Bigger, more athletic Celtics impose their will on Warriors to win Game 3

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The Boston Celtics are the bigger team. The more athletic team. The physically stronger team.

“We want to impose our will and our size in this series,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said.

In Game 3 at home, the Celtics did exactly that.

The Celtics doubled up the Warriors in points in the paint, 52-26. Boston dominated the glass, grabbing the offensive rebound and getting a second chance on almost a third of their missed shots (15 offensive rebounds). And on defense, the Celtics had Robert Williams doing this four times.

Stephen Curry remains the best player in this series and scored 31. Klay Thompson finally got going in the Finals and scored 25. It was not near enough to overcome the athleticism and size difference between the teams.

Boston pulled away in the fourth quarter to win Game 3 116-100, giving the Celtics a 2-1 series lead in the Finals. Game 4 is Thursday night.

The biggest question postgame was the health of Stephen Curry. Late in the fourth quarter, he and Al Horford went to the floor going after a loose ball, and Horford fell on Curry’s legs. It wasn’t intentional, but Curry was clearly in pain.

After the game, Steve Kerr said they would know more tomorrow.

“I’ll be all right,” Curry said. “I got caught — obviously in some pain, but I’ll be all right. See how it feels tomorrow and get ready for Friday.”

While the Celtics made a few adjustments, the biggest one was finally using their size to push back after the Warriors were the more physical team in Game 2.

“We matched their physicality and intensity better than last game,” Udoka said. “We didn’t like the way we wilted last game, so that was a big focus the last couple of days.”

Jaylen Brown embodied that early in the game, scoring 17 points in the first quarter, with five rebounds 3 assists.

Brown finished with 27 points, while Jayson Tatum added 26 and nine assits. Marcus Smart had 24 points for the Celtics, who as a whole did a much better job of driving into the lane to score, and if the defense collapsed kicking out to the open man.

Boston led by double digits most of the time from the middle of the first quarter into the third, but that’s when Curry got hot, scoring 15 in the frame. The Warriors, down 12 at the half, battled back to take the lead for a minute in the third behind Curry being Curry. It helped that Al Horford and Williams continued to play a drop coverage for stretches that let Curry come off picks into open shots.

The biggest moment of the third quarter was when Curry hit a three, was fouled in the act of shooting, plus drew a flagrant on Al Horford for taking away his landing space (the Zaza Pachulia rule). After Curry’s four-point play, the Warriors got the ball out of bounds thanks to the flagrant, and a wild Otto Porter three made it a seven-point possession

However, the Celtics did not wilt in this game.

While the Warriors were hot, the Celtics still scored 25 in the third and had a four-point lead after three quarters.

This time in the fourth, it was the Warriors losing their poise, with five turnovers (three by Curry) and rough shooting which let the Celtics pull away. Draymond Green had a particularly rough game, with two points on 1-of-4 shooting, just four rebounds, and he fouled out in the fourth quarter. Draymond, how do you feel you played?

“Like s***…” Green said. “I was soft. That’s what was most disappointing to me, for us.”

Green did play poorly. His pressure in Game 2 inspired the Warriors to a better defensive effort, but that did not happen in Game 3 and he was more a distraction than a guy impacting the game positively for his team.

This has to be the biggest concern for Golden State (outside of Curry’s health): The only times the Warriors have thrived this series is when the Celtics have shot themselves in the foot (turnovers, drop defensive coverages against Curry, etc). Credit Golden State for making Boston pay for every mistake.

But when the Celtics don’t make many mistakes, like in Game 3, they win. That’s a bad omen for Golden State.