Celtics Take Game 3, 116-100

The game has just ended. I’m going to get all my thoughts out here quickly, and then after watching some commentary on the game later tonight and tomorrow morning, and having some more time to think on the game, I’ll add in some more insights. But these are my immediate reactions:

  • It should go without saying but if Curry’s injury is even remotely serious this series is done.
  • But Boston looked like the far better team throughout the whole game, and before Curry’s injury.
  • It just feels like the Celtics are bigger, stronger and faster as a team and that the Warriors don’t have a prayer against them physically. Like, Golden State can only win by hitting an inordinate amount of threes, superior coaching, capitalizing on Boston mistakes and turnovers, and smarter/craftier play. That’s really it. They can’t match up with the Celtics straight up. I don’t want to use the term “smoke and mirrors,” but that’s really what the Warriors need to beat this Celtics team, because they can’t match up with them.
  • When Jaylen Brown had that block on Klay Thompson, it just felt like it was one of those, “The future is now, old man,” type of moments. Clearly Klay’s athleticism has been diminished by all those catastrophic injuries he’s had, and he was not getting blocked like that if this was 2019. But Jaylen Brown just looked so much more athletic than Klay on that play. It was tough to watch. I feel like it was demoralizing for the Warriors overall. And then the Steph injury just made it all 10x worse.
  • I cannot emphasize it enough, but Boston just looks like men playing against boys out there. Golden State looks so incredibly small as a team. And not just when Al Horford would somehow have Steph Curry defending him in the low post, either. Even Marcus Smart, the smallest player in the Boston starting lineup, looks massive out there compared to Steph.
  • The Warriors tried to make their run in the third quarter, and at one point they even had an 83-82 lead (their first lead since 2-0 early in the first quarter) but Boston had an answer. They had a 12 point lead at halftime, and a 4 point lead after the third quarter. To only be outscored by these Warriors by 4 in the third quarter, that’s great. Boston will take that all day, because they’ve either dominated or played even in every other quarter of this series.
  • This was almost a Steph Legacy game. He was doing great. I think he had 29 points through three quarters on highly efficient shooting. But then he disappeared in the fourth.
  • 15-6 Boston advantage on offensive rebounds. That’s extremely important. Boston finally used that superior size to their advantage.
  • 47-31 total rebounding advantage. You’re going to win when the number is that lopsided.
  • Grant Williams is such a good off-the-bench player. I don’t know why he didn’t play more in the first two games. He’s just such a great piece to have.
  • Robert Williams looked healthy in this game, which was a surprise. He is such a beast down low, and on top of that, he’s just intimidating. He gives Boston that big, physical presence, plus grit and toughness. He had a huge block on Steph at one point in the second half, and in that moment it just felt like yet another “too big, too strong” situation.
  • Points in the paint: Boston 52, Golden State 26. Golden State won points in the paint in Game 2 by a margin of 40-24, but this time Boston dominated the paint. It showed. Golden State had to settle for jumpers and threes.
  • Speaking of which, this was yet another game where the teams were about even from three: the Warriors shot 37.5% from downtown (15-40), Boston shot 37.1% (13-35). When it’s even from three, then you have to win the battle in the paint. Boston did so, resoundingly.
  • Steph and Klay were really the only Warriors who had good games. They were a combined 11-24 from three for 56 combined points (the Warriors only scored 100). The rest of the team was 4-16 from three. Man, it seemed like the Warriors were loaded with talent and one of the deepest teams in NBA history coming into the Finals, but now they look like a team consisting of Steph, Klay every once in a while, Poole for maybe a quarter every couple of games, and a bunch of nobodies–and then Draymond who now has as many fouls in this series (15) as he does points. Wiggins has been quiet most of this series. It feels like the Warriors roster is not even close to Boston’s.
  • Steph has to score 40 for the Warriors to even have a chance in any game. I really don’t see how Golden State can win this series at this point. I could go into more stats and stuff like that, but I don’t see much of a point to do so: if you watched this game tonight, you came away thinking that Boston is clearly the better team, and that unless they epically fumble the bag (as they are sometimes prone to doing, I might add), then they will win this in 6 games tops.
  • I wouldn’t be shocked if Golden State gets another win, but I think it’ll only happen if Boston shits the bed again. We know Boston is liable to do this, of course. So it wouldn’t shock me if Golden State comes out and wins Game 4. But Boston is clearly the better team. I don’t think that’s deniable at this point.
  • Jaylen Brown is currently your front-runner for Finals MVP. Steph has been the better player in this series, but Boston is ahead in the series. Tatum did finally have a legitimately good game (although if you want to nitpick he was only 9-23 from the floor tonight), but Brown had an even better game, and Brown has been better overall in the series.

Update: After having a day or so to process things, and listening to media talking heads and their #Takes on the game, a few more points:

  • It seems like most of the media honed in on Draymond Green as the guy who deserved the lion’s share of the blame for the game. His statline was horrible: 1-4 from the field for 2 points, 3 assists, 4 rebounds, 0 steals, 1 block, and he fouled out. He was -13 in 34 minutes. The Warriors certainly needed more out of him, but to expect Draymond to be a 10-15ppg scorer is just unrealistic. If you’re going to point the finger at anyone, it would be Jordan Poole (10 points on 4-8 shooting and 1-4 from three) and Andrew Wiggins (18 points on 7-16 shooting, 1-6 from three). Those guys are way better and more established scorers than Draymond is, and for them to go a combined 2-10 from three is just not going to get the job done. The media really loves to blast Draymond because of his podcast. They were just waiting for him to have a bad game so they could pounce and say he’s playing poorly because he’s more concerned with his podcast. Is that a fair criticism? Possibly, although nobody said his podcast was a problem in the first three rounds of the playoffs.
  • I think there’s an element of the traditional sports media having it out for Draymond because of his comments about the “new media” (i.e. the player-centric media coming to take down the “guys who have never played in the NBA before”-driven media). The traditional media doesn’t like that Draymond is taking shots at them, and I’m sure they feel a bit threatened by him and what he represents. Draymond and all these former players moving into the media space threatens the credibility of the traditional media figures who are armed with only a journalism degree from Syracuse. When us fans see guys like Draymond and JJ Redick and Richard Jefferson and all the rest talking about basketball, and we compare it to blowhards like Stephen A. Smith, yes, there is an element of, “What the hell does Stephen A. Smith know compared to a guy like Draymond or JJ?”
  • Both things can be true: the traditional sports media feels threatened by Draymond and what he represents in their space, and so they’re eager to pounce and trash him. But Draymond also didn’t have a good game at all, that’s a fact as well.
  • But I also don’t think we can blame Draymond entirely for this game. I just don’t think Golden State has enough scoring to match up with the Celtics when the Celtics are playing well. Steph and Klay combined for 56 points and Golden State still lost by 16. Jordan Poole simply isn’t consistent enough as a scorer, and neither he nor Wiggins get enough opportunities to consistently contribute 20+ points per game. Would Golden State have had a better chance in this game if Draymond had 10 points instead of 2? Absolutely. But he’s only averaging 8.1 points per game in these playoffs, and he averaged 7.5 in the regular season. He is a career 8.7ppg scorer. You are not going to get 10-15 a night out of him; that’s not his game. What he does need to do better is rebound the ball, and dish out assists.
  • What would really worry me if I’m the Warriors is the fact that Klay Thompson had 25 points in this game, and that’s unlikely to happen again in Game 4. You might get one more 25+ point performance out of Klay in this series, and that’s it. I don’t think he’s capable of going for 25 a night right now. If Klay regresses in Game 4, the Warriors are in trouble unless Draymond, Wiggins and Poole all step up. Steph will have to go for 40 regardless, as I said above. But I just don’t think the Warriors have enough to get them over the finish line.
  • Boston has two guys (Tatum and Brown) that can give you 25+ consistently. Golden State has one. And then when you compare Al Horford to Draymond Green, Al Horford is a far more capable scorer, so that’s another advantage for Boston. Marcus Smart is a hot and cold scorer–sometimes he’ll go for 10 points, sometimes he’ll go for 21. When he goes for 17+, Boston just wins. And then when you consider guys like Derrick White and Grant Williams, Boston just has way more guys down the roster who can contribute meaningful points. With the Warriors, they need the vast majority of their points to come from Steph, Klay, Wiggins and Poole. Behind them, there’s really not much in terms of scoring on that roster. Boston’s advantage is that there’s not as much of a drop-off in scoring productivity behind Tatum, Brown, Horford and Smart.
  • To underscore this point: Boston had 7 guys that averaged more than 10ppg in the regular season. Golden State had 4. In the playoffs, the Warriors have had only 5 guys average more than 7ppg, while the Celtics have 7.
  • Another datapoint people are focusing on after three games in this series: Steph Curry has been brutal in the 4th quarter of these Finals:
  • Now, a little context here is necessary: he didn’t play in the 4th quarter of Game 2 because his team was up so much. But he played 9 minutes in Game 1, and almost 10 minutes in Game 3. So it’s fair to bring this up. And ask yourself: replace the name “Steph Curry” with “LeBron James.” Would anybody be making excuses for LeBron? Absolutely not. He’d be getting crushed. So Steph needs to be better in the 4th quarter, and he already has a bit of reputation as a guy who folds in crunch time in big playoff games.
  • The final point here is the Warriors players and fans complaining about the Boston crowd and all their vulgar chants. This, to me, isn’t even an issue. Fans have been loud and vulgar and nasty since the days of the Roman Coliseum. If you are a competitor in front of thousands of fans, you are going to hear some nasty shit. Politicians get heckled, comedians get heckled–anybody who is in front of a large crowd is going to get some abuse. Period, end of story. I have no time for this. Just perform, and shut the crowd up.
  • Not only that, but they even spit on him and threw stuff at him. They had the whole arena chanting, “Trae Young is balding!” They were horrible to him. And he silenced them. That’s how it’s done.

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