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January 22, 2023

Image for article titled Celtics Can Win Title, But Won't If They Keep Allowing These 3rd Quarter Runs

Photo: Getty Images

The first two games of the NBA Finals were played much more evenly than the final scores show. The teams alternated two-point halftime leads, but a few second-half points put the game beyond the reach of the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 and the Boston Celtics in Game 2. he team that is closest to being down 0-2 is the Celtics. They won Game 1 by 12 after going on a fourth-quarter streak in which they made five straight 3-point shots.

In the third quarters, the Warriors would start with one of their signature runs, but the Celtics would close the gap each time. In Game 1, they answered a few Golden State lines that would have been backbreakers with their own lines before the fourth quarter onslaught. Around the same time in Game 2, the Celtics cut the lead to six, but this time the Warriors made another run that would have taken them to 19 after just over a minute of action in the game. fourth quarter.

Even though the Celtics were able to hang around long enough to win Game 1, they won’t be able to rely on another shooting display like Game 1. It would be better for them in those next two home games if they didn’t have to. get out of a deficit. For this to happen, they need to make a few changes.

Hold on to the glass

The Warriors have better rebounders than the Celtics. Kevon Looney did his best Dennis Rodman impersonation since Game 6 of the Grizzlies series. While Looney has been a bull, they have to hold everyone back, especially on the offensive boards. The Warriors had five offensive rebounds in the third quarter of Game 1 and four in Game 2.

Three of those third-quarter offensive rebounds came from Andrew Wiggins. The Celtics only play him twice a year, so they shouldn’t be used to the guy from the Minnesota Timberwolves. They’ve had a week to watch the tape and see that he’s committed to every game now. Even on one play in Game 1, he didn’t get the offensive tip, but the fact that he smashed the glass drew an offensive foul. Wiggins is a monster athlete, but unless he’s jumping over a player like a dunk contest, he needs to be kept out of the offensive glass.

If you’re going to turn the buck, don’t do it in bunches

These are two teams that turn the ball quite a bit. The Celtics only committed one more turnovers than the Warriors in Game 2, but it was when those turnovers happened that the problem arose. With just under four minutes remaining in the third, the Celtics had cut the Warriors’ lead to six points. Otto Porter Jr. responded with a three. Al Horford then mustered a Marcus Smart by missing three but then dribbled through traffic twice. He couldn’t get away with it the second time and forced a bad pass to a cutting Grant Williams just beside him on the backline which was taken out. Next possession, the Warriors hit a miss from Tatum out of bounds. Derrick White collects the ball on the corner and is called to travel while making a simple chest pass to Horford. Stephen Curry buries a three and they quickly go from six to 14.

In Game 1, the Celtics turned the ball over twice in the first two minutes of the third quarter. Then later, when the Celtics make crucial 3-pointers in a row to end the Warriors’ current run, they turn the ball over on two of their next three possessions. That lead could have easily gone from 11 to 18, but the Celtics were lucky Curry missed a wide-open step back three. Knocking the ball over is one thing, but they need to stop engaging them so close together.

Double curry with intention

Even though Tatum was called for a foul, one of my favorite defensive possessions was four minutes from the end of the third quarter of Game 1. Horford nailed a Looney pick beautifully. He managed to keep Curry in front of him, and eventually forced Looney out of the game – keeping him from an easy field goal and Tatum fought his way back. That’s the only way to put a stick in the Warriors’ offensive radius: stay in front of Curry.

The Warriors are picking and rolling with him more than they usually do and it’s killing the Celtics. At the start of the first game, the big one kept falling when Curry came out of the pick because, I dunno, they accidentally mistook him for Rajon Rondo? The Celtics rallied in the second half, but made the same mistake in the third quarter of Game 2. Draymond Green should have been penalized for an offensive foul on this game for blocking Williams, White, Horford as Kyle Juszczyk. Still, White and Horford waited too long to task Curry with being so close to each other, giving Green time to make contact with all three players. Curry buried an open three, and the next possession went 30 feet out. If it takes a fistfight with Green and Looney to stay ahead of Curry, so be it, especially at home. But they can’t let it roll early with a clean look.

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