The NBA Finals now shift to Boston for Games 3 and 4 with the Celtics and Warriors tied at 1 game each. The Celtics surprised the Warriors with a come from behind 120-108 win in Game 1. The Warriors came out and played a very physical game to even the series with a 107-88 win in Game 2. The Celtics will look to bounce back from a playoff loss once again.
The Celtics played from behind in much of the last two rounds. They were behind 0-1, 2-1, and 3-2 to the Bucks before ultimately winning the series. Against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, they were behind 0-1, and 2-1 before taking their first lead in the series at 3-2. The Celtics have not lost back to back games in the playoffs. In fact, they have only lost back to back games 1 time in their last 54 games.
The Celtics have a history of letting down after a big win during these playoffs and they followed that same pattern in the first two games of 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. As Derrick White said, “If it was easy, it wouldn’t be us.”
The Celtics won Game 1 because they limited mistakes, shot efficiently, rebounded well, limited turnovers and got to the free throw line. In Game 2, they turned the ball over way too much, were not efficient offensively, allowed too many offensive rebounds for the Warriors, and were unable to get to the free throw line. They also allowed the Warriors to play much more physically than they did. They need to get back to playing like they did in the 4th quarter of Game 1.
Historically, winners of Game 1 win the series 70.7% of the time. 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. Only twice in the past 75 years has a road team won both Games 1 and 2 on the road in the Finals so it wasn’t a big aberration that the Celtics lost Game 2.
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.
Robert Williams is the only entry on the Celtics injury list once again. Williams continues to be listed on the injury report as questionable with knee soreness. He has been available for six consecutive games in spite of entering the games as questionable. He has played, but hasn’t been 100% in those games. He will likely play in this game but likely not at 100%. Marcus Smart fell on Timelord’s injured knee in Game 2 but according to Ime Udoka, he is fine and that didn’t affect his knee.
For the Warriors, their injury list is the same as it was before Game #2. James Wiseman (knee) continues to be out. Andre Iguodala made his first appearance since April 24 during Game 1, but he was sidelined again for Game 2 due to right knee inflammation. He is once again questionable for this game. Otto Porter, Jr (foot) and Gary Payton II (elbow) are both listed as questionable but both are expected to play.
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
In Game 1, Curry finished with 34 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. He shot 48% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. In Game 2, he finished with 29 points, 6 rebounds 4 assists and 3 steals, shooting 42.9% from the field and 41.7% from beyond the arc. Marcus Smart struggled in Game 2, scoring just 2 points and turning the ball over 4 times. The Celtics will need Marcus to play much better in this game and they need to work harder to limit Curry’s scoring.
Jaylen Brown vs Klay Thompson
Thompson made it back on the court for the Warriors this season after missing the previous 2 years with injuries. In Game 1, he finished with 15 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists. In Game 2, he had 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals. The Warriors need him to find his shot once again and even kept him in during garbage time to try to get him going. Jaylen Brown had 17 points but was inefficient and too often tried to win the game by himself instead of trusting his teammates.
Al Horford vs Draymond Green
While Green isn’t a big scorer, he is valuable to the Warriors with his antics and his physical play. Green finished Game 2 with 9 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists 1 steal and 1 block. But, the Celtics allowed him to get into their heads and he was allowed to play very physically, often looking more like a football player on the court than a basketball player. Green said that he deserves and expects “differential treatment” from the officials. Hopefully these officials won’t allow the antics from him that they did in Game 2. The Celtics need to match his physicality and also they need to keep him from getting into their heads in this game.
Keys to the Game
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 shooting 37.3% 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. The Celtics must play tough lock down defense like they did in Quarter 4 of the first game and they have to play that way for a full four quarters.
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. In Game 2, the Celtics had 43 rebounds to 42 for the Warriors and the offensive rebounds were even at 6 each. 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.
Take Care of the Ball- 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 but turned the ball over 19 times for 33 Warriors points in Game 2. The Celtics are 0-5 when they turn the ball over 16 or more times. In their 7 playoff losses, they averaged 16.7 turnovers for an average of 23 Warriors points. In the Celtics 13 wins, they averaged just 12.8 turnovers for 14.1 Warriors points. It’s very clear that limiting turnovers is a big key to getting a win.
Let’s Be Physical - The Warriors were clearly the more physical team in Game 2 and the Celtics never matched their physicality. Draymond Green was especially physical, plowing over Celtics players time and time again and playing more like a football player than a basketball player. Hopefully the officials won’t give him the “differential treatment” that he feels he is entitled to in this game. The Celtics must match the Warriors physicality and be even more aggressive for all 48 minutes.
Play the Right Way - The Celtics need to play the right way. In Game 1, 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. In Game 2, Tatum and Brown especially tried to do too much and often ended up taking bad or contested shots. 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.
Home Game - The Celtics are playing at home for the first time in this series. The Celtics are 5-4 in these playoffs at home, so home court hasn’t exactly meant a sure win. The Warriors are just 3-5 on the road in these playoffs, so they haven’t been at their best on the road, either. Both teams have had 2 days off and both teams had to travel, so neither has the advantage in those factors. However, 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 hostile crowd. The Celtics need to feed off of the crowd, which should be loud and rowdy. They won home court advantage with their win in Game 1. Now they have to use it to their advantage.
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. The Warriors should be close to 100% for this game. Hopefully the Celtics will also.
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. In game 2, the officiating was terrible. 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 3.5-point favorites hosting the Warriors in The 2022 NBA Finals. Boston hasn’t lost two games in a row in the postseason yet and with three days to make adjustments, for Robert Williams to heal up, and a rabid TD Garden crowd seeing their first Finals game in twelve years, all things could be pointing to a strong Celtics showing in Game 3.
You’ve heard all the storylines already. Boston has been bad all year in third quarters. Much of that is fueled by an avalanche of turnovers. Draymond Green thinks he’s in their heads with his physical play; he’s not. With both teams playing each other fairly even from behind the arc, Game 3 and the rest of the series could come down to how they fair in the around the rim. Golden State tweaked their defense on Sunday to eliminate driving lanes, so Boston's playmakers will have to either make more 3's to spread out the Warriors' small lineups or continue to attack attack attack.
For our conspiracy theorists, Scott Foster will be part of tonight’s referee crew. The Celtics are 12-0 in playoff games he’s officiated.
All odds are accurate at the time and date of publishing.
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.