Year 2 and Year 3 WRs
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What the Golden State Warriors did against the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night was the definition of “response.” After dropping the first game of the series in front of their home fans thanks to an abysmal fourth-quarter performance, the Warriors were well aware that they needed to bounce back quickly, and that’s exactly what they did.
The game was extremely close through the first 24 minutes, but in the third quarter, the Warriors kicked it up a notch and gained some serious separation. Golden State outscored Boston 35-14 in that quarter and they never looked back. They went on to coast to a 107-88 victory, and they tied the series up at 1-1 in the process.
Stephen Curry led the way for Golden State with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Jordan Poole added 17 points off of the bench. As a team, the Warriors forced 18 Boston turnovers and they scored 33 points off of those turnovers. That was a big factor in the outcome.
Jayson Tatum paced the Celtics with 28 points and six rebounds, but his production wasn’t enough as only two other Celtics players scored in double figures. Now, the series shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4. Here are the biggest takeaways from Game 2.
When Boston shot 21-of-45 from behind the arc in Game 1, Draymond Green was less than impressed. “They hit 21 3s and Marcus Smart, Al Horford and Derrick White combined for 15,” Green said. “Those guys are good shooters, but they combined for what…. 15-for-23 from those guys? Eh. We’ll be fine.”
Turns out, he had a point. Green had spent much of Game 1 sagging off of Horford to focus on help-defense, but in Game 2, he set a new tone on the very first possession. Green played Horford so aggressively that he forced a jump-ball.
Boston still managed a hot 10-of-19 start from behind the arc, but finished 3-of-14 in the second half. Horford and Smart combined for 44 points in Game 1. They scored just four in Game 2. In fact, even with garbage time factored in, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown still managed to combine for more than half of Boston’s points (45 of 88). The role players that shot Boston into a Game 1 victory went ice cold in Game 2.
There’s going to be a middle ground here. Boston is better than 3-of-14 from deep and worse than 10-of-19 because every team in NBA history falls somewhere between those two extremes. But aside from White and occasionally Grant Williams, the Warriors were much more aggressive in hounding Boston’s shooters. In that sense, the number of 3-pointers Boston made hardly tells the story here. It’s the fact that the Warriors held the Celtics to 12 fewer attempts (45 vs. 33) in Game 2. The Celtics didn’t have a counter. They couldn’t reach 90 points as a result.
Rotations tend to get smaller and smaller as a playoff series progresses, and tonight was a perfect example of why. The Celtics would love to be able to play four big men. Robert Williams III is playing hurt and Al Horford just turned 36. Anything Daniel Theis could give them would be greatly appreciated. The Celtics managed to get outscored by 12 points in the seven competitive minutes he played in this game. The moment he decided to try to play drop-coverage against Stephen Curry should have been the moment Ime Udoka decided to banish him for the rest of the series.
Steve Kerr’s revelations were forced upon him. Andre Iguodala was ruled out before Game 2 due to knee inflammation. That allowed him to give Gary Payton II, who was a DNP-CD in Game 1, 25 largely meaningful minutes. Not coincidentally, the Celtics committed 18 turnovers in Game 2, five more than they did in Game 1. Statistically, this was a fairly predictable development. The Warriors generated 3.3 more turnovers per 100 possessions during Payton’s regular season minutes than when they played without him. Coincidentally, that is the exact margin between Boston’s playoff wins and losses. The Warriors scored 33 points off of turnovers in Game 2, 18 more than the Celtics. They won the game by 19 points.
The problem with extended Payton minutes is that Boston has little interest in guarding him on the perimeter. Payton makes up for that in other ways. He’s a brilliant cutter and nuclear athlete, but Golden State still needed to inject spacing in other ways, especially considering Green’s limitations as a shooter, so they tried Nemanja Bjelica, whose defensive weaknesses seem to have been greatly overstated. He held his own against Luka Doncic last round and he did just fine against Boston in Game 2.
As it tends to go in the Finals, after two games against one another, the Warriors and Celtics seem to now have a good idea of which players can survive in this series and which ones can’t. Boston seems to have landed on eight: Tatum, Brown, Smart, Horford, White, Pritchard and the two Williamses. Golden State has eight of its own: Curry, Green, Payton, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Kevon Looney, Otto Porter Jr. and Jordan Poole. Bjelica made a compelling argument for slot No. 9 tonight. Iguodala’s track record might give him the edge. But the days of Golden State punishing Theis appear to be over. From this point forward, we’re likely to see only the best players these teams have to offer.
Klay Thompson shot 4-of-19 from the field in Game 2. That’s a tough night but hardly an unusually bad one. Thompson shot below 40 percent from the field in 15 of his 32 regular-season games. He’s throwing up a stinker or two per series this postseason, and even when full-game stat lines look decent, he’ll often need to salvage a miserable first half with a better second one.
This isn’t to say that Thompson is some sort of train wreck. The highs have been just as high as ever. His 32-point outburst to close out the Mavericks was vintage Klay. He’s still averaging nearly 20 points per game in the postseason. But the Warriors are desperate for a second consistent scorer. Jordan Poole isn’t quite there yet and struggled in Game 1. Andrew Wiggins has had a slow start to the Finals. Right now, Curry is generating almost everything on offense for Golden State. Thompson isn’t exactly a high-usage ball-handler, but the offense runs much more smoothly when the Warriors can at least rely on him to make open shots and generate some of his own looks inside of the arc.
He hasn’t been able to against Boston’s stellar defense in the Finals, and thus far in the series, he’s shooting just 30.3 percent from the field. The Warriors might have defended well enough to hold off Boston tonight, but they won’t win three more games with Thompson shooting like this. Their championship hopes rely on the best version of him showing up more often than the worst, but on a night-to-night basis, the Warriors don’t seem to know which one they’re going to get.
After picking up an early technical foul, Draymond Green was right on the line of getting another one during his incident with Jaylen Brown. But despite running the risk of ejection, Green said that his foul situation won’t change how he plays:
“We need that energy anyway. For me to sit back and say, oh, I’m going to push it to this edge and try to pull back, that don’t work. I got to be me.
“So with the first tech, it is what it is. That’s not going to stop me from being aggressive or doing what I do on the basketball court. Just got to live with the results.”
This game was much more physical than Game 1. The Warriors, and Draymond Green in particular, really turned things up a level, which was a big key to their win. He was all over the place on both ends of the ball, causing havoc and occasionally crossing the line — he got one technical and could have had another.
Jayson Tatum said the Celtics were expecting that to happen, and wants his team to clean things up for Game 3. At the same time, he said that he felt the Celtics didn’t get the benefit of the doubt when it came to physicality:
“Yeah, I mean, obviously we know what Draymond brings to the game. I love that about him. Obviously I played with him. We tried to match that. I just kind of felt like we weren’t getting the benefit of the doubt when we were trying to play with that physicality.
“We do got to take better care of the ball. They got a lot of points off that, off our turnovers. That’s something we’ve got to be better for next game because we know throughout the Playoffs, the games that we have high turnovers, we kind of result to a loss. That’s definitely a point of emphasis, taking care of the ball for next game.”
Steph Curry was terrific in Game 2, leading the Warriors to a series-tying win with 29 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Here’s a look at his full highlights from the night:
Steph Curry drained 5 3-pointers on his way to 29 points to lead the @warriors to the Game 2 victory and tie the series at 1-1! #DubNation@StephenCurry30: 29 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST, 3 STL, 5 3PM
Game 3: Wed. 9:00pm/et on ABC 🏆 pic.twitter.com/jLo9c0HVtQ
Klay Thompson had another rough night in Game 2, going 4 of 19 from the field for 11 points. Late in the fourth quarter, when the game was well out of hand, he was still in trying to find a rhythm. While bad shooting games are going to happen, it’s a bit shocking just how much better the Warriors have been without him:
Warriors in Game 2:
Steph + Klay both on: +0 in 18 minutes
Steph on without Klay: +24 in 14 minutes
Klay on without Steph: + 0 in 12 minutes
In the 14 minutes with Curry on the floor without Thompson, the Warriors…
160.0 Off Rating
82.8 Def Rating
+77.2 Net Rating
Al Horford was one of the stars of the Celtics’ Game 1 comeback, finishing with six 3-pointers and 26 points. He didn’t attempt a single 3 in Game 2, and anded with more turnovers (2) than made shots (1). That’s obviously not good enough, and Horford credited the Warriors’ defense while also lamenting the Celtics’ lack of ball movement and turnovers:
“Yeah, for whatever reason, even to your point, the previous series that happened to us. On our wins, we didn’t turn it over; on our losses, we turned it over excessively. It’s something that we’ll have to look at this game individually and just see how we can be better. I know we can prevent a lot of those, and in order for us to be in a better chance of winning, we have to cut those down.”
“I feel like we didn’t move it enough on offense at times. I think that for whatever reason, we got caught playing — going downhill, attacking the basket a little more. They did a good job of staying with me, for example. Obviously I didn’t get an attempt, not even a look. So they did a good job making sure they took me away. I just have to find other ways to impact the game, and that’s something that I’ll do Game 3.”
Early in the game, Draymond Green picked up a technical foul for getting into it with Grant Williams. Later on, he fouled Jaylen Brown on a 3-pointer, and the two got tangled up on the ground. Green had his legs on Brown’s head, and they each had some words for each other.
In another game or situation, the refs likely would have gone the double technical route to cool things down. They didn’t this time, likely because Green already had one technical, and that would have ejected him from the game. Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said he wasn’t surprised the refs let that play go:
“No, I was not surprised there was a double technical not called. Not surprised at all. Due to the circumstances.”
Here’s a look at the incident:
Draymond Green and Jaylen Brown had to be separated after this interaction. pic.twitter.com/pyEdSepMjV
The Warriors broke the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Celtics 35-14. Steph Curry led the way, scoring 14 points to match the Celtics’ entire team. Following the game, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr had high praise for his star:
“Yeah, Steph was breathtaking in that quarter. Not just the shot making but the defensive effort. He just doesn’t get enough credit for his level of conditioning, physicality and defense.”
“People go at him to try to wear him down because they know how important he is to us offensively, and it’s pretty dramatic the difference in Steph’s strength and physicality in his body now than from eight years ago when I first got here. So the guy’s amazing. He just keeps working on his game, his strength, his conditioning year after year, and it’s a pleasure to watch him play every night.”
Jordan Poole finally arrived in the series, and he did it in style by draining a deep 3-pointer to beat the buzzer at the end of the third quarter. He finished the night with five made 3-pointers and 17 points off the bench to give the Warriors a big lift. Here’s a look at his incredible shot in slow motion
Jordan Poole’s Q3 buzzer-beater was a work of art 🎨#PhantomCam #DubNation pic.twitter.com/TvRY2zmaSu
The Celtics in the playoffs are a remarkable 6-0 following a loss. Even more impressive is that three of those wins have come by 20-plus points. This team has come up with a response every single time they’ve needed one in the postseason. Can they do it again in Game 3?
Barring a miraculous run, the Warriors should hold on to win Game 2 and tie the series, one game apiece. Still, Boston’s home-court advantage should give the Celtics a bit of an edge moving forward in the series, though it should be noted that the Celtics actually have a better road record (8-3) than home record (5-4) this postseason. In other words: we’ve got a lot of basketball left to be played in this series.
There’s still eight minutes left, but the Celtics are already over 15 turnovers for the night. That’s been the mark for them in the playoffs. They will move to 1-5 with more than 15 turnovers and 12-2 when they don’t go over that number. The good news for them is that they’ve only had more than 15 turnovers in consecutive games once during the playoffs. Most of the time they regroup the next night and take care of the ball
We’ve touched on this throughout the game and beforehand, but the easiest path to beating Boston is to generate a whole bunch of turnovers. You need easy points against their defense, and turnovers clearly mentally affect their offense. Well, the Warriors have 33 points off of turnovers and the Celtics have 10. Golden State couldn’t have asked for a better response tonight.
The Celtics have come out of the timeout with Aaron Nesmith, Payton Pritchard, Derrick White, Grant Williams and Daniel Theis. Can’t imagine we see any of the starters the rest of the way. Disappointing loss because of the fashion it happened, but the Celtics got the game they needed on the road
Stephen Curry has played 32 of the first 36 minutes. The Warriors are up 23. Under normal circumstances, you’d assume the Warriors would sit Curry for the rest of the night with a win in hand… but three days ago, Boston won the fourth quarter by 24 points. So this is a game of chicken. Can Boston scare the Warriors into putting Curry back on the floor? Or will he get a well-deserved rest and call it a night.
Good god, Jordan Poole just hit a shot from the deep end. Or maybe the ocean. He just pulled up practically from half-court, but the bigger story here is that the shot is falling, period. That’s his third 3 of the night. He hasn’t made a single 2-pointer and has struggled to beat even Payton Pritchard off the dribble. When the shot starts falling, the defense has to respect it more, and that opens up his drive and kick game significantly.
This little Golden State run has been fairly untraditional by Warriors standards. It hasn’t been their typical motion generating good shots for everyone, but rather, Stephen Curry using screens to isolate Boston’s bigs and then fire from deep before they close out. Grant Williams looks too slow to contest him. Daniel Theis just inexplicably dropped.
Marcus Smart just committed his fourth foul on Draymond Green and is headed to the bench. This is critical for the Warriors because, aside from Smart’s on-ball work defensively, Boston has had a ton of success in this series using Smart on Draymond Green so that he could switch onto Golden State’s ball-handlers in pick-and-roll. With Smart sitting, Golden State can engage Green far more comfortably.
Just a reminder… here is where Golden State ranked defensively during the first three championship seasons:
And this season, they ranked 2nd. Yes, when we tell the story of these Warriors, we’re always going to start with their shooting, but defense has been just as central to their success under Steve Kerr. They just held the Celtics to six points in over six minutes. Boston may have the NBA’s best defense this season, but Golden State has had a great one for eight solid years. They’re showing off every trick in their book tonight.
The Celtics have a tendency to lose composure for stretches, and it’s happened again to start the third. They just aren’t sharp right now on either side of the ball. The offense has been rushed and hectic — too many bad shots and decisions. Defensively there’s been too many fouls and momentary lapses. Ime Udoka even picked up a technical foul. They need a response coming out of this timeout or this game is likely over. You aren’t getting two huge comebacks against the Warriors in a row
Look, Stephen Curry scoring 17 points is nothing new. The numbers aren’t going to show what a special game this has been for him. He’s the only Warrior consistently pressuring the Boston defense. His decision-making has been essentially perfect. He’s holding up defensively. It’s not as obvious as his early Game 1 explosion was, but this has truly been a gem for Curry.
Andrew Wiggins just grabbed an offensive rebound, and in the aftermath Jayson Tatum came up holding his shoulder and grimacing. He seemed to be in pain in the first half as well. If you remember, he injured the shoulder during the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat. He hasn’t missed any games, but he clearly hasn’t been 100 percent either, and the problem seems to be getting worse as this game goes along.
It’s been good Klay, bad Klay all year for Golden State, and tonight has certainly been bad Klay. He’s 1-for-8 from the field thus far and has very little burst. This isn’t the old Thompson that was still changing games defensively. No, this version of Klay needs to score to be effective, and too often, we’ve seen him follow one great game with two or three bad ones.
Update: as soon as I publish this he makes a 3. That’s Klay for you.
This season, the Warriors and Celtics were the two best third-quarter teams in the league. The Warriors’ third-quarter differential was +232, while the Celtics’ was +223. In Game 1, the Warriors won the third-quarter battle to jump out to a double digit lead (that they ultimately lost). Who will be able to take control tonight? The next 12 minutes cold decide the game
Jayson Tatum went 3 of 17 from the field in Game 1 in his least efficient game of the postseason. Not so in Game 2, as Tatum has already made five 3s and poured in 21 points in the first half to go with five rebounds and three assists. The only issue for Tatum so far is that he’s been a bit turnover prone with four. He’ll need to take better care of the ball in the second half
Boston easily could have blown this game open in the first quarter. The Celtics are shooting 10-of-19 from 3… and yet it’s the Warriors that are winning at halftime, 52-50. All things considered, Golden State has to be happy with that outcome. Draymond Green predicted after Game 1 that Boston wouldn’t keep shooting that well forever. Well, they have thus far tonight, and it hasn’t mattered.
Here’s what we’re reviewing now: Draymond Green fouled Jaylen Brown on the 3-point shot. That appears to be firm. What we’re looking at here is the exchange after the play in which Green and Brown got into it. It was a heated exchange, but fortunately the situation did not escalate. Keep in mind: Green already has one technical foul. If he picks up a second, he’s gone.
Update: no further penalties on the play.
You could point to any number of factors as possible explanations for Golden State’s 45-40 lead. They’re generating turnovers. They’re pressuring Boston’s shooters more. They’re feeding off of their crowd. But no single numbers does a better job at explaining what’s going right for them than this: the Warriors have made 17 shots and assisted on 14 of them. This is the Warriors are their best, when their “strength in numbers” philosophy shines through and the entire team, and really, the entire building, feels engaged in the run.
Another game, another post praising Derrick White. He continues to be terrific for the Celtics. They’ve regained a bit of control here in the start of the second quarter thanks in large part to White’s play on both ends. He had the huge block on Poole, a couple assists and has scored the Celtics’ last five points. Just awesome stuff from him
The Celtics have tried to maintain a nine-man rotation with Daniel Theis getting some backup center minutes. It’s gone poorly. You’d have to figure that this will be his last extended stretch of the series. But Nemanja Bjelica? He’s played passable defense to go along with his versatile offensive game and strong rebounding. He might just have earned steadier minutes to provide badly needed shooting next to Draymond Green.
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