NBA Finals 2022: Two things Celtics need to correct to hit back against Warriors in Game 3


NBA Finals 2022: Two things Celtics need to correct to hit back against Warriors in Game 3

After being thoroughly outplayed by the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics will look to hit back in Game 3 on Wednesday night. Luckily for the Celtics, they’ve done just that impeccably this postseason. Boston is 6-0 after losing in these playoffs so far, and not only have they won, they’ve covered the span in each of those games.

Jayson Tatum, in particular, Celtics all-star forward, has stepped up his game following Boston’s playoff losses this year. In the six games the Celtics have played straight from a loss, Tatum has averaged 31.5 points per performance while shooting 50 percent from the floor — compared to 23.1 points at 39 percent shooting during the loss.

The fact that the Celtics have been so successful in responding to postseason losses tells you that they were excellent at identifying and executing necessary adjustments. Here’s a look at two simple but important fixes the Celtics need to make in Game 3.

1. Limit sales

The formula was pretty simple for the Celtics in these playoffs. If they take care of the ball, they win. If they don’t take care of the ball, they don’t win. They are 12-2 (including seven straight wins) if they turn the ball less than 15 times. For example, in Game 1 against Golden State, they only had 12 turnovers and walked away with a win.

However, the Celtics are only 1-5 if they turn over the ball 15 or more times. In Game 2, they had 19 turnovers – including 15 live ball turnovers. Those errors resulted in 33 points less turnover for the Warriors, and that was a big factor in the result. The Celtics know they need to be better in this area in Game 3 and beyond, but they don’t see it as a schematic issue, more as a mental issue.

“It’s so simple that we only have to take care of the ball. We did it and we’re a really good team when we take care of the ball,” Tatum said after Game 2. “But we have these mistakes where, snowballing, we pile on turnovers and we end up in a hole dig.

Veteran big man Al Horford sees the problem as fixable.

“We didn’t flip it in our wins, we flipped it excessively in our losses,” Horford added. … I know we can prevent many of these. In order to have better chances of winning, we have to reduce them.”

Fifteen is the number to watch in Game 3. If Boston can keep its total sales below that threshold, it will maximize its chances of winning and take a 2-1 lead in the series.

2. Better performance in the third quarter

The third quarter hasn’t been good for the Celtics so far this series. In Game 1, they were outplayed in the third 38-24, although they ultimately clinched a win after an incredible performance in the fourth quarter. In Game 2, they were outplayed 35-14 in the third quarter. Overall, they were outplayed in the two third quarters combined by 35 points (73-38).

The Warriors are a notoriously dangerous team in the third quarter, but Boston just has to be better in that context. After all, this edition is not just limited to this series. The Celtics were outscored by at least 14 points four times in the third quarter of those playoffs, including in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. They were surpassed by 25 points in the third quarter of this competition.

According to Tatum, turnovers are just as much a part of the problem as a lack of defensive intensity.

“I think turnovers tonight, and I think our offense affects our defense at times, was a little flat in the third quarter,” Tatum said of Game 2 against Golden State. “I feel like it translated on the defensive and they went off and hit shots and things like that.”

Celtics coach Ime Udoka appeared to agree with Tatum’s assessment. “That was a constant theme in the playoffs,” said Udoka about the weak game in the fourth quarter.

“We turned the ball around. Take the teams away from scoring against us in half-court, give them some baskets,” he added. “But it was similar in the third quarter. We had 11 for 18 points in the first half and gave up five or six more in that quarter.

With sales also being a major factor in Boston’s third-quarter struggles, it seems that a simple reduction could solve many of the problems that have plagued them so far this postseason. Ball care should be a top priority for the Celtics in Game 3.

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