The Celtics must stop the Warriors’ runs in the third quarter

Image for article titled The Celtics can win the title, but not if they continue to allow these runs in the third quarter

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The first two games of the NBA Finals have been played much more evenly than the final scores show. The teams traded a two-point lead at halftime, but a couple of runs in the second half put the game out of reach for both the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 and the Boston Celtics in Game 2. 0-2 behind is the Celtics. They won Game 1 12 after a fourth quarter stretch in which they made five consecutive 3-point shots.

In both third quarters, the Warriors would start with one of their signature runs, but the Celtics would close the gap each time. In Game 1, they answered a pair of Golden State threes that would have been backbreakers with threes of their own prior to the fourth quarter attack. Around the same time in Game 2, the Celtics narrowed their lead to six, but this time the Warriors went to a different point, leaving them with a 19 lead after just over a minute of action in the fourth quarter.

While the Celtics were able to hang around long enough to win the first game, they can’t count on another shooter like Game 1. to fight their way out of a deficit. For that to happen, they need to make some changes.

Keep their own on the glass

The Warriors have better rebounders than the Celtics. Kevon Looney does his best Dennis Rodman impersonation since Game 6 of the Grizzlies series. Although Looney has been a bull, they need to keep everyone else in check, especially on the attacking boards. The Warriors grabbed five offensive rebounds in the third quarter of Game 1 and four in Game 2.

Three of those offensive rebounds in the third quarter have come from Andrew Wiggins. The Celtics have only played against him twice a year, so they must not be used to the Minnesota Timberwolves man. They had a week to watch the tape and see that he is now involved in every play. Even on one play in Game 1, he didn’t get the offensive board, but the crashing of the glass caused an offensive foul. Wiggins is a freak athlete but unless clearly jumping over a player like a dunk contest he should be kept off the attacking glass

If you’re going to turn the ball around, don’t do it in bunches

These are two teams that often turn the ball around. The Celtics made just one more turnover than the Warriors in Game 2, but when those turnovers happened, that was the problem. With just under four minutes left in the third inning, the Celtics had narrowed the Warriors’ lead to six runs. Otto Porter Jr. answered with a three. Al Horford then held down a Marcus Smart, missed three, then dribbled twice into traffic. He couldn’t get out of trouble the second time, forcing a bad pass on a slashing Grant Williams right next to him on the baseline who was picked. Next possession, Warriors knock a Tatum miss out of bounds. Derrick White gets the ball on the corner and is called up to travel as he makes a simple chest pass to Horford. Stephen Curry buries a three and that’s how fast they go from six down to 14.

In Game 1, the Celtics turned the ball twice in the first two minutes of the third quarter. Later, when the Celtics make crucial three-pointers back-to-back to stop an on-going Warriors run, they flip the ball on the two of their next three possessions. That lead could have easily gone from 11 to 18, but the Celtics were lucky that Curry missed a wide open step back three. Flipping the ball is one thing, but they have to stop committing them so close together.

Double Curry on purpose

Although Tatum was called for a foul, one of my favorite defensive possessions with four minutes left in the third quarter in Game 1. Horford beautifully busted out a Looney pick. He was able to hold Curry in front of him and still eventually force Looney out of the game – keeping him from an easy basket and Tatum fighting to come back. The only way to stop the Warriors’ attack is to stay in Curry’s face.

The Warriors run with him more than they usually do and it kills the Celtics. Early in Game 1 the big one kept falling when Curry would get out of the pick because, I don’t know, they mistakenly mistook him for Rajon Rondo? The Celtics pulled it off in the second half, but made the same mistake in the third quarter of Game 2. Draymond Green should have been called for an offensive foul on this game for run Williams, White, Horford like Kyle Juszczyk block. Still, White and Horford waited too long before attacking Curry to be so close, giving Green time to make contact with all three players. Curry buried an open three, and the next hold came in from 10 feet. If it takes a fistfight with Green and Looney to stay ahead of Curry, so be it, especially at home. But they can’t make him roll early with a clean look.