2 Celtics ‘bad matchup’ takes vs. Stephen Curry, Warriors and why they’re completely ridiculous
The best two weeks in basketball have arrived. The NBA Finals is upon us and the days leading up to Game 1 have provided fans the runway to get into heated debate over who has the edge as the Boston Celtics take on the Golden State Warriors.
One narrative that’s taken shape is that the Boston Celtics are uniquely equipped to take on the Stephen Curry era Warriors based particularly on some storylines that have made the rounds on NBA Twitter and among talking heads. While there are several reasons and sound arguments as to why the Celtics do have the edge, some of the arguments being thrown around should definitely not be taken with as much weight.
Here are two (2) Celtics-Warriors NBA Finals takes and why they need to be taken with a grain of salt.
Take #1 – Marcus Smart is Stephen Curry’s worst nightmare
Marcus Smart vs. Stephen Curry could very well be the definitive matchup of the Warriors-Celtics series. How much Smart can limit the damage Curry is bound to deal, or at the very least make him work for his points, could decide who wins and who loses. Given that he’s the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, the Celtics guard’s impact shouldn’t be taken lightly.
But the stats being thrown around about how well Marcus Smart has defended Stephen Curry in the past are being treated like he’s the Kryptonite to Curry’s Superman. A quick Twitter search would reveal a host of different stats with varying parameters exhibiting how Smart has had Curry’s number. It’s also been the subject of many sports media segments leading up to the NBA Finals.
Steph Curry when defended by Marcus Smart in the last 5 seasons:
— 30 points in 6 games
— 37% shooting, 30% from three
— 3 assists, 7 turnovers pic.twitter.com/jgjMHzAxgA
— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 1, 2022
Stephen Curry has shot 33.3% when guarded by Marcus Smart since the 2017/18 season. pic.twitter.com/BXhuoUaqRv
— Basketball Forever (@Bballforeverfb) May 31, 2022
But given the absolutely minuscule sample size of just six games spread across five seasons, it’s hard to point at a few poor shooting nights from Steph Curry and make a projection for the series.
Couple that with the fact that playoff intensity and game planning are lightyears ahead compared to the regular season. Teams put a more deliberate point of emphasis on forcing switches to exploit favorable matchups in the postseason while avoiding unfavorable ones and this certainly will be the case in the Finals.
We saw that just last series, as Marcus Smart wasn’t exactly able to stop Jimmy Butler in Games 6 and 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat star ran roughshod on the Celtics to the tune of 82 points across those two contests with Smart matching up with him quite often. Yes, Stephen Curry isn’t the same type of player as Jimmy Butler. But you’d be hard-pressed to argue that defending Curry is any easier.
This isn’t to say Marcus Smart won’t do a good job against Stephen Curry or isn’t equipped to hold off a barrage from the Warriors superstar. But the small scale of his past performance isn’t likely to be indicative of that happening again in the NBA Finals.
Take #2 – Celtics are only team with a winning record vs. Kerr-era Warriors
Another narrative that’s been beaten to death is that the Boston Celtics are the only team with a winning record against Golden State since Steve Kerr took over in 2014.
Is that an impressive feat? Definitely. The Golden State Warriors made the NBA Finals in six of those eight seasons in that span, fielding rosters that measured as some of the greatest in league history, particularly the ones with Kevin Durant.
But does that really matter now?
Warriors-Celtics should be epic. Boston is the only team in the NBA with a winning record against Golden State since the dynasty began. The defense is good enough to win the series. But the offense can't slow it down and stop running sets so often like they did again in Game 7.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) May 30, 2022
The Boston Celtics have a 9-7 record vs the Warriors since Steve Kerr took over.
This is the best of any team in the league. pic.twitter.com/giMWuOM4xI
— Basketball Forever (@Bballforeverfb) May 31, 2022
The Celtics did manage to split the season series in all three Warriors seasons with KD as well as the 73-9 run they had during the 2015-16 season.
But would you care to guess how many Celtics remain from that team that accounted for one of those nine Golden State losses in 2015-16? Just one in Marcus Smart. More than half of Boston’s roster from then isn’t even in the NBA anymore. Starters Isaiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner combined for 63 points in that contest. Jayson Tatum was still in high school back then.
Boston also swept the season series in back to back years during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 campaigns, when the Warriors were a bottom-feeding team without Klay Thompson in the lineup. Curry only played in two of those four contests as he was active in just five games in 2019-20 with an injured hand.
Don’t forget that Steph Curry played in just 13 minutes in their latest matchup against one another on March 16th, another Celtics win, after Marcus Smart lunged at the Warriors star and injured him for the rest of the season. Chalk that up as another loss that doesn’t reflect the current state of both teams.
Steph Curry did not return to the game after an apparent injury on this play.
Steve Kerr seemed unhappy with Marcus Smart. pic.twitter.com/MyD0ppVQtY
— ESPN (@espn) March 17, 2022
It’s understandable that these narratives have taken to life before the series has begun. NBA fans and analysts are simply finding angles to work before any real basketball gets played.
But while there are several legitimate reasons as to why the Celtics could very well beat the Warriors to assert their dominance in the franchise dynasty game, most of these arguments being thrown around won’t matter at all once the buzzer sounds.