1. “We don’t do this shit on purpose. I promise you, we don’t.”
Winning a championship is hard. Like, really, really hard. There are no asterisk titles. They all come with their own unique and difficult path.
That said... the best team at beating the Boston Celtics is the Boston Celtics.
Boston had 16 turnovers and allowed 16 offensive rebounds. For all of Stephen Curry’s terrifying brilliance, those are the numbers that cost the Celtics the game. That’s way too many extra shots for Golden State.
And then there was the fourth quarter. In the first three games, Boston has owned the fourth quarter. Not so in Game 4.
With 7:32, following back-to-back steals and scores by Jaylen Brown, the Celtics took a 91-86 lead.
The next Celtics score came over two minutes later when Marcus Smart beat the clock on a three.
The next, next Celtics score game with 1:32 remaining on an Al Horford three-pointer.
In six minutes, Boston scored six points.
A point per minute isn’t going to cut it. Not against the Warriors.
Yet, despite a collapse that resembled the 2021 Celtics that we all thought we bid adieu to at New Years, the series isn’t over.
It’s not 3-1. It’s certainly not 4-0.
Sure, Boston missed a chance, but here’s the thing: They have more chances to come!
If the Celtics can simply play basketball for 48 minutes and not beat themselves, they’ve proven they are the better team. They just can’t give the Warriors anything easy. They are too good, especially Curry, at making you pay for your mistakes.
Here’s another thing: It took an all-time Curry performance, plus Andrew Wiggins grabbing five (FIVE!) more rebounds than his previous regular season or playoff career-high, to squeak out a victory.
So…does it suck that Boston missed a chance to go up 3-1? It sure does. But the series isn’t over. Far from it.
Now, it’s not going to be easy. But it’s not supposed to be easy. The Golden State Warriors aren’t the WARRIORS anymore, but they are still very, very good. Much like the 2010-2012 Boston Celtics, these guys are proud, veteran champions. They aren’t going to give you anything. The Celtics have to take it.
That’s what the Warriors did in Game 4. Boston gave them chances and Golden State took it.
In Game 5 and beyond, the Celtics have to clean up three things more than anything else:
· Turnovers. This one is easy: When Boston turns it over more than 12 or 13 times, they’re going to lose. Eliminating live-ball turnovers is especially key.
· Rebounding. This one is a little harder, especially if Robert Williams is limited at all. Kevon Looney is a master at working the glass. The key, not matter Williams’ status, is all five Celtics have to hit a body and then hit the boards.
· Late-game offense. This one should be easy. Keep pushing the ball. Get into stuff quicker. Hunt mismatches, but do it with 16-to-20 seconds on the clock vs 8-to-10. While hunting, keep moving. No more of the “stand around and watch one guy work” offense”. That’s not the Celtics at their best. Ball and player movement have to be better for the full 48.
A bonus thing: Jayson Tatum has to be better. If he can figure out, and history says he will, and Curry finally comes back to earth (He’s due for a stinker, right? Right?), then things even out that much more.
No matter what happens in Game 5, the Boston Celtics aren’t done. There’s another game in Boston no matter what. The 2022 NBA Finals are still very much up for grabs.
The Celtics are the most resilient team of recent memory. They’ve lost back-to-back games exactly one time in 2022. And they punted the second game of that set for rest/health purposes.
In the playoffs, when Boston has looked bad one game, they’ve regularly bounced back and looked their best the next game. It’s a roller coaster ride, with equal parts terror and exhilaration.
At this point, all we can do is trust that the Celtics will figure it out. They did in Game 6 in Milwaukee and Game 7 in Boston in the second round. They did in Game 7 in Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals. Why not do it again in the NBA Finals?
Someone is coming back to Boston for Game 6 with a chance to win the 2022 NBA Finals. It might as well be the Celtics.