In the first NBA Finals game at the TD Garden since 2010, the Boston Celtics bullied the Golden State Warriors in the paint to take a series-defining win at home and earn a 2-1 lead. Three of Celtic’s starters notched 20-point plus performances on Thursday to lead their team to a crucial win.
According to the NBA, there have been 40 instances of the Finals being tied 1-1 and in the previous 39 instances, whoever has gone on to win Game 3 has then won the Championship 82.1% of times (32-7). Statistically, Boston is in a better position to take their first NBA Championship since last winning it in 2008.
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Boston clog the Warriors
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Through these NBA Playoffs, the Celtics have shown quality in defending all five positions. A full extent of their team defence was on display against the Warriors in Game 3. To put it into context, the Celtics won two key battles that are usually crucial when playing against a team like the Warriors.
They forced the Warriors into making 17 turnovers and won the rebounding battle a resounding 47-31, including a crucial 15 offensive rebounds. With no real time on the ball to work with, the Warriors didn’t have much of a scope to have a look in the game.
— NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2022
Boston’s frantic rebounding was a result of all their five starters looking to use their size and length over the Warriors, and succeeding at it. It had also got to do with the defensive effort put in by players known for it in the Warriors line-up.
Green’s all-time low
Warriors’ defensive mainstay Draymond Green became the first player in NBA history to foul out of a game in the Finals with less than five points, assists and rebounds while having played 34 minutes. If Stephen Curry decides how a Warrior offense looks on any given night, Green decides the defence and for Game 3, there was none.
The Celtics scored 52 points in the paint as opposed to the 26 put up by the Warriors. GSW coach Steve Kerr alluded to just how easy it was for the Celtics to repeatedly breach the Warriors when he said, “That was really the main issue — the point-of-attack defence. They got past us. It wasn’t based on any sets they were running. It was more just they were coming downhill at us, and they got past us, and that hurt us.”
Green’s bubbling energy and his ability to vocally channelise his teammates’ positing on the court is key to Warriors’ defence. But also in play was just how efficient Boston’s starters were.
Celtics offense supercharged
Point guard Marcus Smart, shooting guard Jaylen Brown and forward Jayson Tatum exploded for 77 points on a lacklustre Warrior defence. But at the heart of the offense was their decisiveness in passing. The trio managed 19 assists between themselves.
Jaylen Brown (25 years, 227 days) and Jayson Tatum (24 years, 97 days) are the first pair of Celtics teammates in franchise history to each record 25+ points in a #NBAFinals game at age 25 or younger. pic.twitter.com/dCgsHakTqa
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) June 9, 2022
The Celtics were almost perfect in their passing – instinctively letting go of the ball just as a Warrior reached the perimeter to defend them. And once the ball reached the paint, they played hard for their points.
This was the team performance that the Warriors would have feared the most because through these playoffs, this type of performance has made Boston look better than their opposition. It is the kind of performance that makes it seem hard for the Warriors to win the next three out of four games.
Curry’s ankle injury
And it doesn’t help GSW’s cause to see their leading man limping on the TD Garden court in the Game 3 loss. Curry, who has historically faced ankle problems throughout his career, is now facing what looks like yet another sprained ankle.
In the fourth quarter, Curry was in a battle over a loose ball and ended up with his leg underneath Boston big man Al Horford. The Warriors’ point guard was in quite some pain and stayed down for a while before getting up.
After the game, Curry said in the press conference that the injury didn’t seem to hurt him as bad as his previous ankle sprain – against Boston in the regular season.
“I’ll be alright.”
Steph Curry on his injury pic.twitter.com/gA1WZfGcma
— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) June 9, 2022
“We need him if we want to win this thing,” teammate Klay Thompson said in the post-match press conference. “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.”
Game 4 of the NBA Finals will take place in Boston at the TD Garden on Saturday. 6:30 AM IST.