During the third quarter and with just four-and-a-half minutes remaining, Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum, made a smooth three-pointer, cutting the deficit to six points. This happened when the Golden State Warriors let down their defense. As soon as Tatum’s shot swished, Warriors coach Steve Kerr got off from the bench and signaled to Andrew Wiggins, telling him that he was supposed to be higher up.
True, you don’t just let Tatum leave unguarded for those open 3s. However, this was the only moment that Boston was able to take easy points during the third quarter and also the last meaningful field goal that the Celtics made. For the rest of the night, the Warriors were able to lock up the Celtics and proceeded to take Game 2 of the finals.
After that field goal, the Warriors immediately went on a 25-2 run. With only 10:45 left in Game 2 and Boston pulling their starters, they have 82.1 points per 100 possessions. Compared to what they displayed in Game 1, the Celtics’ offense here was nowhere as smooth, especially when they were dominating down the stretch.
Al Hortford scored just two points and didn’t attempt a single 3-pointer, a far cry from the 26 points on 9-for-12 shooting (including 6-for-8 from 3-point range) that he made during Game 1. It was also just two points for Marcus Smart, and he also turned the ball over five times and missed all three of his 3-point attempts.
As for Tatum, he scored 28 points on 8-for-19 shooting, making up for a rough shooting night, but his total number of assists dropped from 13 to three.
With Golden State leveling the series with their 107-88 win, Kerr said: “It’s hard to get an open shot out there, and it’s supposed to be difficult. Game 1 was too easy for Boston with the looks they were getting in that fourth quarter.”
Draymond Green tied up Al Horford behind the 3-point line on the first possession, thus forcing a jump ball. On the Warriors’ next defensive possession, Klay Thompson picked up Green and Horford and took Jaylen Brown. They used this setup for the majority part of the game.
Green, saying that they collectively made an “attitude adjustment,” downplayed the matchups and all the disruption that he made individually.
“I thought everybody was more engaged.It was pretty obvious, just our level of force and physicality was ramped up quite a bit, and it had to be. What Boston did in the second half, you know, fourth quarter the other night, we knew we had to come with a much better focus and sense of aggression, and I thought that started right from the beginning. Draymond played a huge role in that,” Kerr added.
By going on a 12-minute rampage during the second half, the Warriors were able to put the game away, outscoring the Celtics 41-12. However, some of the Warriors players emphasized that this happened because of the way the game started.
Kevon Looney explained: “We just tried to take away some of their easy looks early. Last game they got real comfortable. They got into a rhythm. I think Marcus Smart put a lot of pressure on the rim the last game, and Brown and Tatum put a lot of pressure on the rim and they were able to kick it out to shooters. We did a better job controlling the ball at the point of attack and in turn were able to limit their 3-point attempts and keep Horford and Smart from getting wide-open looks.”
During the first half, Boston turned the ball over 11 times, with nine of them being live-ball turnovers. Brown and Tatum put together 35 points of Boston’s 50 points prior to halftime. Also, Derrick White was the only one in the team who had made more than one field goal.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka said, “The offense wasn’t as crisp with the ball movement and passing.”
When Golden State shows their best defense, it looks like they will be a step ahead of the offense everytime. They had the second-best defense in the league during the regular season, and they brought out the worst qualities of the Celtics, who can get sped up and careless against physical perimeter defense.
The Celtics needed to be stronger with the ball and stop looking for fouls when attacking the basket, according to Udoka, in reference to most of the team’s playoff losses.
Both teams have enjoyed stretches through the two games in which the opposing offense weakens, takes tough shots, and opens up opportunities to score in transition. The Golden State stayed steady by stacking stops on top of stops after completely losing control in Game 1.
Green said, “Against a team like that, you can’t let your foot off the gas pedal. All they need to see is one shot go in, and it can start a domino effect.”
He wants to keep this mindset moving forward into the series, which will shift to Boston. The Celtics exploited matchup advantages a few days ago and they have not disappeared. The team has bounced back from much worse situations during the playoffs. They are going to do everything in their power to be sharper for Game 3.
Green said, “It’s not going to get any easier, it’s only going to get tougher. Have to take that up another couple notches.”