The Boston Celtics withstood a furious rally from the Golden State Warriors in the 3rd quarter last night to take a 2-1 series lead in the NBA Finals, winning Game 3 116-100. Boston won behind balanced scoring and some strong bounce back games from Marcus Smart and Al Horford. Let’s take a quick look at what the keys to the game were and what lies ahead for both teams.
During Game 1 of the NBA Finals I got a text from my cousin TJ that I didn’t think much of at the time – “I don’t get why Kerr sits all the starters like he does.” Sure I noticed it, but ultimately I chalked it up to the fact that it was probably just part of their formula that worked so well over the years. After all the Warriors have won 3 championships under Kerr and reached 5 NBA Finals overall. Last night however, Kerr made the same move in the 3rd quarter and in my opinion it may have absolutely cost them the game. Steph Curry was on fire in the 3rd last night and brought the Warriors all the way back from 12 down to take a 1 point lead with 2:53 remaining in the quarter. So what did Kerr do? He benched his best player who just scored 15 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. This is the NBA Finals. You have to coach and play to win. The move stalled all of the momentum for Golden State and when Curry returned to the game in the 4th quarter (without running mate Klay Thompson by the way), he looked like a different player. I can’t stress how terrible of a move this was. When a player like Steph Curry is on fire, you don’t bench him. I don’t care if he had 4 fouls, I don’t care about minutes distribution, you simply cannot make that move and I believe that simple move may be the turning point of the series if Boston comes back.
What a balanced attack for Boston last night – Jaylen Brown scored 27 points, Jayson Tatum scored 26, Marcus Smart scored 24 and Al Horford scored 22. When Boston is scoring like that they are really tough to beat. Also Robert Williams contributed a very strong performance with 8 points, 10 boards and 4 blocks for a plus/minus of +21 to lead the way. His counterpoint on the Warriors did not do as well.
Draymond Green had a horrible night. When asked how he played in the postgame presser even Green admitted, “Like sh#t.” 2 points on 1 for 4 shooting, 4 rebounds and 6 personal fouls. He doesn’t need to score a lot of points but he needs to contribute much more than this. He looks like he’s struggling on easy shots like layups as well. The Warriors need Green to be the emotional leader he was in Game 2. If that Green does not show up, the Warriors will be in trouble.
I had said before the game that if Klay Thompson scores 25 points I think the Warriors win. While that didn’t happen, the Warriors had to be thrilled to see Thompson contribute 25 points last night. If he can maintain that kind of support to Curry and they can find some more scoring on the bench (we’re looking at you Jordan Poole, Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II), the Warriors would be in a much better position in this series.
The biggest difference in this series thus far is that the margin of error for the Warriors is much tighter than it is for the Celtics. The Celtics can withstand one of their key contributors having an off night. The Warriors simply cannot. Friday night will have no shortage of storylines going into a pivotal Game 4 in Boston.
(Picture of Steve Kerr – Getty Images)