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 for you 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 he attempts to win his first NBA championship.
Game 3: The Celtics survived Golden State’s customary third-quarter run on the strength of a dominant fourth quarter and pulled away for a 116-100 victory at TD Garden in Boston. The Celtics lead the best of seven series, 2-1. Game 4 is Friday night in Boston.
Why The Celtics Won: They reversed two trends that cost them dearly in Game 2: too many careless turnovers, and weak inside play.
– The Celtics had 12 only turnovers in Game 3, and that was a big deal. They’re 13-2 this postseason when turning the ball over fewer than 15 times in a game. With 16 or more turnovers in a game this postseason Boston is 1-5. Guard Marcus Smart had five of the turnovers in Game 3 which means all other Celtics had only seven turnovers combined. Impressive.
– The Celtics averaged 6.5 offensive rebounds in their first two games of the series. But they attacked the glass in Game 3, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds and retrieving 40.8 percent of their missed shots. Boston outscored Golden State 52-26 in the paint and 22-11 in second-chance points.
– The dynamic wing tandem of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum was too much for Golden State. Brown did most of his scoring early with 22 first-half points. Tatum did much of his scoring late, with 15 second-half points. It didn’t matter who was hot at the time; Brown or Tatum were an alternating source of trouble for the Warriors.
– Celtics center Robert Williams had his best performance of the postseason. Still enduring pain and discomfort after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus late in the regular season, Williams had hop and fluid movement in Game 3. He powered up on Golden State for 10 rebounds, eight points, four blocks and three steals. Williams was the star of the game defensively. And in his 9+ minutes of fourth-quarter playing time the Celtics outscored Golden State 21-11 – and the Warriors had as many turnovers (five) as made baskets.
Why The Warriors Lost: Many things went wrong for the Warriors including Boston’s ability to muscle them around. Not just on the inside, either. All over the floor. The Celtics turned up the physicality, the Warriors couldn’t cope, and that made the difference.
– The Celtics made Steph Curry work for his 31 points and the scoring machine was unplugged in the fourth quarter, scoring only two points in 9 minutes and 41 seconds. Curry got into early foul trouble and then sprained a foot ankle late in the fourth quarter. He was at his best in a 15-point third quarter during a 10-0 rush that briefly put GSW in the lead.
– Draymond Green had a brutal game. His usual instigation tactics didn’t work on the Celtics this time, and that clearly distracted the frustrated Green. The Warriors are at their best when Green is emotionally amped, a force on defense, a keen facilitator, and a hunter of big plays on both ends of the floor. His teammates get a charge from Green’s energy. But he wasn’t there in Game 3 … not in attitude or impact. Green had only two points and four rebounds before fouling out.
– Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 56 of Golden State’s 100 points, and Andrew Wiggins chipped in 18. But the Warriors can’t expect Curry to carry them through. He’s capable of it, sure … but can’t do it as often. Thompson had a nice game but he’s inconsistent and has had too many erratic shooting nights in these playoffs. In past championship runs the Warriors got points galore from a variety of sources and Curry had abundant support. And that didn’t happen in Game 3. Jordan Poole was a non-factor, scoring 10 points in just under 25 minutes. Being in the NBA Finals seems too big for the 24-year-old shooting guard.
Jayson Tatum’s Performance: Tatum wasn’t cooking with his jump shot and wisely switched his approach, repeatedly stinging the Warriors with slashing, hard-edged drives to the basket. Despite the continuation of his shooting problems – he made only 9 of 23 shots from the floor – Tatum finished with 26 points, nine assists, six rebounds, a steal and only two turnovers. Tatum had Boston’s highest assist rate (33%) in Game 3, and performed at an above-average level on offense and defense. This was (in my view) Tatum’s best game of the series.
Tatum was a picture of composure in the second half. The Warriors swarmed the Celtics in the third quarter, but only outscored them by eight points because the home team fought back instead of folding. And Boston busted GSW’s momentum with a 23 to 11 scoring margin in the fourth quarter. That was a crucial change from the pattern in Game 2.
“I think that’s kind of when we turned our season around when we turned that corner. That’s what I talked about earlier, responding,” Tatum said after Wednesday’s win. “Earlier in the season, we would have given up leads and lost games like that, whereas now, things happen. They’re a great team. They’ve got great players. They’re going to make shots. They’re going to go on runs. But it’s all about how you respond. We didn’t hold our heads down or anything. We called a timeout, regrouped, figured it out and made winning plays. I was proud of the group for that.”
Through Boston’s 21 postseason games Tatum is averaging 26.3 points, 6.5 assists and 6.2 rebounds.
Tatum has scored the most points of any player this postseason.
And Tatum has the most assists of any player this postseason.
Celtics fans appreciate Tatum’s all-around play. He’s putting individual concerns aside in the quest for an NBA championship.
“Knowing who’s helping, where they’re coming from, which guy is in which spot to make the right play,” Tatum said after Game 3. “Obviously, everybody knows I can score and things like that, but my mindset throughout the playoffs and even heightened during the finals is I’m just trying to do whatever it takes for us to win and impact winning.”
Player Of The Game: Robert Williams. No Celtic made more impact in the fourth quarter, and that’s when the outcome of this game was determined. I almost copped out (but didn’t) by making it a co-selection. Tatum and Brown combined for 53 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists.
Golden State’s Primary Concern For Game 4: Curry reinjured his vulnerable left foot during a fourth-quarter scramble and pileup for a loose ball. He’s confident he can play in Game 4 and was planning to practice on Thursday. Curry did not go for an MRI exam on the off day, so that’s obviously a positive sign.
“Well, we need him if we want to win this thing,” said Warrior Klay Thompson, who had 25 points in Game 3. “I know Steph is going to do everything he can in his power to play. I am really hoping he’s OK, because he’s our identity, and without him, it will be very difficult.”
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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