I’m trying out a new gimmick for the Finals. I’ll be naming some winners and losers after each game because the final score doesn’t capture all the mini-storylines within. It’s not an original idea—I’ve been reading winners and losers columns after each Formula 1 Grand Prix since the late noughties and Kevin Wildes used to do it at Grantland—but, hey, nobody’s doing it for the Finals. Here we go…
After uncharacteristically giving up 38 points in the third quarter, Boston shut off the valve in the fourth. They limited the Warriors to 16 points on 17 shots and forced four turnovers which they turned into ten points. Boston did a much better job defensively on Steph Curry; after Steph torched them for 30 points in the first three quarters, he only had four in the final period.
The Celtics played the entire fourth with just one big man on the floor and it worked. As Ime Udoka explained after the game, “[W]e got a little bit more aggressive and took away some of their airspace on the threes, tried to get them inside the three-point line and make them beat us there, as well as going with the small lineup. Did some pre-switching to keep the bigs off, and it worked well for us.”
Al Horford’s Finals debut
One of the minor storylines in this series is Horford finally making his first Finals appearance after 141 career playoff games, the most in NBA history. Horford scored 26 points, including 11 in the fourth, while hitting 6-of-8 three-pointers, to go along with six rebounds and three assists. Not too shabby for the 36-year-old Finals debutante.
Fake Matthew Dellavedova
Whoever made this fake quote from the former Cavs guard (digital media literacy 101: the “BC” in BC Sports Pod stands for “ButtCrack”) nailed it. Boston took the lead with around five minutes left in the game and Curry didn’t score a single point during that final stretch.
It’s not a knock on Steph, but it’s a fair assessment. Game 6 of the 2019 Finals, Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, Game 2 of the 2015 Finals. It’s a long list. It doesn’t mean he’s not clutch; he’s very good at extending leads as we’ve seen with all his “night, night” highlights this postseason. But he plays better when his team has the lead late in games—that’s a fact.
Steve Kerr’s trust in Andre Iguodala
The game turned when Kerr played Iguodala and Draymond Green during the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. Andrew Wiggins had been playing well (20 points on 8-of-14 shooting through three quarters, while holding Jayson Tatum to 3-for-14 on the other end) and Kerr inexplicably gave his minutes to Iguodala in the fourth.
The Warriors were bleeding for points and Kerr left Iguodala and Green on the floor during a crucial stretch as Boston made their run. Here’s what I wrote back in December, coincidentally after Golden State played Boston:
“They were comfortably beating the Celtics on Friday, going up by as much as 20 points behind 24 first-half points from Wiggins. But they went away from the hot hand in the second half, which allowed the Celtics to climb back and keep the game close in the fourth.
“Wiggins only had three attempts after halftime—and it wasn’t because the Celtics started double-teaming him. The Warriors just inexplicably stopped running plays for him.
“… We saw it in last season’s play-in games when they kept going exclusively to Steph and became very predictable. When that happens again in the playoffs and if Klay doesn’t quite return to his Game 6 form? This might end up as Steve Kerr’s big-picture version of Pete Carroll’s infamous 1-yard play call and decision not to unleash the Beast Mode.”
Can we retire this silly moniker already? Curry, Green, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole had an offensive rating of 66.3 (points per 100 possessions) when they shared the floor in Game 1 and a defensive rating of, gulp, 183.3! That unit is incapable of making stops. Even if you plug Wiggins there as the fifth guy, they’re just too small. I swear, if I hear that “PTSD” again, I’m going to do what Chuck promised to do this little kid.
Dubs’ home-court advantage
Coming into Game 1, the Warriors have won every single playoff game held at the Chase Center. They were 9-0 through the conference finals, including three series-clinching games. That is, until they ran into the Celtics, who themselves were 7-2 on road games before Game 1.