SAN FRANCISCO — The Celtics are coming off back-to-back seven-game series, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr doesn’t necessarily view that as an advantage for his team heading into the NBA Finals.
“Sometimes you get through the gauntlet like that and you come out on the other side, you’re stronger for it,” Kerr said on Tuesday. “Once you get to this point and you get a fresh start, nothing else really matters. You’re here and you lay it on the line.”
After eliminating the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday night, the Celtics immediately flew home, arriving shortly after 4 a.m. Then they took off for San Francisco on Tuesday in the late morning. The team will practice Wednesday afternoon before Game 1 tips off Thursday at 9 p.m.
The quick turnaround would seem to benefit the Warriors, who wrapped up the Western Conference finals last Thursday at home.
The schedule for the Finals, unlike that for the conference finals, includes an extra day off between every game except Games 3 and 4. The Celtics have two players battling injuries in center Robert Williams (knee) and guard Marcus Smart (ankle), so they certainly will welcome the additional time to rest.
Regardless, the Warriors, at least outwardly, don’t seem to be taking the Celtics’ recent heavy workload into consideration.
“They’ve been battle-tested this playoff run,” said point guard Stephen Curry. “We like the matchup, in terms of just confidence coming in, knowing that we can win. But there’s obvious respect in terms of what they present as a team.”
Ready? Or not?
Kerr expects to have more information Wednesday on whether guard Gary Payton II, forward Andre Iguodala, and forward Otto Porter Jr. will be able to play in Game 1. All three are recovering from injuries.
The trio did not scrimmage with the team Monday but were full participants in Tuesday’s light session. The Warriors are expected to hold a full-contact practice on Wednesday.
Payton, who suffered a fractured elbow in Game 2 of the conference semifinals against the Grizzlies, said Tuesday he still has “a lot of boxes” to check before a possible return. He wouldn’t say what those boxes are, but he sounded hopeful.
“It’s starting to feel normal,” he said.
The 29-year-old Payton would give Golden State’s rotation another strong perimeter defender, providing some depth behind starter Andrew Wiggins. If healthy, the Warriors could count on Payton for 15-20 minutes off the bench. He will likely help with the assignment of limiting Celtics star Jayson Tatum.
“If he is back, that’s a huge boost for us,” said forward Draymond Green.
Porter, who missed the final two games of the Western Conference conference finals with a foot injury, and Iguodala, who hasn’t played since April 24 because of a neck injury, would bring experience and versatility.
Warriors owner Joe Lacob will be up against his former business partners in the Finals.
Lacob, who left the Celtics’ ownership group in July 2010, said he still considers Celtics owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca friends, though they won’t be all that chummy over the next two weeks.
“They’re friends to this day — not too close friends, though,” Lacob said. “I want to kill them right now, I’m going to be honest. I’m very competitive about this and I’m sure they are, too. It’s going to be a battle on the court and a little bit of a battle on the ownership level, too. We want to kill each other and we want to win, both teams. And they should.”
Lacob spoke fondly of his time in Boston, noting how the opportunity helped shape his approach with the Warriors. Highlights from his five-year tenure as a minority owner included receiving a championship ring when the Celtics won the title in 2008 and getting to know then-president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
“It was very important,” Lacob said. “Boston was an experience for me, as a limited partner, to get to see how an NBA team ran, upfront, in person, and real.”
Payton on Tuesday was named winner of the NBA’s Bob Lanier Community Assist Award for his support of youth in the Bay Area over the course of the season … Some win-loss records of note: The Celtics are 6-2 against the Warriors in their last eight regular-season meetings. The Warriors are 9-0 at the Chase Center this postseason. The Celtics are 7-2 on the road this postseason … The Warriors are 19-1, regular season and playoffs, when Green makes at least one 3-pointer.