The Celtics look to once again bounce back after a loss as they take on the Warriors on the road. The Warriors tied the series at 2 games each when they beat the Celtics 107-97 in Boston in Game 4. So far in these playoffs, neither team has lost two games in a row. The Celtics have bounced back after a loss every time and hopefully can do that once again in this game.
The Warriors are 10-1 in the playoffs. Their one loss was to the Celtics in Game 1 of the Finals. The Celtics are 8-3 on the road in the playoffs. They lost Game 1 to the Heat in Miami and they lost Game 3 to the Bucks in Milwaukee. They also lost Game 2 to the Warriors in San Francisco. Their biggest road win was Game 7 in Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Entering Game 4, the Celtics were up 2-1 in the series and 79.9% of teams that are up 2-1 win the series 79.9% of the time. When teams go into Game 5 of the Finals tied at 2 games each, the team that wins Game 5 goes on to win the series 82.1% of the time. Currently, after losing Game 4, the Celtics are given just a 44% to win the Championship. Last year’s champion Bucks won Game 5 on the road and then won the series in Game 6 at home. This game is very close to a must win for the Celtics.
Robert Williams is once again listed as questionable for this game. He has played through his knee injury during the first four games of the series, but he tweaked his knee in Game 4. Ime Udoka said Sunday that he’s optimistic that Timelord will be available for this game. He will test the knee during shoot around on Monday and his status will be a game time decision.
For Golden State, Otto Porter, Jr. (foot) is listed as questionable. Porter came off the bench in the first three games but started Game 4 in place of Kevon Looney. He played just 14 minutes, which is the fewest minutes that he has played in the series. I’m guessing that Kerr goes back to his original starting 5, but he may once again choose to start Porter. Andre Iguodala (back) is also questionable. James Wiseman (knee) remains 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
Gary Payton II
James Wiseman (knee) out
Andre Iguodala (back) questionable
Otto Porter, Jr (foot) questionable
Marcus Smart vs Stephen Curry
Curry is coming off a 43 point game and is averaging 34.2 points in the series. He is shooting 49.8% from the field and 49.1% from beyond the arc. The Celtics have to find some way to slow him down and keep him from willing the Warriors to another win. Marcus Smart has done a good job when he has defended Curry but with the Celtics switching defense, everyone must step up and defend better.
Jaylen Brown vs Klay Thompson
Thompson has struggled somewhat in the Finals, but he is coming off a game where he scored 18 points on 41.2% shooting from the field and 40% on 3’s. He hit some big shots along with playing good defense. The Celtics will need a big game from Brown on both ends of the court if they are going to win this game.
Jayson Tatum vs Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins has been coming into his own this season and especially in the playoffs. In Game 4, he finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Jayson Tatum has struggled in the series so far. He is shooting 34.1% from the field, which is the lowest of any player with 20+ attempts in a Finals series ever. Also, he is 4 turnovers short of setting a record for the most turnovers in a playoffs run. He has vowed to be better and the Celtics will need him to be better, especially taking care of the ball.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to winning every single game, 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. In Game 4, they let up on defense in the 4th quarter. The Celtics must play tough lock down defense for all 4 quarters of this game. They can’t afford to let up even for a short time.
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. 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. The Celtics have more size and athleticism than the Warriors and if they lose the rebounding battle, it will be a matter of not putting out enough effort. 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 allowed the Warriors to out-rebound them by 13 in Game 4. They can’t allow that in this game if they want to win. They have to work harder for every rebound than the Warriors.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team from start to finish. They need to be aggressive in going to the hoop, in crashing the boards, in fighting for loose balls and in running the court. They also have to be more aggressive on defense. They have to be the team that wants it more. Effort and being more aggressive will likely be the difference in this game. They need to play all 4 quarters like it’s the final quarter of Game 7.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics once again turned the ball over too much in Game 4. The Warriors scored 19 points off of 17 Celtics turnovers. The Warriors have scored 52 points off 35 Celtics turnovers in their 2 wins but just 29 points off 15 turnovers in their 2 losses. The Celtics must stay focused and make careful passes and also focus on handling the ball and avoid dribbling into a crowd. The Celtics have to take care of the ball. If they limit their turnovers, they have a good chance of winning the game.
Focus on Playing the Right Way - The Celtics have to stay focused and play the right way. They have to move the ball and move without the ball to get the best shots. They can’t lapse into hero ball for any period of time during the game. They have to stay focused and they have to drive into the paint, especially if their 3’s aren’t falling. Most of all, they need to stay focused for all 4 quarters and not let up for 48 minutes.
On the Road - The Celtics are once again on the road and both teams had to travel on their off day. The Celtics need to shake off the distractions of travel, being away from home, and playing on the road in front of a hostile crowd, not to mention against a very good Warriors team that plays tough at home. The Celtics have played very well on the road so far in the playoffs, going 8-3 on the road, including winning Game 1 in this series. They need to continue to focus on playing the right way and not on the distractions of playing on the road.
Coaching and Adjustments - Steve Kerr is experienced in playoff basketball and has won Championships with this Warriors team. Ime Udoka is a rookie coach but has been out-coaching more experienced coaches throughout these playoffs. Kerr is going to make adjustments to try to give the Warriors an advantage in this game and it will be up to Ime to counter those adjustments. Ime won the first game by adjusting in game. Which coach will come out on top in this game?
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. 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 like they did in Game 2 in the Chase Center.
Marc Davis, the crew chief, worked Game 1 of the Finals, which was a Celtics victory. However, Tony Brothers and Josh Tiven worked Game 2, which was the worst officiated game of the playoffs and tilted heavily in the Warriors’ direction. The Celtics are 7-15 in postseason games officiated by Brothers. They are 2-6 in games officiated by Tiven. The Warriors are 12-8 in games called by Brothers and 7-1 when Tiven is on the crew. With Davis, the Celtics are 13-11, including Game 1 of this series, and the Warriors are 14-7.
According to our friends at DraftKings, the Celtics are 3.5-point underdogs on the road heading into Game 5 against the Warriors. Four games into the series, there are some constants that seem increasingly reliable.
Boston has been able to more or less contained Golden State’s explosive offense. Despite Steph Curry having a Finals for the ages averaging 34 points on nearly 50-50-90 splits, the Celtics have held the Warriors between 100 and 108 points. It’s been their offense that has swung wildly between 88 to 120 points.
We’ve seen superstar-making turns from Jayson Tatum during Boston’s run of the Eastern Conference (see Game 6 vs. the Bucks or Game 3 in Brooklyn), but he hasn’t broken through in The Finals yet. He acted as a distributor in Boston’s wins and had inefficient scoring nights in their losses. Could Game 5 finally be a turning point? If you’re interested in scoring props, DraftKings has Tatum’s scoring over/under at 27.5 and his assist totals at 5.5.
All odds are accurate at the time and date of publishing.