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Running out of gas: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Warriors NBA Finals Game 5

Golden State pushed Boston to the brink of elimination with a Game 5 win

2022 NBA Finals - Game Five Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

1. I try very hard to make the Takeaways impersonal. They aren’t about me; they are about the game. The goal is to tell you what I saw, but to keep them as emotionless as possible.

Off the top: I’m probably going to fail you in that goal today.

Maybe it’s because the Boston Celtics have played 105 games and there isn’t a whole lot left to say that’s new or hasn’t been said.

Many of the Celtics players seem worn out, and quite frankly, I think your writer here is too.

This is the longest season any of these players have ever experienced. It’s been close to non-stop since the bubble in 2020. Shortened, chaotic offseasons followed by compact, COVID-impacted regular seasons.

When Jayson Tatum tossed up an airball in the fourth quarter, I sighed in exasperation, like probably most everyone reading this. Later, during postgame, I said to myself “Tatum looks tired.”

In the 2020 bubble, Tatum played a league-leading 40.6 minutes per game in the playoffs.

The last two regular seasons, he’s set and reset a career-high in minutes per game. In these playoffs, Tatum is at 41 minutes per game in 23 games.

Oh, and he played a major role in Team USA winning the gold at the 2021 Olympic Games this past summer.

And, Tatum had a case of long COVID thrown in there too.

Simply put: Jayson Tatum looks like he could use a break.

Before you say “Tatum is 24 years old. I don’t want to hear it.”, think back to where you were at 24. Probably early in your career and struggling some days to find the energy to attack the day. Being an athlete and making millions of dollars doesn’t really change that. We all get tired sometimes.

Most of all, this was a long way to say: I think I’m just tired and don’t blame anyone on the Celtics if they are too.

2. There are countless articles on the site already about turnovers. We won’t spend a long time here, but it’s clearly a mess. The killers are the live-ball giveaways. It’s not really this way, but each one of those seems like it results in the Golden State Warriors getting a wide-open shot at the other end.

In a game where the Warriors didn’t grab many offensive rebounds (four), they still managed to get up 13 more shots than the Celtics did. Some of that is related to Boston taking way more free throws, but a 18-7 turnover margin certainly doesn’t help things any.

3. In a game that finished as a 10-point loss, the Celtics missed 10 free throws. Now, it wasn’t really a 10-point game. The Warriors were up 16 and cruising when both sides emptied the benches.

But going 21-of-31 from the line (67.7%) is baffling for a team that was a great free throw shooting team in the regular season. Boston was second-best in the NBA at the charity stripe at 81.6% as a team. No regular rotation player hit under 72%.

All of the other issues you could see coming if you looked deep enough. They had been problems at various points in the year. The poor free throw shooting is truly a mystery.

4. For the first time in the NBA Finals, the Celtics looked like the 2022 version of themselves that came out of the locker room and dominated teams in the third quarter. Well…for almost 11 minutes of the third quarter, that is.

Boston was up 71-67 when Marcus Smart split a pair of free throws with 1:38 to play in the third period.

When Jordan Poole threw in a buzzer-beating prayer, the Warriors hit the fourth quarter up 75-74.

No, 8-3 isn’t really any sort of major run…until it is. And this was one of those times. After Boston had taken control of the game, Golden State snatched back the momentum in the span of a minute-and-a-half.

5. The fourth quarter was a complete and utter disaster. There’s really no other way to put it.

After taking a 74-72 lead on a Jaylen Brown and-1 before the Jordan Poole heave, the Celtics fell apart.

They didn’t score again until nearly four minutes had passed. The Warriors ripped off a 13-0 run by that point and the game felt like it was over.

All total, in the first 8:33 of the fourth quarter, Boston made one basket and scored five total points.

Five points in eight-and-a-half minutes.

Here’s the Celtics possessions during that stretch:

· Tatum missed layup

· White missed three

· White missed three

· Smart missed layup

· Tatum turnover

· Smart turnover

· Brown missed three

· Brown made layup

· Tatum made 2-of-2 free throws

· Brown turnover

· Brown turnover

· Brown missed layup

· Tatum missed jumper

· Brown made 1-of-2 free throws

· Tatum made 0-of-2 free throws

· Brown missed three

· Tatum missed jumper

The Celtics two stars combined to shoot 1-of-7 from the field and 3-of-6 from the free throw line with three turnovers during that stretch.

6. Semi-related to the above: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown looked exhausted in the fourth quarter. Neither had any sort of lift on their jumper and the burst to drive by players wasn’t there.

Tatum played 21:44 of the first half. Brown was right behind him at 21:22. Both played the entire second quarter. Both then played the entire third quarter. Then both played 10:41 of the fourth quarter, only coming out when Ime Udoka emptied the bench with 1:19 to play.

It’s not so much that Tatum and Brown both played 44 minutes. It’s how they played those 44 minutes. There wasn’t even so much as a short rest for either of them after the first quarter.

Yes, there are longer timeouts, but those aren’t enough time to get any sort of meaningful rest.

Compare this approach to the Warriors. Stephen Curry almost always plays the entirety of the first and third quarters. Then he sits for the start of the second and fourth quarters. Almost no matter how the game is going, Steve Kerr sticks to this pattern.

Ime Udoka has to find a way to get Tatum and Brown more in-game rest. If not, they won’t have enough left to close out the fourth quarter.

7. Very related to the above: What happened to the Celtics bench?

Payton Pritchard played 4:41 bridging the first and second quarters, missed three three-pointers and was never seen again.

Grant Williams was a -18 in 16 minutes.

Derrick White went 0-for-4 from the floor and was overpowered several times by Andrew Wiggins on drives to the basket.

The lack of production from the bench was a big reason Ime Udoka had to push minutes so hard for his starters. In addition to Tatum and Brown logging over 44 minutes each, here’s the minutes for the other three starters:

· Marcus Smart – 39:42

· Al Horford – 32:51

· Robert Williams – 30:14

The last two are particularly concerning, given Horford’s age and Williams’ current injury situation. Yes, there are two days off before Game 6, but one of those days includes a cross-country flight.

8. Boston got the bad Stephen Curry game. He went 7-for-22 and didn’t make a three-pointer. That snapped a streak of 132 playoff game with at least one triple for Curry, and broke an overall streak of 233 consecutive games with at least one three-pointer.

Some of it was Curry was due for a stinker after being lights-out in Games 1-4. Some of it was the Celtics defense.

The bigs were up higher than ever. The Celtics also threw a few blitzes and traps at Curry too. They seemingly did a good job keeping him from finding a rhythm and limiting his open looks.

Boston has to try to repeat that performance in Game 6. But this is Stephen Curry. Losing the “Bad Curry” game is such a killer, because there is no guarantee you’ll get another one.

9. Maybe it’s because it was Game 105, it’s easy to forget that none of the Celtics have been here before. Even venerable veteran Al Horford is playing deeper into a season than he ever has before. Ime Udoka has been to the NBA Finals before, but that was as an assistant coach.

On the other side, the Warriors entire core group of Steve Kerr, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney and Draymond Green have all been here.

When things go sideways, the Warriors take a deep breath, exhale and get back at it.

When things go sideways for the Celtics, they complain, argue and start looking for someone to save the day.

In many ways, that’s the difference in this series. The Warriors never looked panicked, even when they look bad. When Boston looks bad, they panic.

10. Team Resiliency really needs to dig deep and find it now.

As bad as it feels now that the Boston Celtics have finally lost two consecutive playoff games, it’s not over yet.

Every person who took the podium following Game 5 was some version of disappointed, angry or a combination of the two. But each of them was also confident.

That confidence served the Celtics well when they were down 3-2 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round.

That confidence served the Celtics well when they lost Game 6 at home to the Miami Heat and had to win a Game 7 on the road.

Yes, the Celtics are down, but they aren’t out. There’s a Game 106 to come, and with a good night, there will be a Game 107 too.

The 2022 Boston Celtics aren’t dead yet.

Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals is in Boston on Thursday, June 16 at 9:00 PM ET.

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