The Celtics can win the title, but won’t if they continue to allow these 3rd quarter runs

The Celtics can win the title, but won’t if they continue to allow these 3rd quarter runs

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The first two games of the NBA Finals have been much more evenly played than the final scores show. The teams alternated two-point halftime leads, but a couple of second-half runs put the game out of reach for both the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 and the Boston Celtics in Game 2. However, the team that is the closest to being down 0-2 is the Celtics. They won Game 1 by 12 after going on a stretch in the fourth quarter in which they made five consecutive 3-point shots.

In both 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 couple of Golden State threes that would’ve been backbreakers with threes of their own prior to the fourth quarter onslaught. Around the same time in Game 2, the Celtics cut the lead to six, but this time the Warriors went on another run that would have them up 19 after just over one minute of fourth quarter action.

Even though the Celtics were able to hang around long enough to win the first game, they won’t be able to count on another shooting display like Game 1. It would be best for them in these next two games at home to not have to fight their way out of a deficit. For that to happen they need to make some changes.

Hold their own on the glass

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

Three of those third quarter offensive rebounds have come from Andrew Wiggins. The Celtics have only played him twice a year so they shouldn’t be used to the guy from the Minnesota Timberwolves. They had a week to watch tape and see that he is engaged on every play now. Even on one play in Game 1, he didn’t get the offensive board but him crashing the glass drew an offensive foul. Wiggins is a freak athlete, but unless he’s jumping clear over a player like a dunk contest, he has to be kept off of the offensive glass

If you’re going to turn the ball over, don’t do so in bunches

These are two teams that turn the ball over quite a bit. The Celtics only committed one more turnover than the Warriors did in Game 2 but it’s when those turnovers occurred that was the problem. At just under four minutes remaining in the third the Celtics had cut the Warriors’ lead to six points. Otto Porter Jr. answered with a three. Al Horford then corralled a Marcus Smart missed three but then dribbled into traffic twice. He couldn’t get out of trouble the second time and forced a bad pass to a cutting Grant Williams right next to him on the baseline which was picked off. Next possession, Warriors knock a Tatum miss out of bounds. Derrick White gets the ball on the corner, and is called for traveling while making a simple chest pass to Horford. Stephen Curry buries a three and that quick they go from down six to down 14.

In Game 1 the Celtics turned the ball over twice in the first two minutes of play in the third quarter. Then later, when the Celtics make crucial 3-pointers back-to-back to put a halt to a Warriors’ run in progress, they turn the ball over on the two of their next three possessions. That lead could’ve easily jumped from 11 to 18, but the Celtics were fortunate that Curry missed a wide open step back three. Turning the ball over is one thing, but they have to stop committing them so close together.

Double Curry with intent

Even though Tatum got called for a foul, one of my favorite defensive possessions was with four minutes remaining in the third quarter in Game 1. Horford switched beautifully off a Looney pick. He was able to keep Curry in front of him, and still eventually force Looney out of the play — keeping him from an easy basket and Tatum fought to get back. It’s the only way to get a stick in the spoke of the Warriors’ offense: stay in Curry’s face.

The Warriors are running more pick and roll with him than they usually do and it’s killing the Celtics. Early in Game 1 the big kept dropping when Curry would come off the pick because, I don’t know, they accidentally mistook him for Rajon Rondo? The Celtics got it together in the second half, but made the same mistake in the third quarter of Game 2. Draymond Green should’ve been called for an offensive foul on this play for running blocking Williams, White, Horford like Kyle Juszczyk. Still though, White and Horford waited too long to charge up to Curry to be standing that close together, giving Green time to make contact with all three players. Curry buried an open three, and the next possession pulled up from 30 feet. If it takes a fist fight with Green and Looney to stay in front of Curry so be it, especially at home. But they cannot let him get rolling early with clean looks.

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.