Greetings. During the NBA Finals I’m filing a review after each game between the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors. It will be an easy read if you need to catch up or find out why the winning team prevailed. My primary purpose is to track Our Town’s Jayson Tatum as the young Boston star attempts to win his first NBA championship.
Game 4: Golden State 107, Boston 97. The Celtics botched a chance to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with a poor second half. The Celtics don’t have much of a homecourt advantage this postseason; Friday’s loss left them with a lousy 6-5 record overall at TD Garden during the 2022 playoffs. The Celtics have lost three of their last four home games. Terrible. Tied at 2-2, the NBA Finals now relocate to San Francisco for Game 5 on Monday night.
Why The Warriors Won: Steph Curry took over and saved the Warriors from falling into a precarious situation. Without Curry’s 43 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists, Boston would have a 3-1 series lead. Curry was at his classic best in the second half, making 7 of 11 shots including 5 of 6 from deep. Led by the relentless Curry’s 24 points, the Warriors overcame a five-point halftime deficit to run past the Celtics 58-43 in the second half.
— Golden State received valuable contributions from forward Andrew Wiggins (17 points, 16 rebounds), guard Jordan Poole (14 points) and guard Klay Thompson. Thompson was Curry’s co-conspirator in the second half with 13 points including 8 in the fourth quarter at clutch moments.
— Coach Steve Kerr benched the ineffective Draymond Green during a four-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, giving his minutes to Kevon Looney. Green wasn’t happy but the move paid off, as Looney tightened Golden State’s defense. The Warriors outscored Boston by 14 points during Looney’s 7 minutes and 26 seconds of fourth-quarter time.
Why The Celtics Lost: Jayson Tatum wasn’t alone, because the Celtics were disappointing across the board in the second half. But the Chaminade Prep alum had a horrendous Game 4 and there’s no way to gloss over it. More on Tatum in a minute.
– When Golden State became more forceful and assertive at both ends of the floor, the home team wilted and fell apart. Boston was outscored 17-3 over the game’s final 5:18. The Celtics made only 7 of 21 shots from the floor in the fourth quarter.
– Boston’s offense slowed to a crawl during much of the second half and especially in the fourth quarter. Time and time again the Celtics inexplicably pulled back from clear transition-scoring opportunities to put the gear in neutral to set up a halfcourt offense. But the halfcourt sets were awful, with the Celtics loitering on the court and frequently allowing the shot clock to wind down before forcing bad shots.
“Not sure if we tried to pick on mismatches too much,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “Got stalled out a little bit. A lot of times it felt like we were standing around, unsure of who we were trying to go after, and it led to those stalled-down possessions.”
– Boston muscled its way to a victory in Game 3, but that changed in Gamer 4 when center Robert Williams apparently jolted his surgically-repaired knee. After pulling 10 rebounds and blocking two shots in the first half, a hobbled Williams had two rebounds and no blocks in 16:42 of second-half time and wasn’t moving well in the fourth quarter. In one instance he appeared to be waving at the bench to be substituted out of the game but Udoka didn’t notice. Frankly, this was really poor coaching. With Williams being so immobile, the Warriors exploited the situation by playing at a faster pace. Williams could not keep up.
– The Celtics did not get a point in the paint over the final 7+ minutes of the game. And for the evening Golden State beat the Celtics at the rim to cull 19 second-chance points.
— A frequent problem resurfaced for Boston: the Celtics finished with 16 turnovers and the GSW scored 19 points off them. They’re 1-6 in this postseason when turning it over 16 or more times. When the Celts turn it over 15 or fewer times they’re 13-2. And in Friday’s game 10 of Boston’s 16 turnovers were in live-ball situations. That’s especially damaging.
— The Celtics didn’t come close to applying the kind of pressure on Curry that would have slowed him down or tire him out. One of the greatest scorers in NBA history isn’t easy to stop, but the Celtics didn’t make Curry work particularly hard after injuring his left foot in Game 3.
“He’s a great player; he made shots,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said after Game 4. “That’s what he does. We obviously have to do a better job of limiting that. We got to make it even more tough for him. It is what it is. When you get a guy like that, some rhythm early on, those shots, the basketball hoops starts to look a little bit bigger for him. We just got to make it a conscious effort to find him and Klay and their shooters, especially in transition.”
Jayson Tatum’s Performance: Brutal. Boston’s best player hit only 8 of 23 shots from the floor and was responsible for six of his team’s 16 turnovers. Tatum scored 23 points for the game, which was OK at best considering the number of launched shots. He was a liability in the decisive second half, missing seven of nine shots and scoring only seven points. Boston was minus 13 in the point differential with Tatum on the floor in the second half.
Through the first four games of the NBA Finals, here’s the report on Tatum:
+ His 14 turnovers are the most by any player on either team.
+ He’s made only 34 percent of his shots from the floor overall.
+ He’s done well on 3-point shots – 45.2% success – but his shooting stats inside the arc are almost unbelievable. Tatum has made only 14 of 51 shots (27.4%) from the two-point area.
+ His true shooting percentage in the series is .476. That’s the worst among the eight Celtics that have played at least 50 minutes over the first four games.
+ Tatum had nine assists in Game 4, and he leads all players from both teams with 31 assists in the series.
+ Tatum is averaging 22.0 points per game, but he’s needed 82 shots from the floor to score 70 points on non free throws. Only Steph Curry has taken more shots from the floor (94) this series than Tatum. But Curry’s 94 shots – only eight more than Tatum – have produced 119 points on non free throws.
After Game 4, Marcus Smart was asked if he’s been talking to Tatum about turning things around and playing better.
“Yeah, we all are,” Smart said. “We just constantly let him know ‘keep going.’ This isn’t your first time being in a slump. Won’t be the last time. You got to figure it out. We trust you, we believe in you. This is what you’re made for. Jayson has to figure it out. We have to do a good job of helping him. But, you know, him being the player he is, these are the moments where he has to come alive and figure it out. He will. We don’t know when it is, but we’re sure it’s going to happen soon, we’re ready for it, and we’re here to back him up.”
When discussing his subpar play in Game 4, Tatum didn’t hold back. He owned it.
“It’s on me,” he said. “I gotta be better. I know I’m impacting the game in other ways, but I got to be more efficient, shoot the ball better, finish at the rim better. I take accountability for that.”
Tatum was asked: Are you putting too much pressure on yourself?
“No,” Tatum said. “I think that’s just as simple as it is. I just got to be better. I know I can be better, so it’s not like I, myself or my team is asking me to do something I’m not capable of. They know the level and I know the level that I can play at. It’s kind of on me to do that more often to help my team in the best way that I can. It’s not too much pressure at all. It’s kind of like my job.”
What The Coach Said About Tatum: “What I would say is don’t be opposed to taking twos. Some pull-up jumpers, some of those things, instead of going all the way to the rim. It doesn’t have to be either/or as far as that,” Udoka said. “We talked about the balance, how much we rely on him to score and get other guys involved. Sometimes that balance leads to taking some shots or over-penetrating when he has a clean pull-up or two. Nothing wrong with the floater, mid-range pull-up to get yourself going, especially when the crowd is sitting there at the rim.”
Player Of The Game: Steph Curry, obviously. The 43 points were Curry’s third-highest total among his 68 career postseason games. He’s had seven postseason performances of 40+ points and has averaged 27 points per postseason game.
Klay Thompson said he believed Game 4 represented the finest postseason game of Curry’s exceptional career – one that includes three NBA titles.
“This was nearly a must-win game,” Thompson said. “And to go out there and shoot as efficiently as he did, and grab 10 rebounds and they were attacking him on defense. I mean, his conditioning is second-to-none in this league. Steph played incredible.”
Added Draymond Green: “He put us on his back. Willed us to win. A much-needed win and game we had to have. Came out and showed why he’s one of the best players to ever play this game, and why this organization has been able to ride him to so much success. It’s absolutely incredible.”
Through the first four games of this series, Curry is averaging 34.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. He’s made 51.2% from two-range, 49% from three-range, and 85.7% of his free throws. He’s scored 137 points in 138 minutes. He’s averaging 1.46 points per shot, his career high for an NBA Finals series. Amazing.
Thanks for reading …
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For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
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