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Offense or defense? NBA Finals is a great test

The Boston Celtics took Game 1, but will the Golden State Warriors’ offense prevail in the end?

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Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) celebrates during the second half of Game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals.

Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) celebrates during the second half of Game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, Thursday, June 2, 2022.

Jed Jacobsohn, AP

What’s better — great offense, or great defense? This year’s NBA Finals seems to be a good test to answer that question.

Of course, both the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics are more than skilled on both sides of the ball. You don’t make it to the Finals by being mediocre at anything. But the identity of both teams is tied to their best attributes.

The Warriors have the best shooter in NBA history in Stephen Curry and he is flanked by potent scorers at every position, including one of the best scorers in the league as his right-hand man — Klay Thompson. They are certainly a good defensive team, but it’s 3-pointers, space and pace and offensive mastery where the Warriors hang their collective hat.

The Celtics were the best defensive team in the league this season with guard Marcus Smart earning Defensive Player of the Year honors. Robert Williams III was one of the best shot blockers in the league, and everyone on the roster is capable of staying in front of their man on the defensive end. The Celtics obviously aren’t slouches on offense, but their identity is clearly as a defensive team.

There are those that would give arguments one way or the other for what type of a team is better. If the goal of the game is to score more points, than the team that can do that with the most ease will come out on top. Eventually a shooter will miss. Points are better than stops. If you can stop the other team from scoring then you have more chances to score.

Every argument has merit, and maybe there isn’t a definitive answer to the question of what is more important. A more logical than idealistic person would say that the perfect mix of good defense and good offense is obviously the best option. But things never really turn out that way. Things are never idealistic and perfect.

In Game 1 of the Finals, the Celtics came out on top with a 120-108 win on the road. The Warriors went cold in the fourth quarter and the Celtics continued steadily sailing on. After Curry set an NBA Finals record by hitting six 3-pointers in the first quarter, it seemed that a lid had been put over the basket for Golden State in the final stanza of Game 1.

That doesn’t mean that we have a fully formed answer yet. The beauty of the NBA playoffs is that we have a best-of-seven series to pull evidence from. It’s not a one-and-done game. So as the series progresses, it will be interesting to look at what prevails — offense, or defense.