MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

The consensus at the barber shop was it’s nothing personal; in fact, it’s a matter of great respect. But we’re tired of seeing the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. And there’s a very good reason for that – the Warriors have won three of the past seven NBA championships. They’re really good.

There is absolutely nothing to dislike about Golden State, because nearly all of the elements that were there when the world began to like and admire the Warriors are still in place: head coach Steve Kerr, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green …

What’s not to like?

It’s just the feeling at the shop was it’s time for the Boston Celtics, an entirely new batch of Boston Celtics led by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart (if he’s healthy … big if) and Al Horford, to win the title this time.

The Finals begin tonight at 9 o’clock and it should be one of the better championship series of recent vintage. On top of that, the respective franchises’ standing in history will be in play as well.

The Celtics have won championships in five different decades for 17 total, needing one here to break a tie with the Lakers for most in NBA history. The Warriors have won six titles and need one here to break a tie with the Chicago Bulls for third all-time.

(The Warriors won two titles when they were the Philadelphia Warriors and fell to the Celtics in the 1964 final when they were known as the San Francisco Warriors.)

This time around, it will be the Warriors who have the experience and the history in the NBA Finals as well as the home-court advantage, although the Celtics have certainly shown their mettle for the road, having won three of the four games in Miami to take the Eastern Conference title.

Essentially, the core of the Warriors, beginning with their coach, will be in their sixth Finals in the last eight seasons. The Celtics on the other hand, do not have a single player (nor head coach Ime Udoka) on their roster who has ever been in a Finals.

Just something about this Celtics team, though. Again, they won three games on the road to reach the Finals. They swept a stack-the-deck Brooklyn Nets team in the first round and knocked off defending NBA champion Milwaukee to reach the conference finals.

This is Golden State, though, who makes its history by running defending teams to death with constant motion and back-cuts on each possession.

The Celtics and the Warriors were the top two defensive teams in the league during the regular season, but the margin between them was not very much, which is the most basic reason why this should be an outstanding Finals.

Both teams have great players, headlined by Curry and Tatum. But there is much more to both teams besides the two most visible stars. The biggest difference seems to be the Warriors have done it before (a lot) and the Celtics have never been there before – at least not in their lifetimes.

Green for the Warriors, and/or Horford for the Celtics could be the difference-maker. Green has been around enough and has proven himself enough to make this choice easy money. But don’t sell Horford short. He does all of the dirty and intangible work that Green does; he’s just never had the opportunity to do it on this stage.

Other difference-makers (aside from the team that clearly proves itself to be the better team) could be major intangibles such as the health of Smart and Robert Williams for the Celtics and the improved health of a number of injured players for the Warriors, who could make their depth an even more superior matchup for them.

The feeling here is Curry is actually going to be the difference-maker because it’s just so clearly obvious going in. No need to reinvent the wheel, right?

Jayson Tatum is obvious as well, but not to the degree that Curry is. Tatum will play big, but for the Celtics to win this, it’s got to be Jaylen Brown who plays freaky lights out.

And don’t sell the Boston crowd short, either. It ain’t the old Boston Garden, but Celtics fans have proven themselves to be true difference-makers in NBA Finals. They have a longer history of this than any city in NBA history and they are a throaty and vicious bunch; they are …

The heart says Celtics. The barbershop says Celtics. Both eye tests say Warriors.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT