With about four and a half minutes left in the third quarter on Sunday, Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum swept an open 3 to cut their deficit to six points. It was a clean look of a simple pick-and-roll, scrapped because the Golden State Warriors messed up their defensive coverage. As soon as he walked in, the show cut to Warriors coach Steve Kerr telling Andrew Wiggins he was supposed to be higher:
You don’t let Tatum get into the open 3. This piece, however, was an anomaly. That was about the only easy points Boston scored in the third quarter.
It also represented the last significant basket made by Boston. The Warriors went 25-2 immediately after. When the Celtics retired their starters with 10:45 left in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, they had scored 82.1 points per 100 possessions. Their offense was nowhere near as fluid as when they dominated Thursday’s opener.
Al Horford, who scored 26 points Thursday on 9-for-12 shooting, including 6-for-8 3-pointers, managed just two runs and didn’t attempt a single 3-pointer. Marcus Smart scored two points, returned the ball five times and missed all three of his 3-point attempts. Tatum scored 28 points on 8-for-19 shooting, rebounding from a tough night of shooting, but his assist total fell from 13 to three.
“It’s tough to get an open shot out there, and it’s supposed to be tough,” Kerr said, Golden State tied the series with a 107-88 win. “Game 1 was too easy for Boston with the looks they were getting in that fourth quarter.”
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On the first possession, Draymond Green tied Al Horford behind the 3-point line, forcing a jump ball. On the Warriors’ next defensive possession, Klay Thompson picked up Horford and Green picked up Jaylen Brown, a setup they used for much of the game. However, Green played down the clashes and any disruption he caused individually, saying they collectively made an “attitude adjustment”.
“I thought everyone was more engaged,” Kerr said. “It was pretty obvious, just our strength level and our physique got a little bumped up, and it had to be. What Boston did in the second half, you know, in the fourth quarter the other night, we knew that we needed to come in with a much better focus and a sense of aggression, and I thought that started right from the start. Draymond played a huge role in that.
Golden State put the game aside by going wild for 12 minutes in the second half, in which they beat the Celtics 41-12. Several Warriors, however, pointed out that it was possible due to the way the game started.
“We just tried to take out some of their easy looks early on,” Kevon Looney said. “The last game they were really comfortable. They got into a rhythm. I think Marcus Smart put a lot of rim pressure the last game, and Brown and Tatum put a lot of rim pressure and they managed to send him off to the shooters. We did a better job controlling the ball at the attacking point and in turn we were able to limit their attempts to 3 points and prevent Horford and Smart from having open eyes .
Boston turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, and nine of those were live turnovers. Tatum and Brown accounted for 36 of the Celtics’ 50 points before halftime, and Derrick White was their only teammate to make more than one field goal.
“The offense wasn’t as crisp with ball movement and passing,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said.
When Golden State’s defense is at its best, it seems to be one step ahead of the offense at all times. By the time Horford arrives with the ball on that early third-quarter possession, Looney has already turned to him and Wiggins has turned to Robert Williams III:
In another third-quarter stoppage, every warrior on the court contributes: Wiggins pressures Tatum nearly halfway up the court, then navigates two screens; Gary Payton II comes out two feet from the 3-point line on the Tatum-Horford pick-and-roll, then pressures Horford and passes to Derrick White; Curry fights on a screen then runs over Horford, moves his feet and gets a deflection; Green contests Smart’s 3 and almost takes the ball away from Horford; Otto Porter Jr. doubles Horford and finds the loose ball:
Payton, who played 25 minutes in his opener due to a broken elbow he suffered the first week of May in Game 2 of the second round, said Golden State was “a bit soft in the game.” first game”. Green said “everyone played harder”, at every level. The Warriors had the second-best defense in the NBA during the regular season, and they brought out Boston’s worst qualities. The Celtics can be rushed and sloppy against physical perimeter defense, and when they don’t take care of the ball, their problems can snowball.
Udoka said the team needed to be stronger on the ball and stop looking for fouls when attacking the basket, points he scored after most of Boston’s playoff losses. Horford said the Celtics need to “play at our pace, make sure we drive the ball, drive and kick.” They’re both absolutely right, but it’s hard to do all of that with Wiggins and Payton applying pressure on the perimeter, Green wandering everywhere and everyone moving on a chain.
Over the course of two games, both teams have had streaks in which the opposing offense stagnates, takes hard hits and gives them scoring opportunities in transition. After completely losing control in Game 1, Golden State held steady by piling saves on top of saves.
“Against a team like that, you can’t let go of the throttle,” Green said. “All they need to see is a shot, and that can set off a domino effect.”
That’s the spirit Green wants to continue with the series moving to Boston. The matchup advantages the Celtics exploited a few days ago haven’t gone away, and they’ve bounced back from much worse in these playoffs. In Game 3, they’re going to do everything in their power to be sharper, so the Warriors need to be sharper too.
“It’s not going to get easier, it’s only going to get harder,” Green said. “I need to step this up a few notches.”