Sometimes we get to the end, and we can’t help but feel somehow cheated. After a rigorous 82-game schedule and a grueling postseason, occasionally it seems that we end up with the wrong teams in the NBA Finals, whether that’s due to injuries, an improbable buzzer-beater, poor officiating, or just plain dumb luck.
That’s not the case this year, however, as the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors will meet in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, in a battle of the two best teams of the postseason. Of course there have been injuries along the way, like any year, and we can talk about the Phoenix Suns‘ conference semifinals Game 7 collapse as a potential “yeah, but what if” blemish on the Warriors’ path back to the Finals. But it’s difficult to argue that Boston — the top team in the league since late January — and the Warriors with their stars healthy somehow haven’t earned their place in the Finals.
The matchup itself is a juicy one, with the Celtics boasting the best defense of the regular season and second-best of the playoffs, as the familiar Warriors faces of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have led the postseason’s best offense. On paper, the series is chocked full of intriguing matchups and, in a way, symbolizes an old-versus-new battle for league supremacy.
The Warriors enter as the tried and true blue-blood, making their sixth Finals appearance in eight seasons, with three titles to show for it. The Celtics, on the other hand, have reached the Finals for the first time since 2010 while being led by two stars in their mid-20s — Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown — along with a first-year head coach in Ime Udoka.
All of this makes the series extremely difficult to predict, but most agree that it should be a long and exciting one. Before we get ahead of ourselves, however, we need to start with Game 1. Our CBS Sports NBA experts have taken a crack at predicting not only who will win the first game of the 2022 NBA Finals, but also the exact final score — how’s that for bold? Read through the predictions below, along with viewing information for Thursday’s NBA Finals opener.
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How to watch Game 1 live
Game: NBA Finals, Game 1
Date: Thursday, June 2 | Time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: Chase Center — San Francisco, California
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Get access now)
Odds: BOS +145; GS -170; O/U 212.5 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
Featured Game | Golden State Warriors vs. Boston Celtics
Celtics vs. Warriors prediction, Game 1 picks
Brad Botkin: There’s a lot of talk about rest in here. Boston is rested enough. It hasn’t played since Sunday. I picked the Celtics to win the series and a portion of that logic is derived from taking an early lead. Golden State’s offense is atypical and takes a while to get used to? Same can be said for Boston’s defense. I like Boston’s individual shot creation better than Golden State’s, and that applies to the series as a whole as well as any given game. Pick: Celtics +3.5 | Celtics 108, Warriors 101
James Herbert: My brain tells me that this will be a low-scoring feel-out game, given that these are the two top defenses in the NBA. My brain also tells me that the Warriors will win comfortably, since they almost always start series well, the Celtics are a miraculous buzzer-beater away from being 0-3 in openers during these playoffs and Golden State’s offense is a shock to the system. But I don’t trust my brain when it comes to predicting the outcome of a single basketball game. These teams are evenly matched, so maybe the Warriors will get sloppy and Boston’s offense will get going. Let’s get crazy. Pick: Celtics +3.5 | Celtics 123, Warriors 115
Michael Kaskey-Blomain: Heading into Game 1, the Warriors will be the more rested team, and they’re certainly the more experienced team, meaning that the moment is less likely to get to them and impact their play. Plus, Golden State’s offense has been clicking throughout the postseason, while Boston’s has been inconsistent at times Add in the potential return of defensive stalwart Gary Payton II, and the Warriors should be able to take care of business in the first game of the series. Pick: Warriors -3.5 I Warriors 113, Celtics 101
Jack Maloney: I picked the Celtics to win the series, but they’ve only won one Game 1 during this run and that was on a buzzer beater. The Warriors, meanwhile, are a remarkable 21-2 in Game 1s in the Steve Kerr era. Factor in the Warriors’ extended rest and homecourt advantage and they should win this one. Pick: Warriors -3.5 I Warriors 111, Celtics 104
Sam Quinn: The Warriors are 4-1 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals under Steve Kerr, losing only in 2019 to Toronto with Kevin Durant out. Their style differs so drastically from all other teams that opponents typically need a game or two to adjust, and even if that wasn’t the case, the Warriors have a three-day rest advantage and a healthier core roster. Boston will make this a competitive series and perhaps win the whole thing, but Golden State should be heavily favored in Game 1. Pick: Warriors -3.5 | Warriors 109, Celtics 102
Colin Ward-Henninger: We can talk about how both teams have performed in Game 1s so far during the playoffs, but as Warriors coach Steve Kerr continually says about the postseason: “Every series is different. Every game is different.” That being said, we need to use some sort of criteria to make an educated guess, so let’s go with the fact that Golden State — a team whose stars are much older than the Celtics’ — has the benefit of nearly a week of rest, while the Celtics will be three days removed from finishing out an emotional Game 7 following one of the most physical, tiring series we’ve seen since the early 2000s. The Warriors only need you to slip for a split-second, on either end, in order to make you pay, and Boston seems more likely to do that after the series they just finished. Pick: Warriors -3.5 | Warriors 106, Celtics 98
Jasmyn Wimbish: The Warriors are going to come out and try to make a statement in Game 1. They have home-court advantage in an atmosphere that is unnerving to play in, and while I don’t think it’ll be easy, I’m going with Golden State to take a 1-0 lead. Pick: Warriors -3.5 | Warriors 110, Celtics 105