The Boston Celtics squandered an opportunity to get one step closer to becoming champions. The Golden State Warriors took a 3-2 series advantage beating the Celtics 104-94. Being almost superhuman for the first four games, Stephen Curry was bound to have an off-night. Game 5 was a struggle for the 3-pt king, shooting 7-22 and making no threes. But the supporting cast led by Andrew Wiggins did it for him tonight. Wiggins looked like a two-way star seemingly outplaying Jayson Tatum in the Chase Center.
Tallying 26 points and 13 rebounds, Wiggins posted his second double double in as many games. He has consistently been the second best player on the Warriors this series and his aggressiveness and defense on Tatum is invaluable. One difference this particular game was the bench production. Gary Payton II and Jordan Poole combined for 29 points off the bench while the whole Celtics bench contributed four points minus garbage time. Draymond Green had his best game yet and Klay Thompson pitched in 21 points hitting some timely threes in the 3rd period. Although GSW won they didn’t play a great game. The theme for this playoffs is the Celtics beating themselves and tonight was no different.
Turnovers and stretches of unforced lack of focus continue to plague the C’s. First, the number one barometer of winning for this team is controlling the ball. When they turn the ball over 16 times or more, they are 1-7. However, when they have 15 or less they are 13-2. Furthermore, the Warriors have the most points off turnovers through 5 games of an NBA Finals in 30 years. Their 108 points off Celtics miscues in five games is the most since the Bulls in 1992. And again this game your top three ball handlers Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart combine for 13 turnovers.
There has been a lot of talk about the play of Tatum and how he has been very underwhelming. In addition to those opinions, he’s averaging a playoff low for a series at 22 points. Obviously he needs to score more than 22 a game, but above all, his approach and sloppiness as the best player means more. Game 1 was the only game where he was locked in the whole time despite only scoring 12 points. Next game he scored points but he struggled at 42% shooting and totaling 4 turnovers with a team worse -36.
Game 3 he shot bad (39%) but his approach was tremendous. He extended his passing mastery dishing out 9 assists with only 2 turnovers. Likewise, he stopped foul hunting and used his bulky frame to power through defenders and get to the rim. After game 2 head coach Ime Udoka said he thought Tatum was hunting for fouls too much which led to turnovers and Tatum solved it.
The baffling part of Tatum’s struggles is his game to game adjustments. As I said before he was going soft and hunting fouls in Game 2 but was more decisive in Game 3. But, in Game 4 he went right back to foul baiting. It just makes no sense how this team and it’s players have a theme of not continuing to do the things that work and get them leads and this led to Tatum’s worse game. This series he’s shooting a horrible 32% on two pointers and I really can’t put my finger on why he doesn’t go strong to the hoop and rely on his smooth mid-range game.
Tonight he played a good game but they needed him to be great late. He was only 1-5 in the 4th but he wasn’t the reason they lost.
Jaylen Brown, who has been the C’s best player this series, had his first dud of a game. Brown scored 18 points on 28% shooting wit five turnovers. The only thing he did well tonight was get to the line and shooting 8 for 10 from there. Similar to Tatum, despite being a proven scorer, Brown tends to not recognize when he’s too deep into the defense and it leads to errors. Also, for someone so polished offensively his handle continues to be an issue. In conclusion, I would love to see JB get back to being decisive and being that bail out option given his tough shot making ability.
Smart had some decent stretches in this game but for the most part he was inconsistent. C’s found success posting Marcus up in the second quarter but again they got away from a successful thing. He hit two threes off penetration from the Jays in that marvelous 3rd quarter but like everyone else, he fizzled out in the fourth. He got into some extra-curricular activities in the fourth that weren’t even his fault. Refs gave him an ill-advised tech followed by an offensive foul that Jordan Poole clearly flopped to get. Moreover, I would like to see more post-up Smart and attacking when they Jays garner attention.
Robert Williams was probably the most consistent Celtics tonight. Timelord continues to impress the world in a series where he’s not 100% healthy. He didn’t have the blocks tonight, but his presence on high ball screens and in the paint defensively is evident. Celtics need to look for his vertical spacing and stationary passing more often.
Lastly, Grant Williams and Derrick White gave you NOTHING tonight. These are vital parts of a short 8 man rotation and you can’t afford for them to be zeroes on the court. Payton Pritchard is a guy who gets spot minutes but the extension of those minutes rely on whether he’s hitting shots. He only played five minutes so you can probably guess if he hit shots or not.
All in all, this is a crushing blow. For a team that hasn’t lost back to back games all playoffs long I am honestly skeptical to see how they respond. I’m sticking to my Celtics in 7 prediction but my confidence is dimming. Celtics have to play their brand of basketball for as close to 48 minutes as possible on Thursday if they want to force a game 7 in San Fran.
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