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 how the game was won. My primary purpose is to track Our Town’s Jayson Tatum as the young Boston star attempts to win his first NBA championship.
Game 5 At San Francisco: Golden State 104, Boston 94. After trailing the Celtics 2-1 through the first three games, the Warriors have won two in a row to take a 3-2 lead in the best of seven series. The Celtics are in deep trouble. Game 6 is Thursday night in Boston.
Why The Warriors Won: No one would have scripted this, but Golden State won by 10 points despite many misfires from an off-target Steph Curry. Seriously. If we would have told you that Curry would make only 7 of 22 shots from the floor and not make a three-pointer for the first time in his postseason career, your reaction might be something like this: must have been bad for the Warriors, so how many points did Boston win by? But the Warriors romped in the fourth quarter against a gassed Celtics team that had no legs, no offense, and no impact from the bench.
The Warriors overran the Celtics and didn’t need Curry to carry or push them. That was the only upset in this game. Curry had 16 points, and his streak of 233 consecutive games (regular and postseason) of making a three-pointer came to an end. Until Monday night, he’d made at least one three in his first 144 postseason games. Golden State won this baby despite making only 9 of 40 shots from deep. That’s 22.5% … and that’s crazy.
Three reasons why the Warriors won: (1) Forward Andrew Wiggins came up extra large for the second straight game, overpowering the Celtics for 26 points and 13 rebounds. In Golden State’s wins in Game 4 and 5, Wiggins averaged 21.5 points and 14.5 rebounds. (2) Klay Thompson made five money three-pointers and finished with 21 points. (3) Draymond Green and Gary Payton II hounded Boston star Jayson Tatum into exhaustion – then submission. It wasn’t just Tatum who folded; Golden State’s defense was aggressive and tough and left the Celtics staggered.
“Just being aggressive,” Payton said. “Bringing the force to them from the jump, and just don’t let them get comfortable.”
Why the Celtics Lost: First, there was another plague of turnovers – 18 – in Game 5. That’s a fatal flaw; the Celtics are 1-7 this postseason when turning it over 16 or more times in a game. Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart combined for 13 of the 18 turnovers. The Warriors cashed in Boston’s turnovers for 22 thank-you-very-much points. Just as important, GSW turned it over only six times all game.
– The Celtics made only 4 of 15 shots from the floor in the fourth quarter and scored just 20 points. Combining the fourth-quarter stats in their losses in Game 4 and Game 5, the Celtics made only 11 of 36 shots from the floor (30.5%) and averaged 19.5 points. It’s hard to even remember that Boston made a spirited comeback to wipe out a 12-point deficit and take a three-point lead in the third quarter. But Golden State recovered quickly to regain the lead by the end of the third. And when the Warriors opened the fourth quarter with a 10-0 blitz, the Celtics crashed.
– The Celtics lost their composure for reasons that had nothing to do with Golden State. The Celts were furious with officiating calls and spent too much time complaining and arguing with the refs. It was a huge distraction and a waste of energy. The Celtics were hit with two technical fouls and it could have been worse. The visiting team just wouldn’t stop yapping at the refs.
– And when the Celtics did the whistles to go their way, they made only 21 of 31 free throws. The 10 misses matched the 10-point margin of victory for Golden State.
“I feel like we’ve been able to fend those things off, especially throughout the playoffs,” center Al Horford said. “For whatever reason tonight I feel like it got to us. It’s one of those things that we kind of brought it back. We were able to focus back in, but we can never let that get to us.”
– Jaylen Brown had a terrible Game 5. He missed 13 of 18 shots from the floor including all five attempts from deep. He also turned the ball over five times.
– Curry didn’t really hurt the Celtics in Game 5 … but the Celtics let other players beat them. There were too many gaps in the Boston defense and Curry’s teammates made 51.5 percent of their shots from the floor. One example: Payton II, who was signed by the Warriors for his defense, scored 15 points on 6 of 8 shooting. He averaged 7.1 points per game during the regular season. Golden State’s 10-0 run to start the fourth quarter occurred with Curry on the bench.
– The Boston bench was outscored by the Golden State bench, 31-10. Woof.
Player Of The Game: Wiggins, who led the Warriors with 10 points and five rebounds in the hammer-time fourth quarter. Golden State outscored Boston by 13 points with Wiggins on the floor during the 4th, and Tatum couldn’t control him.
Jayson Tatum’s Performance: On the surface you look at his 27 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 50 percent shooting from the floor including 6 of 9 from three range. But Tatum’s game deteriorated under constant pressure and physicality applied by Golden State’s defenders.
By the time the teams moved into the fourth quarter, Tatum had little left. Tatum made only 1 of 5 shots in the final quarter. Golden State exploited Tatum’s fatigue to beat on the defensive end; the Celtics were outscored by 15 points with Tatum out there in the fourth.
Tatum is now 5-for-21 (23.8 percent) in the fourth quarter during this NBA Finals. Tatum had four turnovers in Game 5, and now had 95 turnovers this postseason. That’s the most turnovers by an NBA player in a single postseason.
Tatum also bricked it at the free-throw line in Game 5, missing four of six.
Tatum was frustrated and flummoxed. And that became obvious late in the game during a peculiar scene described by Jared Weiss of The Athletic:
“Draymond Green and Gary Payton II wanted Jayson Tatum to feel them everywhere he went. So when Celtics coach Ime Udoka called a timeout with under five minutes remaining in the game and Tatum wanted to go take a layup just to see the ball go through the net, they absolutely refused,” Weiss wrote.
“As Tatum tried to walk past them with ball in hand, the broadcast preparing to head to commercial break, the Warriors defense continued to double-team him all the way down the baseline and to the bench. He sat there holding that ball, in disbelief that everything he’d figured out all evening would eventually be taken away by a defense that has figured him out all series.”
“In the NBA after timeouts, guys try to get shots up,” Tatum said in the postgame news conference. “They didn’t want me to shoot the ball. I just said, f-it. I just took the ball with me to the timeout and I kept the ball the whole time. They didn’t say nothing. They just didn’t want me to shoot the ball.”
That’s all we need to know about how it’s going for Tatum.
Conclusion: Sure, the Celtics will have a chance to get this series back to San Francisco for a Game 7. All it takes is a victory in Game 6. Remember, this team was down 3-2 to Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference semifinals and rallied to win the final two games. But that Boston team has gone missing. That team is now distracted and bogged down on offense. And the Celtics have been vulnerable at home this postseason, going 6-5 on the parquet. Beating Golden State in the next two games would be a stunning achievement for the Celtics.
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.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.