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The Marcus Smart/Steph Curry matchup could determine who wins the 2022 NBA Finals

Smart isn't always going to be guarding, and Golden State is going to need to take advantage of those matchups whenever they can get them
The Marcus Smart/Steph Curry matchup could determine who wins the 2022 NBA Finals

Ever since the Warriors dynastic run began in 2014-15, Smart has done a great job of locking up Curry when they find themselves matched up against each other

The Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors will face off in the 2022 NBA Finals, and we should be in for quite the battle. Both teams look to be pretty evenly matched up on paper, and there’s a chance this series could go all the way to seven games.

This will be their sixth Finals appearance in the past eight seasons for the Warriors. For the Celtics, this will be their first appearance in 12 years. The gulf in experience between both sides could be something to watch as the series progresses. But ever since Golden State’s dynasty kicked off in the 2014-15 NBA season, Boston has been the only team with a winning record against them.

There are so many unique stories and matchups to look at during the buildup to this series. But maybe the most important matchup will be Marcus Smart’s defense versus Steph Curry’s offense. Smart has had success guarding Curry before, and if he can slow down Curry throughout this series, that could tilt the scales in Boston’s favor.

Smart has a history of being able to slow down Curry

As mentioned, Boston has been able to find ways to win against this Warriors dynasty, and a big reason for that is because they have players who can stick with Curry at the perimeter. First, it was Avery Bradley, but now it’s Smart who has been finding ways to frustrate Curry whenever they find themselves matched up against each other.

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Since the 2014-15 season, Smart has held Curry to a field goal percentage of just 29 percent when he’s been the closest defender. In these same scenarios, Golden State’s offense has posted an offensive rating of just 85. For reference, that’s basically what the Miami Heat’s offense looked like in Games 4 & 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston.

If Smart can continue to harass Curry, the Celtics will have a good shot at winning this series

While that stat is impressive, it can also be a bit misleading. Smart hasn’t guarded Curry every second he’s had the ball when these two teams have faced off over the past seven or eight years, and he won’t in this series either. But it’s something the Warriors probably need to pay attention to, as Curry will get a lot of attention from Boston’s defense.

Golden State loves to use off-ball movement and several different types of screening actions to create small windows of space at the perimeter for Curry, and they will have to get crafty in figuring out ways to get Smart off of Curry. Smart is a tenacious off-ball defender, and he does a great job at baiting screeners to set illegal screens if he doesn’t get past them.

But Smart will struggle to stay with Curry 100 percent of the time. He’s not fully healthy, and he will have to switch onto other players from time to time. So when Golden State gets those looks, they will have to capitalize.

The problem for the Warriors is that Smart isn’t the only guy that can stick with Curry on his sprints around the perimeter. Derrick White has been superb on defense coming off the bench lately, and he is nearly as good a defender as Smart. Even Boston’s bigs, like Al Horford and Grant Williams, can hold their own if they are isolated against Curry or any of Golden State’s perimeter players when they find themselves stuck outside the paint.

But it’s clear Smart will be leading the charge to slow down Curry, and whether or not he can have huge repercussions on the outcome of this series. Slowing down Curry forces Golden State out of their preferred style of offense, and if Boston can do that, they will have a significant advantage considering how good their defense is. The Smart/Curry matchup has been entertaining for years now, and it’s set to take center stage in the 2022 NBA Finals.

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