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Celtics win Eastern Conference, setting the stage for 1964 NBA Finals rematch against Warriors

The Celtics and Warriors will face off in the NBA Finals for the first time since Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain faced off in 1964.

Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors finally have their NBA Finals opponent. On Sunday, the Boston Celtics defeated the Miami Heat in their winner-take-all matchup in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Heat star Jimmy Butler had an impressive performance, where he recorded 35 points and 9 rebounds. However, Celtics starters Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford all played at least 40 minutes and carried Boston to the Eastern Conference crown.

This is not the first time in NBA history that the two franchises have faced off for the league championship. In 1964, the Celtics defeated the Warriors 4-1 in the NBA Finals. The series featured an incredible collection of future Hall of Famers. 10 players in the series would one day be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (7 on the Celtics, 3 on the Warriors) and both head coaches (Red Auerbach and Alex Hannum).

While the Warriors handly lost the series, Wilt Chamberlain might have won the Finals MVP if the award had been around (it was not introduced until 1969). Chamberlain led both teams, averaging 45.2 minutes, 29.2 points and 27.6 rebounds per game. He also shot 51.7% from the field (both teams combined to shoot less than 40% for the series). Just as impressively, Chamberlain’s defense helped prevent the Celtics frontline, led by NBA legends Bill Russell and Tom Heinsohn, from making 40% of their field-goal attempts.

Here’s another little fun piece of trivia from that series:

It’s obviously going to be a lot different this time around. In a way, this matchup has a role reversal for the two franchises from 1964. The Celtics had won the previous five NBA titles before their matchup, while Chamberlain was trying to lead the Warriors to their first league championship in years.

The Celtics remain one of the most successful franchises in NBA history, but the past few decades have featured a relative dry spell of championships. On the other hand, the Warriors have emerged as the most successful team in the league over the past ten years, winning three titles and reaching the Finals six times since 2014.

Will Golden State be able to keep their championship ways going? Or could the Celtics win their first title in more than a decade? We’ll see how it plays out in the 2022 NBA Finals.