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NBA Finals 2022 Thoughts: Steph's Greatness, Wiggins' Praise, Tatum's Performance

NBA Finals 2022 Thoughts: Steph's Greatness, Wiggins' Praise, Tatum's Performance

Photo by Ezra Shaw

The Golden State Warriors have won their fourth championship in eight years. After two seasons of not even making the playoffs, the Warriors have managed to get to the finals quite easily — beating the Denver Nuggets in five, the Memphis Grizzlies in six, and Dallas Mavericks in five.

All this shows is as long as the core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are healthy, then they’re championship contenders.

This was the complete opposite of what it took the Boston Celtics to get to the finals in the first place. They did defeat the Brooklyn nets in four, but the margin of victory in those games was small. After that, it was no easy series, as they battled in two difficult seven game series.

But this was still a damn good series, so let’s go through some key things from the series.

Steph’s Greatness

Before talking about anything else, the first thing that must be talked about is Curry’s greatness. In this series he averaged:

31.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, on 62.6% true shooting, 59.5% effective field goal (eFG), and shot 31-for-71 from deep

That is just ridiculous. This was the second time he averaged at least 30 points in the finals, but somehow this was his most efficient finals. It didn’t matter that he was going up against this type of defense that had Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum all guarding him. And this is without having Kevin Durant on the floor, too.

Is it unreasonable to say that Curry is still at his peak? Because he was making every tough shot. He was making the right pass after a right pass. He even seems to be better in isolations and have a better bag.

Did you know he was scoring 1.24 points per possession (PPP)? Or an absurd 1.54 PPP on handoffs?

These are the shots that he was making with ease. He was torching whatever defensive scheme the Celtics through at him.

And the funny thing is, he was torching them from everywhere:

  • 5-for-7 (71.4%) in the restricted area
  • 17-for-37 (45.9%) in the paint non restricted area
  • 13-for-22 (59.1%) in the mid-range
  • 29-for-67 (43.3%) on above the break 3s

There was no stopping him. But that was also kinda the point.

The Celtics were dropping against him, which does seem rather strange considering he shot 23-for-55 on pull up 3s.

But with the drop, it made the team’s offense in general look worse. And well, their offense wasn’t good if you look at the numbers. They had a 112.8 offensive rating and shot 54.4% eFG. This would have been 3.6 points worse than their overall playoff stats.

So, it did work in a way, as Curry has gone off but the rest of the team was somewhat contained.

There were adjustments made on how they defended him later in the series, where it was more of an aggressive defense. This, however, opened up opportunities for others and Curry made the defense pay if they were too focused on him.

Curry’s ability to beat the blitzes, find the pass on the short roll, and use his gravity to create for others makes the defense to make a decision.

Wiggins Praise

But as great as Curry has been and deserves all the praise you can think to give him, I’ve been impressed with Andrew Wiggins.

Who would have thought that Wiggins could have been the second or third best player in the finals.

He averaged:

18.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 3.0 stocks on 51.5% TS

Although that may not scream great stat line, especially considering the efficiency. He did struggle shooting the ball from both the mid-range and from 3 — shot 29.7% from 3 and was 8-for-30 on catch-and-shoot 3s.

He did, however, lead both teams in attempts in the restricted area with 21 and shoot 71.4%, as well as shooting the best in the paint with 50.0%.

Wiggins was also huge on the defensive end. I know these stats won’t definitely say how good he was, but it does paint a picture:

  • 47.7% DFG on 7.3 DFGA (most in the finals) less than 6ft — -15.6% difference
  • 42.9% on 9.3 (most) less than 10ft — -14.3% difference
  • Defended Jayson Tatum for 235 possessions and went 21-for-56 for 53 points
  • Defended Jaylen Brown for 55 possessions and went 2-for-13 for seven points

His defense was key and who would have thought that it would be his defense that was his most valuable skill in the finals.

This whole situation with Wiggins just shows that you should never judge player based on one situation. A player can look completely different on a different team, in a different role with different teammates.

Green Stepping up Late

Early on in the series, there was a lot of talk about Green’s play and he didn’t help himself on social media by posting all those podcasts — though it’s completely stupid to think that has any effect on his play.

He did struggle, especially offensively, but in the last two games, he showed that he is freaking clutch.

He averaged:

6.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 6.2 assists on 39.1% TS

But he was still doing the work on defense. And in game 6, man, that showed me when the time comes, he does freaking show up.

Celtics’ Turnover Issue

On the other hand, though, this was the Celtic’s core first final appearance and it did show.

The Celtics had some turnover issues throughout the playoffs and that came down to poor decision making when attacking the rim, being sloppy when driving, and making so many careless passes.

Jared Dubin of the 538 wrote a good piece discussing their turnovers and this was an interesting stat. Before game six, 49 out of 78 turnovers were live, but what’s worse is they allowed 1.467 PPP off those turnovers.

You’re not going to win if you commit that many turnovers and allow that many points off of them.

The Celtics were 1-8 when they committed 16 or more turnovers but where 13-2 when they committed 15 or less. It’s clear that the turnovers killed their chances.

Tatum’s First Finals

Tatum didn’t have the best finals. He also didn’t have a terrible one either. But you know, I’m wondering how many young players that were around 25 or under and made the finals as the best player that had great performances.

His shooting stats are quite interesting, though.

  • 9-for-17 (52.9%) in the restricted area
  • 9-for-36 (25.0%) in the paint
  • 6-for-23 (26.1%) in the mid range
  • 20-for-41 (48.8%) from above the break 3s

His shooting inside the arc are disgusting. Shooting around 25% outside the restricted are is disgusting. But then he goes ahead and shoots almost 50% on 3s, whilst being third in volume.

Maybe it was fatigue, maybe it was the defense bothering, but whatever it was, it made him completely useless as a scorer inside the arc.

He led the finals in drives with 15.3 but shot only 31.0% — Green shot a higher percentage.

Perhaps the Celtics win if Tatum was scoring on at least average efficiency.

Regardless, the Celtics still need Tatum to even have a chance to push this series to six games. Per PBP, with him off the court, the Celtics had a 97.5 offensive rating. Whereas, with him on the court, they had a 108.0 rating.

The offense was still bad even with him on the court, but at least it wasn’t below 100 bad.

And the reason for that is his improvement to create for others. I’ve talked about this in his series against the Nets, where he was making many great reads and this was the same in this series.

Final Thoughts

Although I watched this series in one day after it has finished, I still enjoyed this finals.

Mainly because it had Curry and he is one of, if not, the most exciting player to watch, so any game with him is worth watching.

Curry finally won his first finals most valuable player and now there should be zero doubt about his legacy as an all time great — though he already proved to be one before this finals.

I can see this Warriors team coming right back to win back-to-back and continue this dynasty.

As for the Celtics, this was a successful season regardless of the outcome. Making the finals is an achievement by itself and they’ve shown that they are capable of making it. So, with some tweaks here and there, I wouldn’t be surprised if they make another run at it again next year.

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