The Boston Celtics are now only two wins away from their first NBA title since Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo were still in town. They certainly faced adversity in Game 3, but they got one hell of a performance from their stars.
Jaylen Brown got things cooking for the Celtics early as he scored 17 points in the first quarter, seemingly hitting shots at will in that opening period before finishing the game with 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists. He also had a block, which may have actually been his biggest highlight of the game as it took the wind out of the Warriors who were trying to scoring up one final run to try to get back into the game.
Jayson Tatum started the game slow, but built up steam through the game. He struggled from the field again and shot 9 of 23, but still had a good overall game with 26 points, six rebounds and nine assists. Also, as he’s done throughout the playoffs, he hit big shots when the Celtics needed them.
Speaking of big shots, I’m really starting to gain a healthy respect for Marcus Smart’s fearlessness in big games. He had 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists while only committing three fouls and playing hounding defense. At this point I’m starting to believe that Smart saw a witch doctor before the playoffs, because he’s pulling timely three-pointers out of his ass now.
Brown, Tatum and Smart are the first trio to each have at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in an NBA Finals game since Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper did it in 1984.
As good as the Celtics’ trio were on offense, Boston also deserve a ton of credit for the type of defense they played in Game 3. The Warriors opened the game with a 2-0 lead, but would not muster up another advantage until a bizarre sequence in the third quarter.
Steph Curry, who was playing with four fouls, hit a big three with 5:06 left in the third quarter, and Al Horford was called for a flagrant foul on the play. Curry hit the free throw to make his four-point play, and then the Warriors managed to get a three out of the extra possession. Curry then hit another three after that to turn a 73-82 Warriors deficit into a 83-82 lead, which I thought might shellshock the Celtics.
Boston instead took it in stride and managed to take a 93-89 lead heading into the fourth quarter, where they imposed their will on the Warriors. They outscored them 23-11 while using their length and defense to bother Golden State on every possession, which clearly got into their heads as they started making careless turnovers again. Andrew Wiggins even had one play where he basically just threw the ball out onto the sidelines instead of getting a simple pass through to Steph Curry.
The Celtics scored 17 points off 17 Warriors turnovers, but those miscues were also magnified because the Celtics won the rebounding battle 47-31, and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. When you’re forcing turnovers, and getting second and third chance attempt seemingly at will, it spells trouble for the opposing side.
Robert Williams finished the game with eight points, 10 rebounds, three steals and four blocks, and his presence in the paint altered a ton more of the Warriors’ shot attempts. When the Warriors’ threes stopped falling, they couldn’t rely on getting easy buckets in the paint, and that spelled the end of them in the fourth quarter.
There was nothing lucky or accidental about Boston’s Game 3 win. I initially thought this would be a six or seven-game series, but the Warriors will need to make some serious adjustments to prevent this series from getting away from them early.