Greetings. During the NBA Finals I’m filing a review of each game between the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors. It will be an easy read for you in case you want to keep up. Or catch up. My primary purpose is to track Our Town’s Jayson Tatum as he attempts to win his first NBA championship.
Game 2: Golden State 107, Boston 87. The best of seven series is tied 1-1 as the series shifts to Boston for the next two games.
Why The Warriors Won: In Game 1 the GSW outscored the Celtics 38-24 in the third quarter to build a 12-point lead, only to collapse in the fourth quarter of a surprising 120-108 loss. In Game 2 the Warriors left the Celtics dizzy during a 35-14 blitz in the third quarter to seize a 23-point lead. But the Warriors didn’t let down this time. They kept rolling into the 4th, ending any realistic chance of a Boston comeback by scoring the first six points of the final quarter to open a 93-64 lead.
– The Celtics were out of sorts during the pivotal third quarter, making only 4 of 17 shots from the floor and turning the ball over four times.
– Golden State’s defense was especially fantastic during the second half. The Warriors confused the Celtics with a variety of looks, and did a masterful job of sealing off the paint. Boston didn’t get much done near the basket. More on that in a bit.
– Steph Curry led Golden State’s charge with 14 third-quarter points, hitting three shots from deep. The Warriors were plus 21 with Curry running the show in the third Q. He finished with 29.
– The Warriors needed Jordan Poole to show up with a stronger performance in Game 2 and he came through with 14 second-half points on the way to a 17-point night. Poole knocked down four three-pointers and compensated for a bad shooting night by Klay Thompson, who made only 4 of 17 from the floor overall including 1 of 8 from deep.
– Center Kevin Looney was a valuable presence for the Warriors, going 6 for 6 from the floor with seven rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block. GSW was a plus 24 with Looney in the game.
— Defensive specialist Gary Payton II returned from injury and played a role in shutting down Boston. He was a significant upgrade over Andre Iguodala, who labored defensively in Game 1. This could be a real plus for the Warriors in the games ahead.
– Draymond Green did his thing and did it very well, disrupting Boston’s focus with his chippy play and all-around talent as the NBA’s best disturber. In the second and third quarters, a distracted Jaylen Brown went 1 from 11 from the floor and tangled with Green a couple of times.
“That’s what Draymond Green does,” Brown told reporters after Game 2. “He’ll do whatever it takes to win. He’ll pull you, he’ll grab you, he’ll try to muck the game up because that’s what he does for their team. It’s nothing to be surprised about. Nothing I’m surprised about. He raised his physicality to try to stop us and we’ve got to raise ours. Looking forward to the challenge.”
Why The Celtics Lost: They couldn’t recover from their no-show in the third quarter, but that was just one of several issues that made the outcome inevitable.
– The third-quarter blackouts are a recurring problem for the Celtics this postseason; they’ve been outscored by 14 points or more in four games. And all four were on the road, and three resulted in losses.
– Boston committed 18 turnovers that Golden State converted into 33 points – the second-most points off turnovers in an NBA Finals game in the past 25 years.
– In Game 1 the Celtics stunned the Warriors with three-point shooting from Al Horford, Marcus Smart and Derrick White; they combined to make 15 of 23 from deep. In Game 2 the three players attempted only seven 3s and made only two. The Celtics did have 15 threes in Game 2, but the Warriors matched that total. The Celtics other than Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown missed 13 of 19 shots from deep.
– Boston was weak from two-point range, making only 34.8 percent on 15-for 43 shooting. The Celtics must generate more points around the basket in Game 3. They were able to do an effective job of that in Game 1 … which forced the Warriors to drop defenders into the lane … which opened up shooting space for the threes. Going forward Celtics have to put more pressure on Golden State’s defense near the rim.
– Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each picked up two early fouls, went to the bench, and cooled down. In Boston’s 30-point first quarter Tatum and Brown combined to make 8 of 15 from the floor overall including 6 of 8 three-pointers. But in the second quarter Tatum and Brown combined to go 3 of 13 from the floor, with only two three-pointers, and the Celtics scored only 20 points.
Player Of The Game: Curry. His 29 points came in only 32 minutes. But the future Hall of Famer impacted Game 2 in a variety of ways, coming up with six rebounds, four assists, and three steals. And he played outstanding defense. In Game 1 the Celtics wanted to tire Curry out by jostling him when he wasn’t near the play. That worked pretty well; Curry seemed out of gas by the fourth quarter. But it didn’t work in Game 2, with Curry slipping away and leaving the Celtics in a maze. He wasn’t a stationary target in this one. Curry’s third quarter put the Warriors in control.
“Steph was breathtaking in that quarter,” GSW coach Steve Kerr said. “Not just the shot making but the defensive effort. He just doesn’t get enough credit for his level of conditioning, physicality and defense. People go at him to try to wear him down because they know how important he is to us offensively, and it’s pretty dramatic the difference in Steph’s strength and physicality in his body now than from eight years ago when I first got here.”
Jayson Tatum’s Performance: On the positive side, Tatum hit 6 of 9 from beyond the three line, and made six of eight free throws. He led the Celtics with 28 points and pulled down six rebounds and had three assists. But he also turned the ball over four times and made only 2 of 10 shots when driving to the basket or shooting from mid-range. Of Tatum’s 28 points, 21 came in the first half. He was mostly a non-factor in the third quarter when GSW won the game.
Though this can be said about most of the Celtics, Tatum was a liability on defense. When Tatum was on the floor Boston was a glaring minus 36 – the worst plus-minus in a game during his career. And when the game turned dramatically in the third quarter, the Celtics were minus 21 with Tatum on the floor.
Tatum and Jaylen Brown let some blown officiating calls get to them and were clearly bothered by Draymond Green. They’ll need better composure in Game 3.
“I think tonight, turnovers, and I think sometimes letting our offense affect how we defend, kind of was a little stagnant in the third quarter,” Tatum said after Game 2. “I feel like it translated on the defensive end, and they got going and hitting shots and things like that.”
Tatum was clearly bumped during a first-half drive – and no call. It was a first-half drive, got bumped, didn’t get the call. On a second-half drive, Tatum believed he was fouled, and waited for the call. But no call was made, Tatum stood still, and Golden State scored on an easy run-out.
When asked if he was frustrated by the officiating, Tatum said, “You’ve just got to be aware. I think I’ve been doing a better job. I finished the season with 13 techs. I remember I think I had like 13 techs with six games left or something like that, and everybody like that was telling me I got to relax. I don’t know if I got a tech during the playoffs yet. I might have one, if that, so I’ve got to pat myself on the back. I’ve been doing a lot better in that aspect, trying to leave the refs alone regardless of what’s going on.”
Why so many turnovers by the Celtics?
“It’s just kind of as simple as we’ve just got to take care of the ball,” Tatum said. “We’ve done it, and we’re a really good team when we take care of the ball. But we have those lapses where we – snowball effect – we pile on turnovers and dig ourselves into a hole.”
Through the first two games of the Finals, Tatum is averaging 20 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 turnovers. He’s made 50 percent of his three pointers (7-for-14) but is an abysmal 4 of 22 on his two-point shot attempts. That’s just 18.1 percent. Unreal. For the Celtics to defeat the Warriors, Tatum must do better.
Keys For Tatum And Boston In Game 3: To state the obvious? Reduce the turnovers and avoid having another awful third quarter. Tatum has to get to the basket and make shots. Attacking the rim is a strength for Tatum but Golden State has taken it away from him in the first two games. From an overview standpoint the Celtics have to toughen up at home. So far this postseason they’re only 5-4 at TD Garden. And after winning two home games of their four-game sweep of Brooklyn in the first round, the Celtics went a combined 3-4 at home to Milwaukee and Miami in the next two rounds. If the Celtics flop at home again, Golden State will take advantage of it.
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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