Still fighting with the champs: 10 takeaways from Boston Celtics-Golden State Warriors

Still fighting with the champs: 10 takeaways from Boston Celtics-Golden State Warriors

1. It wasn’t a great night for the Boston Celtics. In a loss that brought too much of the bad feelings of 2022 NBA Finalsthe Golden State Warriors took a comfortable victory.

There’s no place to start but with Jayson Tatum. This space doesn’t think the Warriors are necessarily in Tatum’s head, but he did have a very poor game. Tatum shot just 6-for-21 as he couldn’t find his range on his jumper and missed several shots inside. He’s entitled to a bad game here and there; this was just a very difficult place for it.

But the blame doesn’t all fall on Tatum. Marcus Smart also had one of his worst games of the season. Derrick White couldn’t make a jumper. Grant Williams looked uncertain. And Joe Mazzulla stuck with some of the same defensive coverages the Warriors ate up in the Finals.

As several Celtics said after the game, it was just one loss and it won’t define their season. This is the right approach. And for all we know, Boston might only see Golden State one more time this season.

Winning on Saturday night would not have been revenge for the final. This is over and the Warriors are still the 2022 champions no matter what. But playing better, or at least playing differently in so many ways, would have made this loss a little more palatable.

2. Arguably the most frustrating part of this loss was Boston’s stubbornness in coverage against the Warriors in pick-and-rolls. That became a major story during the Finals, as Al Horford, Robert Williams, Grant Williams and others repeatedly pulled away when a Golden State guard came off a screen.

The reason to play drop coverage versus the switch is that it keeps you out of the batter. When the Warriors make you switch and shuffle, even just a little bit, they put you in the cycle and whirl you to death with an endless stream of cuts, screens and passes.

Still, you have to pick your poison and letting Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and to a lesser extent Jordan Poole, come in jumper after jumper seems to die for simplicity.

Trigger Warning: These clips may trigger PTSD in the 2022 NBA Finals.

Blake Griffin is guarding this play, along with Malcolm Brogdon. Neither featured in the final, but this play feels like so many plays did in June. Griffin lays up, Brogdon can’t get past the screen in time, Curry buries the three:

It looks like Jaylen Brown is in for a trade here as he sticks with Jonathan Kuminga. Once again, Griffin is back and Thompson gets in an easy pullup:

One last time, this time off a scrambling play. Kevon Looney doesn’t even really set this screen, but it’s enough to keep Brown from having to work around him because Griffin is back in the lane:

3. Sticking with the drop coverage…it’s not really Blake Griffin’s fault in any of the clips above. It is running the scheme as designed. Without Al Horford or Rob Williams, Griffin started, and he can’t really run the shift scheme. (It’s fair to point out that Boston still went down with Horford and Williams in the Finals as well, and they’re much more athletic than Griffin right now.)

Late in the first half, Boston went with Grant Williams at the five and found some success playing the ball level. A handful of times they tried Griffin, the Warriors reset and attacked him off the dribble and made Boston’s defense move. These are the batter things the Celtics wanted to avoid.

When the teams play again, assuming both are healthy, look for Boston to play their big man. Here’s a good example of how Grant Williams is up allows Derrick White to get past the screen to block Stephen Curry’s shot:

Curry will burn you sometimes on these plays, because he is one of the best players in the history of the league. But it’s better to make him work than to let him, and the others, haggle jumper after jumper.

4. There was a strange lack of focus in this Celtics game at times. If you have to find someone in transition, you have to find Stephen Curry. Jayson Tatum points the pickups to everyone, but he can’t find Curry himself and the result is a wide open three-pointer:

5. All season long, Boston has been one of the best transition defense teams in the league. They limit the opportunities for the opponent and regularly shut down the handful that the other side receives. But back to the lack of focus, they let Golden State have some very easy ones in this game. This set back was an obvious example of bad defending.

First, both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were caught watching Blake Griffin fumble. Watch Marcus Smart tell them to go back to pick up Klay Thompson on the leak. Smart’s shoulders even sag when he sees the ball heading to Thompson:

On the next possession, Brown is again seen staring. This is your back rotation to do:

This set of two terrible plays resulted in a Joe Mazzulla timeout. In a rare moment, Mazzulla entered his team, likely to lose focus and give the Warriors two easy rebounds.

6. When Boston got on the ball, they were able to make some things happen. This led to easy transition opportunities.

Everyone here is very strong. Jayson Tatum gets the steal and Jaylen Brown returns it for the dunk:

Later in the fourth, Tatum jumped Curry and paid Brown back with a lob of his own:

On the next play, the help is there, and Marcus Smart gets the steal before Brown and Malcolm Brogdon run out at halftime:

The focus will be on the negatives, but there were good things Boston can bring to the upcoming matchup with Golden State.

7. With Jayson Tatum struggling, Jaylen Brown kept the Celtics at bay for most of the night. Brown did it by showing off his versatile scoring game. We’ve praised Brown’s midrange pullup in this space. Zooming it back a few feet, like this, will open up its game even more:

This is a good example of Brown’s change of pace ability. He drives hard, but then slows it down to hit the Warriors with the fake before making the layup:

This is another example of going up in the Warriors space on screen actions. Brown catches it and then outruns defenders for the layup:

On a night where many Celtics struggled, Brown stood out. As he often did in the Finals, Brown stepped up.

8. At the end of the game, when the Warriors called a timeout to clear the bench, Grant Williams was ejected:

There seemed to be some confusion, including from Williams himself. In the NBA, if you throw, or in this case, spike, the ball into the stands, it’s an automatic ejection. It’s been that way for years, and there are a handful of such ejections every season. Williams is likely looking at a fine as well, as that is normal in these situations.

9. Despite the loss, some Celtics stood up. We’ve already highlighted Jaylen Brown. But here we want to focus a little on the two veteran additions. While the defensive scheme wasn’t working, Blake Griffin was. He finished with 13 points and seven rebounds in his third straight impact start with Al Horford out. Boston can’t ask for anything more than what Griffin has given them this season. It’s been great.

We’ve repeatedly written or said some version of “Malcolm Brogdon will give the Celtics what they were missing in the Finals” and he did. Brogdon finished with 16 points, five rebounds and four assists. The only question really: When Boston was making its final push, why wasn’t Brogdon on the floor?

10. The Celtics are now 3-1 on the road. This was a game Boston fans wanted really, really bad. Maybe next time, with Al Horford and Rob Williams back, the Celtics will get it.

But again, this game can’t define anything for Boston. They return Monday in the first of a back-to-back Los Angeles set. First up are the Clippers, followed by the lakers. The Celtics have a chance to go 5-1 on a road trip that includes games against six playoff contenders, including several title contenders. That’s more important than getting a single win, no matter how much it felt to win for the Warriors.

#fighting #champs #takeaways #Boston #CelticsGolden #State #Warriors

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