FiveThirtyEight's predictive model remains bullish on the Boston Celtics heading into the 2022 NBA Finals.
Despite entering the series as slight betting underdogs against the Golden State Warriors, the C's are heavily favored by FiveThirtyEight to bring home Banner 18. The data-driven model gives Boston a whopping 80 percent chance to take care of business against the more experienced Golden State squad.
It may be bold, but at least it's consistent. FiveThirtyEight has had the Celtics pegged as the favorite to win the NBA title since Feb. 22. They gave Boston a 76 percent chance of winning the NBA Finals prior to Game 6 vs. the Miami Heat.
It's worth noting one major factor that may explain why the predictive model is so down on Golden State. The "Big Three" of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green played only 11 minutes together in the regular season. Green missed 31 games due to injury immediately after Thompson returned from his two-year absence. As soon as Green came back, a controversial play involving C's guard Marcus Smart sidelined Curry with a foot injury for the final month of the regular season.
As for why FiveThirtyEight is so high on the Celtics, they boast the best defense in the league and two young stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They've responded well to rookie head coach Ime Udoka and bounced back from a rough start to the campaign, going 34-12 after Jan. 1. Many of those wins came in blowout fashion.
It won't be easy for Golden State, but it's safe to say this series will be closer than FiveThirtyEight's model suggests. The Warriors have an overwhelming advantage in the experience department with six Finals appearances in the last eight seasons. No matter what the numbers say, that has to be taken into consideration.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET Thursday at Chase Center. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. right here on NBC Sports Boston with Celtics Pregame Live.