NBA: 2022 NBA Finals Game 1

The result of game 1 of the NBA final is not what most of the people expected. The Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors are ranked number 1 and number 2 in the defensive rating during the regular season. But, the result of the game turns out to be a shoot out.

In the first quarter, Stephen Curry dominated the quarter with 21 points along with 6 made threes. Despite the elite performance of Curry in this quarter, the Celtics are only down by 4 at the end of the quarter. Just like I said in the previous article, the Celtics offense is not afraid of the game that gets turned into a shoot out as long as they can take care of the ball and not turn it over. I really like how the Celtics defense responded after Curry’s hot start. They didn’t over distribute their human resource to try to force the ball out of Curry’s hand. Instead, when Curry is in a pick&roll action the roll defender closes the gap faster and not giving up too many spaces for him to shoot a three. I only remembered the Celtics trying to trap or double Curry during a pick&roll in the second quarter once. The only player that is defending the pick&roll on the Celtics team that is dropping is Robert Williams. I think this is reasonable because his vertical jump and length of arm could let him contest opponents’ shots easier. But in game 2, if the Warriors exposed this tendency and started making threes in front of him he will need to adjust and close out the gap faster. During the fourth quarter comeback, I liked the lineup the Celtics put up. They went small (relatively compared to what they are used to) and contested the speed of off ball movement of the Warriors player. This could help them have better shooting and open up the floor more. I believed that this indirectly influenced Jaylen Brown’s fourth quarter performance which is the first player that sparked the comeback.

For the Celtics offense, they played well other than the third quarter. In this year’s playoffs run, the Celtics have the tendency to collapse in the third quarter. They will start to turn the ball over in the third quarter. Al Horford showed up big time in the clutch last night. I believe that this is the level of performance that he is going to have in this series. He is the most dynamic and talented big man on both team’s roster. No one on the Warriors side could match his skill set. The only player that could probably slow Horford down is probably Draymond Green, but he still has advantage on size and strength. In the previous article, I talked about how the Celtics like to run 1–3 pick&roll with Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum to let Tatum get the ball in the elbow area with a favorable matchup. They got the switch they wanted a couple of times, but Tatum just didn’t convert into points. I think the problem with Tatum last night was he wants to draw the foul too much. When he was driving into the paint, he kept leaning on to his defender instead of just going straight to the basket. Last night, the referee called the game really physical so not a lot of foul is getting called. Tatum will have to be smarter the next game and adjust his attacking style based not only on the Warriors defense but also how the referee is calling the game. There is one play the Celtics ran last night that I liked a lot. It is when the game clock is at 4:35 in the fourth quarter. Tatum is the ball handler and before Smart is coming up to set a screen for him, Horford sets a down screen on Curry (defender on Smart) to free up Smart a little bit. While Curry is trailing Smart on the play, it will be harder for him to communicate with Wiggins on how they are going to respond to this pick&roll. So, Tatum drives to the paint easily with Wiggins trailing. This forced the paint defender, in this case it is Green, to help. This leads to Horford wide open then Tatum makes the pass and Horford makes the easy 15-foot jump shot.

I believe that the Celtics shoot 51% for threes the whole game and 9–12 for threes in the fourth quarter is a coincidence. This kind of shooting is not going to happen every night. To me, Jayson Tatum needs to play like an All-NBA first Team caliber player especially when the matchup favors him. Scoring 12 points and only 3–17 shooting will not be enough for the Celtics to win this series. Defensively, the Celtics will need to keep contest shoots by the Warriors. Against the Warriors offense, the most important element is to keep them uncomfortable and not letting them find their rhythm beyond the arc.

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Jimmy Wu

Jimmy Wu

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