Andrew Wiggins (+6.9) sits two spots above Green, the 2014 first overall pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers taking a belated chance to blossom on the big stages in emphatic fashion. Wiggins has produced a series of strong showings and delivered one of the defining moments of the postseason with his monster dunk over Luka Doncic in the Conference Finals.

"I think the Wiggins trade is the key to all of this," head coach Steve Kerr said recently, referencing the trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves that took 2022 All-Star Wiggins to Golden State.

"I don't know where we'd be without him. He's just been brilliant."

A substantial part of the Warriors' ability to brush aside the Mavericks was Kevon Looney's dominance on the boards. Looney had double-digit rebounds in three of the five games, including 18 in the decisive Game 5 meeting, having also racked up 22 in Game 6 against Memphis as the Warriors closed out the Grizzlies.

While the Warriors are back in the Finals in large part through the play of four members of the core who helped them establish a stranglehold over the league and the success of the Wiggins reclamation project, perhaps the most exciting aspect of Golden State's surge to this point has been the glimpse of the future.

That glimpse has come primarily from Jordan Poole, the Warriors' first-round pick in 2019, who after starting for much of the regular season has served as a hugely important sixth man in the playoffs, offering Golden State another shooter alongside Curry and Thompson whose remarkable athleticism also makes him a substantial threat attacking the rim.

Poole is third in effective field goal percentage and second in true shooting percentage for the playoffs (min. 10 games), his composure belying the 22-year-old's inexperience in the pressure cooker of the playoffs in a postseason campaign in which he has demonstrated why he is a strong candidate to be the centrepiece of the next Warriors era that does not feature their big three.

 

Also expected to be a part of that future are Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, selected seventh and 14th overall in last year's draft, the build-up to which was dominated by calls for the Warriors to package those picks to land another star after an underwhelming 2020-21 campaign ended with defeat in the play-In tournament.

Both Kuminga and Moody have played sparingly in the postseason, each averaging just over 10 minutes per game, but neither 19-year-old has appeared overawed when thrown into the fire.

The return to prominence with Curry, Thompson and Green, combined with the signs of progress from their proteges led Lacob to express a feeling of vindication in the Warriors' strategy.

Asked about rejecting the external pressure to trade their 2021 picks, Lacob told reporters: "I think the 19-year-olds that have played in the playoffs, the number of minutes over the history of the NBA or even in the Finals. I mean [Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody] haven't played very much and yet they're up there.

"Kobe [Bryant] I think was number one in terms of minutes for a 19-year-old. So the 19-year-olds just don't play deep into the playoffs or certainly in the Finals historically in the NBA.

"So the fact that we are where we are, and these guys have both contributed, maybe not as much as they would like to, they want to play more. Everyone wants to play more when you're a good player. But what they've done is great and what our coaches have done to get them ready for this level of play is great.

"I know we took, I, Bob [Myers, general manager], the organisation took some criticism from people that we should trade all our draft choices, that we had to get one more great player or whatever. I was very adamant about it. So was Bob. But that was not the path we were going down.

"We want to be good for a long time. We want to be great for a long time. And we felt that we already had our investment in our core great players. And they're still young enough to perform.

"Our success this year was always going to depend primarily on Steph, Klay when he came back, Draymond and Wiggins, you could argue. That was always fundamentally what the issue is. They're either going to be good enough or they're not, and we'll find out in the Finals too."

"I love what we've been able to do. We've been able to do this, call it a two-tiered strategy, call it whatever you want. But you've got your core guys that are going to get you this year. Meanwhile, you're going to develop these young guys. And I think we've done that."

Regardless of whether the Warriors overwhelm the Celtics to return to the NBA mountain top, Golden State's plan for this season has been an unequivocal success, and their next steps will be fascinating to watch as they continue to try to achieve the dual aims of setting themselves up to compete now and in a post-Curry and Co. future.

The trade winds may once again blow. With Wiggins having just one year left on his deal, there has already been some mention of him and James Wiseman, the 2020 second overall pick who has been kept off the court by injury, being packaged in a trade to land another star.

For now, such speculation can wait until after the confetti has fallen, and if it lands on Golden State, the Warriors will receive the ultimate reward for faith in both experience and youth that has quickly propelled them back to the league's elite and given them more potential options through which to stay there.

The Warriors are back. If they continue to execute the vision of Lacob and Myers, it could be a long time before they leave.

The Boston Celtics have made sure to do it the hard way en route to the NBA Finals.

Sometimes this can suggest a team's name is on the trophy; look at Real Madrid's remarkable run in European football's Champions League before winning their record-extending 14th title.

The Celtics, an organisation with similar prestige, will hope they can now follow suit.

After all, this is a team who reached the turn of the year with a 17-19 record under a rookie coach, then recovered to take the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

Having worked so hard to secure home court in the second round of the playoffs, the Celtics lost to a Milwaukee Bucks outfit missing Khris Middleton in Game 5, falling 3-2 behind in the series and requiring another fightback.

Then the Celtics again failed to make the most of the Boston crowd in the Eastern Conference Finals, allowing the Miami Heat to return home for a Game 7.

Still, the Celtics made it through, and now they must take on the Golden State Warriors, back in contention and looking to extend the sort of dynasty Madrid would be proud of.

The Warriors are going to their sixth Finals in eight seasons; Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have played in each of them.

On the other hand, the Celtics are in their first Finals since 2010 – Curry's rookie season. Not a single member of the Boston roster has reached this stage before.

And yet, against the Warriors of all teams, the Celtics should have little to fear.

This is a battle of defense versus offense – Boston allowed a league-low 104.5 points per game in the regular season, while Golden State have scored a season-high 114.5 points per game in the playoffs – and it is a battle the Celtics have won numerous times in recent seasons.

In the 10 years since the Steph-Klay-Draymond Warriors came together, the Celtics are 10-10 against Golden State. Boston are the only team with a winning record (9-7) against Steve Kerr's Warriors, and they are a hugely impressive 7-3 in this matchup since drafting Jayson Tatum in 2017.

Before splitting this season's two-game series, the Celtics had won five in a row against the Warriors.

The key to this success has been defense. The Celtics have held both the Steph-Klay-Draymond Warriors (103.3 points per game) and Kerr's Warriors (104.4) to fewer points than any other defense. The same is true of Boston in Tatum's five years in the league, during which they have outscored Golden State 110.7-103.1 on average.

In Curry and Thompson, the Warriors boast two of the best shooters of all time, yet the Celtics have repeatedly forced them to take bad shots.

In the past five years, the Warriors have attempted just 83.2 field goals per game against the Celtics – only mustering fewer against the Detroit Pistons (80.8) – yet they have had a lofty 36.5 three-point attempts on average in these games. That means 43.9 per cent of Golden State's field goal attempts against the Celtics since 2017 have come from beyond the arc, attempting a higher percentage of their shots from deep against the Brooklyn Nets alone (44.1).

Given the talent in this Warriors team, shooting from range is not generally an issue, yet they have made just 31.8 per cent of those threes – again only performing worse against the Nets (31.4 per cent).

This has contributed to the Warriors making a meagre 43.1 per cent of their field goals against the Celtics, comfortably their worst rate against any team over this period.

Still, with the title on the line, the Warriors will undoubtedly back themselves to overcome this hurdle.

Curry (52.6 per cent), Thompson (50.0) and Jordan Poole (50.0) are all counted among the 10 players to attempt 10 or more contested shots (with the closest defender within two feet) and make at least half in this postseason.

Curry and Poole are two of only five players to make such a shot from three-point range, although that Golden State trio are a combined two-for-eight from beyond the arc in these circumstances – a record that does not look quite so bad next to Heat wing Max Strus' miserable one-for-seven shooting on contested threes. Four of those low-percentage shots came in the Celtics series alone.

The Warriors have not yet faced an elite defense in this playoff run, with the four best teams on that end of the floor operating in the East.

It figures that the best offense should emerge from the West, where teams averaged 109.2 points per game in the postseason, while the standout defense came out of the East, with playoff teams averaging 103.9 points.

The Finals will surely, therefore, be decided by what sort of series this becomes.

Tatum may be out to prove himself as one of the best players in the world, but the Celtics' success in keeping Curry, Thompson and Poole quiet is likely to be far more pivotal to their hopes.

As long ago as December, when his team were toiling, Celtics coach Ime Udoka explained: "The identity is to rely on defense, be a great defensive team and give ourselves a chance every night as far as that."

They have done that just about ever since – and now it is time to prove their winning identity can be a title-winning identity.

Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob has nothing but a burning desire to win against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Lacob used to have a minority stake in the Celtics and was part of the ownership when Boston won the most recent of their 17 NBA championships back in 2008.

He bought the Warriors in 2010, and under his ownership the team have won three titles, in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

But a victory this time around would mean even more to Lacob.

"Boston was very important, and those guys were very helpful. They're friends to this day. Not too close friends, though," Lacob told reporters.

"I want to kill them right now, I'm going to be honest. I'm very competitive about this, and I'm sure they are, too.

"It's going to be a battle on the court and a little bit of a battle on the ownership level, too. We want to kill each other and we want to win, both teams. And they should."

Lacob looks back fondly on his time co-owning the Celtics, however, even if he is set on getting the better of Boston in the Finals.

He added: "It was very important. I think to run any business in life, actually, I think it doesn't even need to be a business, you just kind of need some experience, right?

"You need to be able to do some pattern matching. You need to see what works and what doesn't work.

"In this case, it's the same kind of thing. Boston was an experience for me, as a limited partner, to get to see how an NBA team ran, upfront, in person, and real.

"I got to know people like Danny Ainge, and Doc Rivers was the coach. I've got a ring from 2008, by the way, from the championship.

"Five years, I think it was; it was a tremendous experience with the basketball side and the business side. I learned some things I liked to do the way they did it and things that maybe would be different."

So here we are, after all that basketball in 2021-22, we come down to the final pair as the Golden State Warriors take on the Boston Celtics to decide the destination of this year's NBA championship.

It was a relatively smooth route for the Warriors after a 4-1 win against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, while the Celtics went to Game 7 for the second round in a row, eventually overcoming the Miami Heat.

Having been able to rest up since they sealed their place in the finals on Friday, Steve Kerr's team will be heavily fancied to win their first title since 2018.

Golden State were electric against Dallas, with all four of their wins being by a margin of at least nine, and even managing to overcome the outrageously talented Luka Doncic, winning Games 2 and 3 despite 40 or more points in both coming from the Slovenian.

It is no surprise that Stephen Curry is leading the way for the Warriors, averaging 25.9 points per game in the postseason, as well as 6.2 assists and 4.9 rebounds.

His three-pointer attempts have been a little wayward by his own very high standards, making 60 of 158 attempts in the playoffs, just three more than Klay Thompson (57 from 143 shots), who himself is playing more than just a support role.

Thompson is averaging 19.8 points per game, while Jordan Poole is not far behind with 18.4.

Andrew Wiggins also deserves credit for his contribution, averaging 15.8 and scoring 27 in the Game 3 win against the Mavs at the American Airlines Center, and a good example of how Kerr's team can get at you from anywhere on the court.

 

All that being said, the Celtics have shown themselves to be big-game players during the playoffs, overcoming both the defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks and the number one seeds in the East, the Heat.

Jayson Tatum has invariably been the main man, averaging 27.0 points in the playoffs along with 5.9 assists and 6.7 rebounds per game.

Like the Warriors, though, Boston are able to spread the responsibility, with Tatum's 26 against the Heat in Game 7 supplemented by 24 each from Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.

The Celtics are in the finals for the first time since 2010, and it feels like they have shown the backbone needed to go all the way, even against a supremely talented Warriors side.

Ime Udoka could cement his legacy in Boston, admitting after overcoming the Heat they will need to go one better to be remembered, saying: "We don't hang or celebrate Eastern Conference championships in the Celtics organisation, so we all fall in line and appreciate that standard of excellence."

Udoka against Kerr could be the most interesting contest across the NBA Finals, but all over the court there are intriguing narratives and plenty of top-class basketball to witness.

Whoever rises to the top, they will surely be worthy champions.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Golden State Warriors – Draymond Green

The outspoken 32-year-old said on his podcast recently that whatever happens, "the dynasty been stamped" for this Warriors team.

A fourth NBA title in eight years would be quite a convincing way to stamp it further, and Green is likely to play a big role if that is to happen.

In the playoffs, he has been averaging 2.8 turnovers, 8.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.9 rebounds per game. He racked up nine assists in the clincher against the Mavs, as well as sinking six of seven field goal attempts.

Boston Celtics – Al Horford

After a year each at the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder, Horford came back to Boston to try and finally reach the NBA Finals, and he has done just that.

His ability to stop the opposition and tidy up attacks could well be key against an opposition with danger-men all over the place.

Horford has averaged 8.1 defensive rebounds in the playoffs, including 12 in the Game 7 win against the Heat, and managed three turnovers in three different games during that series.

KEY BATTLE – Will defense win the championship?

Following on from Horford's ability to snatch the ball in defense, these two were both in the top four in the league in the regular season for defensive rebounds, with Golden State second overall with 2,930, while Boston were fourth on 2,915.

One thing the Celtics will need to be aware of is the Warriors' ability to steal, making the fourth most in the league in the regular season (719), while the Celtics were only in 19th place (591).

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Celtics will be especially confident based on recent match-ups, having won six of their past seven meetings with the Warriors, including a 110-88 win at Chase Center in their most-recent contest in March.

American tennis player Coco Gauff threw her support behind the Miami Heat after defeating Elise Mertens 6-4 6-0 in the fourth round of the French Open.

Gauff, the 18th seed, has not lost a set through the first four rounds, booking a quarter-final showdown against compatriot Sloane Stephens.

After her latest win, she signed the camera with support for the Heat in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Boston Celtics.

Speaking to the media after leaving the court, Gauff said she has not been able to watch the series because of the time difference in France, but she thinks her Heat can go all the way.

"I haven't watched actually any games, because the games have been way too early or late, I don't know what you want to even call it," she said. "I wake up in the morning and watch the score.

"I feel like, really, I do believe we are going to win, and I think whoever - I hope, not even going to put that possibility out there, but I think whoever wins this game is going to win the championship.

"I love the Warriors. I really do. I think Steph Curry and that team is really one of the best teams we are ever going to see. I think we are better. I think it's just about the culture we have."

Game 7 will be played on Sunday in Miami.

Luka Doncic said he "played terrible" but expressed his pride at the Dallas Mavericks' season on the whole after they were eliminated from the NBA playoffs by the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors booked their berth in the NBA Finals with a 120-110 win in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday – Klay Thompson contributing a game-high 32 points.

Doncic had 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists, but it was far from a vintage performance from the Mavs' talisman.

He was only 10-of-28 shooting from the floor, including making just three-of-13 three-pointers, while in the first half alone he was just two-of-12 and had three turnovers.

"I don't like losing, especially like this. I played terrible," Doncic said.

Despite his struggles on the night, it marked the 10th time during this season's playoffs that Doncic had topped the stats sheets in points, rebounds and assists for the Mavs. That marked a new record for the most during a single postseason, with LeBron James holding the previous benchmark in 2013.

"If we talk about our season, I'm really proud of this team. Everybody, every player, every staff member," said Doncic, who averaged 31.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in the playoffs.

"Nobody had us here. But I promise we fought until the end. Congratulations to the Warriors. They were obviously the better team. But I'm really proud of this team."

Asked what the Mavs need to do to progress to becoming a championship team, Doncic was unequivocal in his reply.

"I think defense has got to be way better for me," he said. 

"Honestly, I think I made a huge step this year defensively, but there's so much room for improvement. I've got to be way better there.

"I think that's one spot that can take us to the next level."

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr lauded an "incredible" Stephen Curry after his side progressed to a sixth NBA Finals appearance since 2015 on Thursday.

Curry claimed the first Western Conference Finals MVP award as the Dubs defeated the Dallas Mavericks 120-110 in Game 5, claiming a 4-1 series win.

The former unanimous MVP suffered an early injury scare, tweaking his right ankle in an attempt to trap Dorian Finney-Smith in the first quarter. After sitting out the early exchanges of the second quarter, Curry finished with 15 points on a relatively poor five-of-17 shooting for his standards, along with nine assists and two steals.

According to Kerr however, the 34-year-old's stamina and mere presence gets the Warriors going, while his effort on the defensive side of the ball deserves respect.

"He's our engine, offensively. Everything revolves around him," Kerr said after the win. "We've got a lot fo great players around him and guys who fit well together but it all starts with Steph.

"He just creates so much havoc for the defence that even on a night like tonight where he doesn't shoot the ball that well, he forces rotations and he frees up other players. His defence all year has been totally underrated.

"He's as strong as he's ever been. Conditioning-wise, just to play 35 minutes tonight, fighting over screen after screen after screen and then at the other end, be on the ball and get people open. Steph's incredible."

The Warriors moved to a 21-2 playoff series record under Kerr's tenure with the win over the Mavericks, after missing the playoffs in the previous two seasons.

After seeing through the long-term injuries to Curry and Klay Thompson over that two-year hiatus, Kerr believes his team started to find rhythm at the end of last term, ending with a 15-5 record over the final 20 games of the regular season.

"These last couple of years have been difficult with the injuries – worst record in the league two years ago," Kerr said post-game. "Last year it felt like we spent the year trying to get back on track and I think we did at the end of the season.

"It's pretty amazing. It's so difficult to get to the finals. An NBA season is such a marathon, to get through the 82 [regular-season games], then three rounds of the playoffs, beating the best teams in the league to get there, frankly, it's exhausting.

"For our team, our guys, especially the core group…to be part of that six times in eight years, I don't even know what to say. It just takes an enormous amount of skill and determination and work and I couldn't be prouder of our guys."

The Golden State Warriors progressed to their sixth NBA Finals appearance since 2015, defeating the Dallas Mavericks 120-110 on Thursday for a 4-1 series victory.

The Warriors moved to a 21-2 playoff-series record since Steve Kerr took over as coach in 2014, only losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors in respective finals.

Klay Thompson came up big for the Warriors, shooting an even 50 per cent from beyond the arc for a team-high 32 points.

Kevon Looney was again a critical figure for the Dubs, finishing with a double-double of 10 points and 18 rebounds including seven on the offensive glass.

His effort on the glass directly contributed to the Warriors' 17 second-chance points while he gave the team defensive flexibility and freedom to switch.

The Mavericks started Game 5 in disappointing fashion, with Luka Doncic held to six points on two-of-12 shooting while committing four turnovers.

The 23-year-old took over as the Mavs mounted a brave fightback, though, scoring 15 points in the third quarter and getting the margin back to single-digits.

Stephen Curry suffered an early injury scare, rolling his ankle in the first quarter when attempting to trap Dorian Finney-Smith. After icing the ankle, Curry returned to finish with 11 points on five-of-17 shooting from the floor and nine assists over 35 minutes.

Averaging 26 points, 7.5 rebounds and seven assists while shooting 47.1 per cent from beyond the arc coming into Game 5, Curry was the first recipient of the award for Western Conference Finals MVP.

The Warriors will face the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals series between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.

Stephen Curry applauded Steve Kerr for his frank pre-game comments following a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.

At a scheduled news conference before the Golden State Warriors' 119-109 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, an emotional Kerr called into question a lack of action from United States senators on the sale, presence and usage of firearms.

A moment of silence was then observed inside the American Airlines Center ahead of the tip-off, but Kerr had said: "I am sorry, I am tired of the moments of silence. Enough!"

Following the defeat, Curry explained basketball had been put in perspective as he stood in support of his coach, whose father was murdered in the university where he worked in Beirut in 1984.

"I appreciate his leadership," Curry said post-game. "It was on everybody's mind coming into the game. It's kind of hard to stay focused on going out and playing basketball, knowing what happened in this state.

"I got kids, send them to school every day, drop them off, and you feel for the parents that are going through what they're going through.

"I can't even imagine the pain, so for coach to come up here and say what he said – and every word that he said was powerful and meaningful – I accept that challenge of using my voice and platform to hopefully make change. You can tell what it meant to him. I appreciate his leadership on that one.

"You come in, and the perspective is, 'this is what we do', so you know how to kind of use your routine to get you ready. Obviously your mind wanders from time to time but especially in the moment of silence before the game."

The Warriors started slowly and were down by as much as 29 points at one stage, before the second unit got the game back to within single-digits with less than five minutes remaining.

While praising the Mavericks on their victory, Kerr conceded it was hard to get his team ready pre-game.

"It was sort of an unspoken awareness of what happened today, and it was a very quiet locker room beforehand," he said.

"I felt like as a coach, my job is to get the team ready to play. It was difficult to sort of keep perspective on a day like today, but that's the shock and the grief, the anger that's there for all of our guys, and I'm sure everybody in the building."  

Nikola Jokic was named in the All-NBA first team ahead of Joel Embiid and alongside Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Devin Booker in Tuesday evening's announcement.

Jokic pipped fellow center Embiid for the NBA's 2021-22 MVP award earlier this month and the Serbian again got the nod in that position in the All-NBA first team, although the Philadelphia 76ers star was eligible as a forward but also missed out.

While Jokic and Embiid split votes, Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo was the only unanimous selection in the first team.

Antetokounmpo became the first player over the past 50 years to be a unanimous selection to the All-NBA first team in four straight seasons.

Tatum and Booker were both selected to the All-NBA first team for the first time.

Embiid led the selections for the second team, alongside DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Ja Morant.

LeBron James was named to the third team, with Pascal Siakam, Karl-Anthony Towns, Chris Paul and Trae Young.

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