It’s been said that you’re only as good as your last game and if one is to judge Al Horford based on how he fared in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, then it won’t be pretty.
Horford, who scored 26 points and shot up to the top of the Finals MVP power rankings, was scoreless at halftime and would eventually finish with two points, eight rebounds, and a block. Of course, it was natural that his numbers would regress to the mean, but for it to be this low in a championship series stuck out like a sore thumb.
Horford certainly isn’t the primary reason for the Boston Celtics’ 107-88 loss in Game 2, but he represented the size advantage and the respectable across-the-board skill that could help them stay toe-to-toe with the Golden State Warriors. As a whole, the frontcourt or Horford, Robert Williams III, and Grant Williams combined for 10 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists, a far cry from the 34 points, 15 rebounds, and six assists in the series opener.
To be down by 52-50 at halftime to the Warriors despite atrocious shooting from inside the 3-point line was a fortunate predicament for the Celtics to be in, but a 35-14 third quarter by Golden State effectively wrapped Game 2 up, tying the series as the NBA Finals shifts to Boston for the next two games.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were the only players from Boston who scored more than 10 points during the competitive portions of the game, with Derrick White reaching double figures with the outcome having been decided and both teams slowly clearing their benches. Meanwhile, the Warriors had seven players who scored at least seven points, with five of those players in double figures.
The Celtics’ 3-point shooting kept them in the game until that huge third quarter run by the Warriors, but much of that shooting prior to the blowout came from Brown and Tatum. Spreading the wealth was key for Boston in Game 1 and that Brown could not follow up his solid performance and support Tatum in Game 2 was a lost opportunity.
Shooting 37.5 percent from the field certainly won’t win Boston any games, especially when they let someone like Kevon Looney finish Game 2 with no misses on the other end, setting the tone for a 40-24 points in the paint advantage for the Warriors. Golden State was successful in finding ways to draw the defense out and with the gravity the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole attract, all Looney needs to do is finish strong.
Being somewhat even on the boards with the Warriors is like a loss in itself given the height advantage the Celtics enjoy. Any separation Boston can create is big (no pun intended), especially when they coughed up the ball 19 times. Golden State thrives on spacing and movement, but possessions provide them with more opportunities to score, keep the likes of Marcus Smart in foul trouble, and lessen the chances for the rest of the Celtics to establish themselves offensively.
Working in Boston’s favor, though, is the early rest both Horford and Williams III got as both combined for 42 minutes in Game 2, giving them a head start in a finals series that has had more days in between games. A championship series raises the stakes and with it the physicality so the little breaks at the cost of some battles may eventually lead to winning the war later on.
The Boston Celtics got one road game from the Golden State Warriors and they will gladly take that with the next two games set to be played at home in Boston.
Of course, winning those home games is another matter altogether and they can do so by going back to what worked for them in the series opener and that’s asserting themselves the way Al Horford did in Game 1.