The Golden State Warriors had no answer for the barrage of baskets the Boston Celtics hit them with in the fourth quarter in Game One of the NBA Finals. Yes, the “been there, done that” team lost the “clutch quarter” 40-16. That fact alone should signal a warning to the Warriors, but in case it did not here are a few more.
This Celtics team brawled their way through the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat. They can hang with a finesse team like the Warriors. Yes, the Warriors can still score points in a hurry and look good while doing it, but this version of the Warriors’ roster is not as precise or as deadly as years past. Draymond Green is a complete liability on offense. Did you see all the bricks he put up in Game One? Klay Thompson doesn’t move as well – who would expect him to after his injury? Even if Steph Curry does “Steph things” like shoot 7-9 from the field for 21 points in the first quarter, the Warriors’ championship hopes are pinned to the play of NBA Finals newcomers like Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins. Maybe they rise to the occasion, but it’s not the same as trotting out 2017’s roster.
Players driving the lane find the real estate expensive. The versatility of Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown is well known. But don’t sleep on Al Horford and Robert Williams’ ability to defend the paint. Ask Jordan Poole about the difference between facing the Mavericks’ defense versus what he went up against in Game One of the NBA Finals.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown aren’t the only offensive options. Building a defensive game plan focused on stopping Tatum and Brown makes sense, but the rest of the team are far from liabilities. Marcus Smart can produce the occasional “Oh no!” shot at inopportune times, but he’s a capable scorer – he had 18 in Game One. Al Horford destroyed the Bucks in Game Four by pouring in 30 points, including a nice dunk over Giannis, so it’s probably not wise to ignore him…Let’s check the game notes for Game One… Horford scored 26. By the way, the Bucks already tried the “pack in the paint” defense, forcing the Celtics to win the game via the three-point shot, and Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard obliged in Game Seven by shooting 7-18 and 4-6 from three-point range. Derrick White crashed the Game One party with 21 points. He had several double-digit scoring games against the Heat, too.
Big deal, right? The Celtics have other players who occasionally score points. What does it all mean? It means that the Celtics can win games when Jayson Tatum, their star player, is having an off night as he did in Game One.
What happens when Jayson Tatum scores the points he’s averaged in the playoffs?