Game one of the NBA Finals is in the books and the Boston Celtics stole home court advantage from the Golden State Warriors in a 120-108 win
It looked shaky at first. The Celtics were unable to figure out how to defend Stephen Curry, who hit a flurry of first quarter threes, almost all of them wide open. Seriously, Curry had 21 points in the first alone, on 6-8 shooting from three. Possession after possession Boston left him open.
But Boston settled down in the second quarter and even took a lead into halftime. That just set up another trademark Warriors third quarter barrage. They headed into the fourth quarter with a 12 point advantage only to see it slip through their fingers.
Led by Jaylen Brown, the Celtics started the fourth with a 9-0 run and eventually held the Warriors scoreless from the 6:05 mark to 1:09. During that span Boston ripped the game wide open with a 17-0 run. Derrick White hit a three followed by two Al Horford threes then a Horford baseline jumper coming out of a timeout. Then two Marcus Smart threes all but sealed the game.
On a night when Jayson Tatum did not shoot well, he played the role of facilitator, racking up 13 assists. Brown was great but if there was a one game MVP award, it goes to Horford. He led all scorers with 26 points including 6 of 8 from three.
With game one done, let’s look at some adjustments the Warriors need to make to take game two.
It’s always easy to start with the losing teams. There were a few things the Warriors did well in this game. They dominated the offensive glass and finished with 26 second chance points to Boston’s 15. But in the fourth quarter, they had just one offensive rebound.
Golden State controlled the pace through the first three quarters and actually did a great job not turning the ball over– they coughed it up 10 times, leading to only 11 Boston points. But in the fourth quarter, Boston converted four more Warriors to 10 points. And it was two back-to-back turnovers that turned the tide in Boston’s favor.
The first adjustment for the Warriors would be to look at their rotation, starting with Jordan Poole. As explosive as he can be offensively, he is a liability defensively. In game one he struggled on both sides of the court. He shot just 2 for 7 and had four turnovers. With Poole on the floor, the Warriors had a -39.1 net rating. It was particularly brutal when Curry, Klay Thompson, and Poole were together on the floor. With that foursome, the Warriors had a net rating of -52.5. More worrisome, playing Curry and Poole together gives the Celtics two targets to go at on the offensive end of the floor.
This is not a call to bench Poole but rather to cut down his minutes, and to especially limit his time with Curry. If he catches fire, keep him going, but the Warriors cannot afford to let their defense suffer.
Next, it may seem counterintuitive to what the Warriors are known for, but Steve Kerr should staybig even when the Celtics go small. Golden State’s best lineup was their starting lineup, which includes Kevon Looney and Draymond Green The starting lineup had a net rating of 37.5 but they played just 16 minutes together, and only one minute in the fourth.
The Warriors had a plus 33.6 net rating with Looney and Green on the floor together over 16 minutes. Kerr tried pairing Green with Andre Iguodala for 12 minutes, but together they had aa -19.6 net ratingr. The Celtics largely stopped defending both Green and Iguodala on the perimeter, so they could pay more attention to Curry.
No, Looney is not a shooter and he will not spread the floor but Boston will have to put someone on him in the dunker spot. When they don’t, it opens up more offensive rebound opportunities for Looney, who had six in game one.
Lastly, Kerr needs to play Curry more. He played 38 minutes in game one, but with two days off between games, Curry needs to be on the floor 40 plus minutes. Sometimes the key to a series is not so much who you are playing but who you limit or completely cut out of the rotation.
The biggest adjustment coming for the Warriors needs to be an adjustment to their rotation. Golden State has to play bigger for longer stretches and Curry needs more time on the court.
The Warriors cannot go down 0-2 against the Celtics heading to Boston.
Mo Dakhil spent six years with the Los Angeles Clippers and two years with the San Antonio Spurs as a video coordinator, as well as three years with the Australian men’s national team. Follow him on Twitter, @MoDakhil_NBA.
Photo Credit: John Hefti