The Celtics come back home for Game 6 down 2 games to 3 and with their backs against the wall.It is truly win or go home time for the Celtics. The Celtics lost Game 5 in San Francisco when they once again turned the ball over 18 times and missed 10 free throws. They fought back to take the lead in the third quarter, which has been the Warriors strongest quarter but then struggled in the 4th quarter and gave the game away.
The Celtics have been in this spot before. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Celtics were down 2 games to 3 to the Bucks and won Game 6 on the road and Game 7 at home to win the series. They were down 1 game to 2 to the Heat and came back to win that series in 7 games also. They may not have any Finals experience, but they have been in must win close out games before in these playoffs.
The Warriors are 4-6 in these playoffs on the road. The Celtics are 6-5 in these playoffs at home. The Celtics and Warriors split Games 3 and 4 of the Finals in Boston, with the Celtics winning Game 3 and the Warriors winning Game 4. For just the second time since January 23, the Celtics have lost back to back games when they lost Games 4 in Boston and 5 in San Francisco.
We know that the Celtics are capable of beating the Warriors. They have beaten them twice and have looked strong at times in the games they have lost. The Celtics have beaten themselves for the most part by turning the ball over and missing open shots. They also missed 10 free throws in a 10 point loss. They are capable of winning the next two games, but it will take them playing their best basketball and eliminating all the mistakes they have been making.
Robert Williams is once again listed as questionable going into Game 6. He has been questionable for each of the games so far but has been able to play in each one, but has not been 100% for any of the games. He has played in pain and has had his knee drained multiple times. He has been a game time decision for each game and will be so for this game as well.
The Warriors once again have Otto Porter, Jr on the list as questionable with a foot injury. He has been able to play in each game and has started the last two games and he should be available for this game. The Warriors have won the last two games he started so I expect him to start once again. Andre Iguodala is questionable with knee swelling and James Wiseman is out with the knee injury.
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: Otto Porter, Jr.
C: Draymond Green
Gary Payton II
James Wiseman (knee) out
Andre Iguodala (back) questionable
Otto Porter, Jr (foot) questionable
Marcus Smart vs Stephen Curry
Curry struggled in Game 5 and broke his 132 game streak of making a 3 in each game. he finished with 16 points, 4 rebounds and 8 assists. He was 0-9 from three and shot 31.8% from the field. He was upset by his lack of scoring and I imagine he will look to do much better in this game. Marcus Smart finished Game 5 with 20 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists but turned the ball over 4 times. He shot 46.7% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need a big game from Smart and they need to find a way to slow down Stephen Curry once again without letting the rest of the Warriors go off.
Jayson Tatum vs Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins has been the Warriors second best player and he was their best player in Game 5. He finished Game 5 with 26 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. He shot 52.2% from the field but was 0-6 from beyond the arc. Jayson Tatum has been struggling throughout the Finals. He hasn’t had terrible games but he has struggled with his shot and broke the record for the most turnovers in a playoff run with 95 so far. The Celtics need an efficient game from Tatum and more importantly, he needs to take care of the ball.
Jaylen Brown vs Klay Thompson
Thompson struggled to begin the series, but he has played well in the last two games. In Game 5, he finished with 21 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. He shot 50% from the field and 45.5% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to limit his looks, especially on three pointers. Jaylen Brown struggled in Game 5, finishing with 18 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal. He also turned the ball over 5 times. He shot just 27.8% from the field and was 0-5 from beyond the arc. The Celtics needs him to have a big game on both ends of the court in this one.
Keys to the Game
Stay Focused - I think better focus will cover all of the struggles the Celtics have been having in this series. First and foremost, they must focus on taking care of the ball. The Celtics are 1-7 when they turn the ball over 16 or more times. They are 13-2 when they have fewer then 16 turnovers. The Celtics must focus on making good passes and being careful when handling the ball. They also have to focus on taking and making good shots. They missed 10 free throws in Game 5 and that has to be a matter of focus also. When they earn free throws they have to focus on their shots and make them count. They also have to focus on playing the right way and not allow the bad officiating to take their focus away from playing Celtics basketball.
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 shoot well from beyond the arc. 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. They have shown that they can play lock down defense but they have to do it for 4 quarters and not just 1 or 2 per game.
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 37-6 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. 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.
Attack the Basket - In Game 3, the Celtics didn’t settle for just 3 pointers but drove to the basket for 52 points in the paint. In Game 5, the Celtics were outscored in the paint 50-36. 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.
Bench Play - The Celtics got very little from their reserves in Game 5. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum both played 44 minutes and both played all of the second half and they were visibly fatigued by the end of the game. Not counting garbage time in the final minute, the Celtics reserves were outscored 31-4. Celtics reserves were only 1-9 from the field. The Celtics need more from their reserves in this game if they hope to get a win.
Intensity and Urgency - The Celtics shouldn’t need any extra motivation to play hard and with urgency in this game. The Celtics need to come out with the same intensity and urgency that they did in Game 3. They have to come out strong and avoid falling into a hole and having to work harder to catch up. They have to play hard and with urgency throughout the game with no let up. And, they have to play with urgency and play hard to close out the game. They need 48 minutes of their best effort and their best play.
Home Game - The Celtics are 6-5 in these playoffs at home while the Warriors are 4-6 on the road in these playoffs. 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 and play their best game of the series.
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, 4 and 5. 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? Will Steve Kerr’s prior finals experience give him the edge or will Ime Udoka be up for the challenge and match his moves?
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. We have definitely seen both extremes in this series so far. 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 call the game fairly.
Zach Zarba will be the crew chief, with David Guthrie as the referee and John Goble as the umpire. These three referees have not officiated a game together in these Finals, but they’ve all called games in this series before. Zarba was part of Game 2 that was terribly officiated, Goble was in Game 1 and Guthrie was in Game 3. The Celtics won Games 2 and 3 but lost Game 2.
According to our friends at DraftKings, the Celtics are four-point favorites hosting their final home game and Game 6 of The NBA Finals against the Warriors. Boston has faced elimination games already this postseason; they had to win consecutive games to beat the Bucks in the Eastern Conference semis and stave off elimination. Playing at TD Garden for the first half of that task should help.
For the Celtics, the recipe is simple: continue to play suffocating defense in the half court, don’t turn the ball over, and maintain their hot-shooting from behind the arc. If you’re planning to play some props tonight, fifteen seems to be the magic number of turnovers. Anything over that and you could prematurely chalk this up as a loss for the C’s. Assists also seem to be a bellwether for Boston’s success, too. They recorded 33 and 28 in their Game 1 and 3 wins, but have registered just 40 total in their last two games.
All odds are accurate at the time and date of publishing.