The series continues in Boston as the Celtics host the Golden State Warriors for Game 4 of the NBA Finals. The Celtics enter this game with a 2-1 series lead after a convincing 116-100 win in Game 3 on Wednesday. The Celtics won Game 1 120-108 in San Francisco but then lost Game 2 107-88 also in San Francisco.
There have been 2 days between Game 1 and Game 2 and between Game 2 and Game 3 in these Finals, which has been good for both teams with various players banged up and playing through injuries. There is just one day between Games 3 and 4, however. The lack of the extra recovery day could affect a few of the players who are playing though injuries.
Historical precedent indicates that the Celtics are in a good place. Teams that win Game 3 when the series is tied at 1-1 go on to win the series 82% of the time. All time, 566 teams have gone up 2-1 in playoff series. Of those, 452 teams, or 79.9% went on to win the series. 114 teams, or 20.1% of the teams, lost the series after going up 2-1.
Of those 566 series, 61 of those were NBA Finals series. Of the 61 teams with a 2-1 lead in the Finals, 49 of the teams (80.3%) went on to win the series. There were 12 teams (19.7%) that lost their series in the Finals after leading 2-1. If the Celtics can manage to win Game 4 and go up 3-1, they would have a 95.2% chance of winning the series. Only 13 of 258 teams have come back from a 1-3 deficit to win an NBA series.
Robert Williams had one of his best game of the playoffs in Game 3, finishing with 8 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 blocks and he controlled the paint throughout. He has been questionable for each of the games so far as the Celtics manage swelling in his surgically repaired knee. He is once again questionable for this game. He won’t have the extra day off to recover, so hopefully he will be able to play and be effective once again. Marcus Smart (ankle,foot, quad) and Jayson Tatum (shoulder) have also been playing through injury and may be affected by the quicker turnaround.
Stephen Curry appeared to injure ankle with just 4 minutes to go in the game when he ended up on the bottom of a pile of players going after a loose ball. He is listed as probable and said that he plans to play. Andre Iguodala missed Game 2 but played 2 minutes in Game 3 after Draymond Green fouled out. He is expected to be available for this game. Otto Porter, Jr. (foot) is also listed as questionable but is expected to play. James Wiseman (knee) is out.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
Robert Williams III (knee) questionable
Probable Warriors Starters
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Draymond Green
C: Kevon Looney
Otto Porter, Jr
Gary Payton II
James Wiseman (knee) out
Andre Iguodala (back) questionable
Stephen Curry (foot) questionable
Otto Porter, Jr (foot) questionable
Marcus Smart vs Stephen Curry
Curry is averaging 31.3 points, 5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.7 steals per game in the Finals so far. In Game 3, he finished with 31 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. He shot 54.5% from the field and 54.5% from beyond the arc. Marcus Smart finished Game 3 with 24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 blocks. The Celtics need another big game from Smart and they need to find a way to slow down Stephen Curry.
Jaylen Brown vs Klay Thompson
Thompson made it back on the court for the Warriors this season after missing the previous 2 years with injuries. He struggled somewhat in Games 1 and 2 and found his stroke in Game 3 with 25 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal. He shot 41.2% from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc. Jaylen Brown started Game 3 with 17 points in the first quarter. He was very physical and rebounded and passed the ball very well. He shot 56.3% from the field and 50.0% from beyond the arc. The Celtics will need another strong game from Jaylen and hopefully they can slow Klay down once again.
Jayson Tatum vs Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins had 18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in Game 3. He shot 43.8% from the field but just 16.7% from beyond the arc. Jayson Tatum had another strong game as both a scorer and playmaker. He finished with 26 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists and 1 steal. He shot 39.1% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need Tatum to once again look to get his teammates involved and also to drive into the paint as he has a size and strength advantage and can either score or get to the line.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to winning every single game, especially in the playoffs and especially in this series. The Celtics must guard the perimeter as the Warriors are shooting 38.3% on threes as a team. The Celtics clamped down on defense in the 4th quarter of Game 1 and held the Warriors to just 16 points in the quarter. The Celtics allowed too many easy shots for the Warriors in Game 2, especially in the 3rd quarter. In Game 3, they once again clamped down on defense and this time held the Warriors to 11 points in the 4th quarter. The Celtics must play tough lock down defense like they have in the 4th quarters of Game 1 and 3. Defense will win this game and this series.
Rebound - Rebounding is always a key to winning as you need the ball to score and a good way to get it is to rebound the ball. The Celtics are 36-5 when they out rebound their opponents by 5 or more. It takes effort to grab rebounds and the Celtics must make an extra effort to crash the boards and beat the Warriors to rebounds, especially on the offensive end. In Game 3, the Celtics out-rebounded the Warriors 47-31 and 15-6 on the offensive end. If they put out extra effort on the boards, that usually carries through to the rest of their game. More rebounds gives them extra possessions and limits the possessions for the Warriors. They have to work harder on the boards than the Warriors.
Intensity and Urgency - The Celtics have not lost 2 games in a row in the playoffs. In fact, they have lost back to back games just once since January 23. That is 1 time in 54 games. But, the Warriors have not lost back to back games in the playoffs either. So, the Celtics can’t afford to let up after winning Game 3 because the Warriors are going to come out with urgency to avoid a 1-3 hole. The Celtics need to come out with the same intensity and urgency that they did in Game 3. It’s time for them to make things easier and win two in a row instead of letting down after a big win. If they play the way they did in Game 3 in this game, it should be another win.
Move the Ball - The Celtics need to move the ball. The Celtics had 33 assists on 43 baskets in the Game 1 win. They had 28 assists on 43 baskets in their Game 3 win. When they move the ball and find the best shots, they are tough to beat. When they slow things down and play hero ball with players trying to win the game by themselves, they struggle.
Limit Turnovers - The Celtics have to move the ball, but they also have to make careful passes and not turn the ball over. They have to be careful when handling the ball and not dribble into a crowd. The Celtics had just 12 turnovers in each of their wins but 18 turnovers in their Game 2 loss. The Celtics are 0-5 when they turn the ball over 16 or more times. In their losses in the playoffs, they are averaging 16.7 turnovers for 23 points off turnovers. In their wins, they are averaging 12.8 turnovers for just 14.1 points off turnovers. The Celtics must stay focused and take care of the ball.
Attack the Basket - The Celtics forced things in Game 3 and attacked mismatches. They didn’t settle for just 3 pointers but drove to the basket for 52 points in the paint. The smaller Warriors don’t have the same rim protection that the Celtics do and if the Celtics don’t settle for 3’s they can get to the basket and either score or draw a foul. Hitting 3’s are necessary to space the floor but especially if the 3’s aren’t falling, the Celtics need to get inside.
Home Game - The Celtics are 6-4 in these playoffs at home while the Warriors are just 3-6 on the road in these playoffs. Both teams have had just 1 day off and neither team had to travel. However, the Warriors are away from family and home and have the distractions of staying in a hotel and playing in an unfamiliar arena in front of a (very) hostile crowd. Hopefully the Celtics crowd will once again be loud and rowdy. The Celtics need to feed off of the energy of the crowd. They won home court advantage with their win in Game 1. Now they have to use it to their advantage.
Injuries - Injuries could affect one or both of these teams especially with just one day off between games. Robert Williams is questionable and will continue to be day to day. The Celtics clearly are not as good when Robert doesn’t play or when he is limited by knee soreness. Marcus Smart has also been playing through injuries also and the Celtics need him to be close to 100% also. Stephen Curry appeared to injure his ankle at the end of Game 3 and if he isn’t 100%, it would be tough for the Warriors.
Coaching - This series has been a chess match between these two teams so far with the Celtics winning Games 1 and 3 and the Warriors winning Game 2. Both coaches have made adjustments between games and also in game. Will the Celtics come out fired up and play with urgency and intensity or will they come out flat like they did in Game 2? What adjustments can the coaches make to affect the outcome?
Officiating - Officiating always has the potential to be a factor in every game. Every officiating team calls the game differently. Some call it tight and others let them play. Some favor the home team while some call it straight. Game 1 was called pretty evenly and the refs let them play. In game 2, the officiating was terrible. In Game 3, the officiating was again mostly good. However the game is called, the Celtics must adjust to it and not allow the officiating to take away their focus on playing the game. Complaining about calls rarely changes anything other than to take away from their focus on playing the game and sometimes irritate the officials. Hopefully the officials let them play and keep Green’s antics from getting out of hand.
According to our friends at DraftKings, the Celtics are four-point favorites hosting the Warriors in The 2022 NBA Finals. After a resounding Game 3 win at TD Garden on Wednesday, there’s a sense that Boston might have figured out Golden State: limit turnovers, continue to shut them down in the halfcourt, and use Tatum as the conductor of a very talented and diverse orchestra. Even after monster games from Thompson and Curry, they still only mustered 100 points against the best defense in the league.
All odds are accurate at the time and date of publishing.