“They hit 21 threes, and Marcus Smart and Al Horford and Derrick White combined for 15 of them,” Green said. “The guys are good shooters, but they combined for, what… 15-for-23 from those guys, eh, you know, so, we’ll be fine.”
Smart’s shooting mattered, but it was something the Celtic did with Smart on the other end of the court that’s also played a significant role in Boston’s fourth quarter run — and something to watch in Game 2.
Smart started the game guarding Stephen Curry, and he had to urge big men Robert Williams and Al Horford to come up and start playing at the level of the ball and not drop back. Curry got comfortable early with six threes and 21 points in the first quarter, however, the Celtics adjusted and he had 13 points the rest of the way.
Later in the game, the Celtics switched Smart onto Draymond Green — not because Green was a scoring threat (2-of-12 shooting in Game 1), but because it eliminates Green setting picks/running dribble hand-offs for Curry or anyone else to set up a mismatch and get them moving. Celtics coach Ime Udoka talked about that and how it worked because they are not trying to hide a defender somewhere.
“You know, we’re comfortable with pretty much all of our wings, our guards on [Green]. Like I said, we are a bigger team and physical team as far as that,” Udoka said on Saturday. “So we don’t feel it’s a cross-match with Marcus by any means or a mismatch there.
“And the bottom line is we put Marcus on bigs throughout the season to switch on to their guards at times. That’s something in our back pocket that we feel comfortable doing. Knowing when they are man initiators, getting everyone involved, and Marcus has such great recognition of when to switch onto guys with communication and kind of take things away. So that’s something that we go to late in games a lot.
“Then in general, helping off when it’s appropriate and try to make [Green] be more of a scorer, and understanding it’s a tough one: You help off, but he’s going right into a dribble hand-off action or a pin-down action, and you have to be able to help and get back. That’s one thing we have to harp on coming into the series, and they did a great job during the game.”
The depth and versatility of the Celtics’ defense allows them to do this: Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Derrick White can all guard Curry, and if Robert Williams or Al Horford get switched onto him for a stretch they can hold their own.
Putting Smart on Green blows up some pet plays of the Warriors.
Green understands that to make them pay for this strategy. He will have to score in the paint, which is a key issue for the Warriors in Game 2.
It’s something to watch. The Warriors know they have to play with more force, more intensity in Game 2 and that will decide the game’s outcome more than anything else. But we can get a sense of what the Celtics are trying to do on defense by watching where they put Marcus Smart.