The Boston Celtics look to take a 2-0 series lead as they battle the Golden State Warriors at the Chase center for Game 2 of the NBA Finals. The Celtics shocked the Warriors with a 120-108 win in Game 1. The Celtics became the first team in NBA history to win a game by double figures after trailing by double figures in the 4th quarter.
The Celtics have a history of letting down after a big win during these playoffs and they have to avoid that in this series. After a big win on the road vs Miami in Game 2, they came out flat in Game 3 and lost the game. After a big win in Game 5 on the road they came home and lost Game 6. The Celtics need to learn from those losses and come out focused in this game and avoid another let down.
Winning Game 1 is very important to winning a series as the winner of the opening game in the Finals has ended up winning the series 70.7 percent of the time. The last time a road team won Game 1 of the Finals was 2013. This is only the 7th time in the past 33 years that a team has won Game 1 of the Finals on the road. Of the previous 6 teams only 3 went on to win the series.
Game 2 of the Finals will be the first time in these playoffs that the Warriors are trailing in a series. Game 1 was also their first home loss in these playoffs and, like the Celtics they haven’t lost consecutive games in these playoffs. The Celtics, as a franchise, are 13-1 all time after winning Game 1 of the Finals. Game 2 becomes very important because no team has won the Finals after losing the first 2 games at home.
Much was made of the Celtics lack of Finals experience going into Game 1. The Warriors’ roster had 123 games of Finals experience while the Celtics’ roster had none. However, the Celtics are battle tested after playing 2 seven game series on the way to the Finals. Overall, since 2014, the Celtics have had 6 seven game series while the Warriors have played in just 3. Even through they haven’t been in the Finals, the Celtics have plenty of playoff experience and Ime Udoka stressed to the Celtics going into Game 1 that it was just more of the same.
This series could go either way and history can’t guarantee a result. It will come down to the team that plays harder and better and is more focused to win the series. The Warriors had won 13 consecutive Game 1’s at home before losing on Thursday. The Celtics lost Game 1 to the Bucks at home and again lost Game 1 to the Heat on the road and won both of those series. To win this series, the Celtics must take it one game at a time and play the game the right way and not let up.
The injury lists for both teams look a lot like they did before Game 1. Robert Williams (knee) is questionable due and will likely be questionable for the remainder of the Finals. His status will be a game time decision. The Warriors list Otto Porter, Jr (foot) and Andre Iguodala (neck) as questionable but both will likely play after having played in Game 1. Gary Payton II (elbow) is questionable and will be a game time decision after missing Game 1. 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
Gary Payton II (elbow) questionable
Otto Porter, Jr (foot) questionable
Marcus Smart vs Stephen Curry
Curry is a very tough cover for every team in the league as he can score from pretty much anywhere on the floor. In Game 1, he finished with 34 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. He shot 48% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. After scoring 21 points in the first quarter, he scored just 13 points the rest of the way. The Celtics need to stay with him and keep him from having a big game right from the start in this game.
Jaylen Brown vs Klay Thompson
Thompson made it back on the court for the Warriors this season after missing the previous 2 years. He is averaging 19.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. In Game 1, he finished with 15 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists. Jaylen Brown didn’t have a particularly efficient game, shooting 43.5% from the field and 25% on threes, but in the 4th quarter, he took over and led the Celtics to the win. In the 4th quarters of these playoffs, Brown is shooting 62.5 from the field and 66.7% from beyond the arc. Keeping Thompson and Curry off the 3 point line will be key in slowing down the Warriors’ offense.
Jayson Tatum vs Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins has been coming into his own this season and especially in the playoffs. He is averaging 15.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. In Game 1, he had 20 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal and 3 blocks. Jayson Tatum struggled with his shot in Game 1, scoring only 12 points, but he had 13 assists to help his team get the win. Tatum, like the Celtics tend to bounce back after a bad game. In Game 3 vs Milwaukee, he had 10 points and followed that up with 30 points in Game 4. He had 10 points in Game 3 vs the Heat and followed that up with 31 in Game 4. I expect a big game from him in this one.
Derrick White vs Otto Porter, Jr.
Porter came back from injury in Game 1 and had 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. He shot 80%, hitting 4 of the 5 threes that he took. Derrick White has been playing well off the bench for the Celtics and finished Game 1 with 21 points, 1 rebound and 3 assists. He shot 54.5% from the field and 62.5% from beyond the arc. The Celtics will need another big game from White and they need to limit Porter, especially from the perimeter.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to winning every single game, especially in the playoffs. This is the first Finals to feature the top 2 defensive teams from the regular season since Chicago beat Seattle in 1996. The Celtics must especially guard the perimeter as the Warriors are shooting 38.2% 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 must continue to make defense a priority and they can’t let up even a little if they hope to win this 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. In Game 1, both teams pulled down 39 rebounds. However, the Warriors had 12 offensive rebounds to just 7 for the Celtics. 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.
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. The Celtics let up in the 3rd quarter, which is typically the Warriors best quarter, and it could have cost them the game. Effort and being more aggressive will likely be the difference in this game. They need to play all 4 quarters like they played in the 4th quarter of Game 1.
Stay Focused - The Celtics must be focused on making good passes and not getting sloppy and careless with their passes. They also have to focus on taking care of the ball as they dribble and handle the ball and not turn it over. They had just 12 turnovers in Game 1 and they need to keep them even lower in this game. They also have to focus on taking good shots and on making them in spite of the Warriors tough defense. The Celtics were either open or wide open on 38 of their 41 three point attempts. I doubt they will be that open in this game after Kerr makes adjustments so if they aren’t getting the open shots they need to use their size and strength to get into the paint for easier shots.
Move the Ball and Play as a Team - The Celtics had 33 assists on their 43 baskets. When the Celtics move the ball and trust each other and get a high number of assists, they usually win the game. When they lapse into hero ball and the ball stops moving, they usually struggle. They need to keep the ball moving and they need to move without the ball to get open and they need to play as a team and trust each other.
On the Road - The Celtics are once again on the road but they didn’t have to travel this time on their days off. 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 8-2 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?
Injuries - Injuries could affect one or both of these teams. Robert Williams is questionable and will be day to day throughout the Finals. 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 if he isn’t at 100% then guarding Stephen Curry won’t be near as effective. Curry tweaked his ankle in Game 1 but it didn’t look to be serious. Also Gary Payton II may or may not play in this game. His defense may make a difference for the Warriors.
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. We can only hope for another fairly officiated game without too many whistles. 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.
According to our friends at DraftKings, the Celtics are 4-point underdogs heading into Game 2 of The NBA Finals against the Warriors. Boston’s heroics in their fourth quarter comeback at Chase Center in Game 1 seem to have little influence on bettors’ confidence in the road team. With many expecting a bounce back effort from Golden State, the line has moved in their favor since Thursday night.
The predominant argument for a Warriors’ win on Sunday is the Celtics not repeating their hot shooting from Game 1. Boston shot a whopping forty-one threes and made twenty-one (51.2%). That was the highest percentage they’ve shot in the postseason and the second most makes after making 22-of-55 against the Bucks in Game 7 at TD Garden.
Conversely, Golden State shot a respectable 19-of-45 from the behind the arc in Game 1. That’s on the high side too and most likely not repeatable as the Celtics look to make defensive adjustments as the series moves forward. Boston went small during their 40-16 run and Ime Udoka opted to put more shooting around his playmakers down the stretch. If they can improve their offensive firepower without losing much defensively, that could be a recipe for the Celtics to take a 2-0 lead back to Boston.
All odds are accurate at the time and date of publishing.