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Who knows what’s going on with these Finals

The Warriors stormed back in Game 2 and tied the series. What comes next?

NBA: Finals-Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

In my pre-Finals post, I wrote that:

”Unlike many of the games leading up to the Finals, I don’t expect any blow-outs.”

Two games. Proven proven wrong twice.

At the start of the fourth quarter of Game One, the game switched from what looked to be a fairly comfortable Warriors win into a Green Tsunami that swamped Chase Center. That Celtic win in Game One also made Game Two a very early “must win” game for the Warriors. While the Warriors were up two at halftime Sunday night, each team went into intermission knowing that it had not come close to playing their best basketball. The Celtics’ first half included a gazillion live-ball turnovers which the Warriors then “converted” into missed lay-ups at the other end — or shots at the rim that a Celtic defender swatted into the stands.

In the first quarter alone, the Warriors missed three lay-ups, had two others blocked, and missed three free throws. But they still led by one thanks to a late flurry. In the second quarter, the teams combined for only 41 points, with the Warriors going into the locker-room up two.

We all know what happened after halftime: The Warriors continued to play the same strong defense they had played in the first half. On offense, Steph Curry and other Warriors not named Klay Thompson caught fire. The 35 - 14 third-quarter spread in favor of Golden State almost matched the Celtics’ awesome fourth quarter in Game One, so much so that Celtic coach Ime Udoka decided to remove his starters for the last ten minutes of the game.

A closer look reveals that the first two games of these Finals had only five competitive quarters. If we just look at the scores of individual quarters, they look like this:

GS 32 Boston 28
GS 22 Boston 28
GS 38 Boston 24
GS 16 Boston 40
GS 31 Boston 30
GS 21 Boston 20
GS 35 Boston 14
GS 20 Boston 24

For a series that everyone expected to be very close, having three non-competitive quarters out of the eight played makes it impossible to predict what will happen next. And that inability to predict what happens makes this non-competitive series (so far) rather fascinating. So long as we get some close games.

Other thoughts:

  • What a difference a day makes. ABC ran a great graphic which showed a large part of the difference between Games One and Two.

The most telling decrease came from Al Horford, who truly was the star of the Celtics’ win in the first game. Not only did Horford barely score in Game Two, he hardly shot the ball. His first shot in the game occurred in the third quarter. I didn’t hear the television commentators explain what the Warriors did differently in Game Two which led to Horford getting so few shots: For most of the game, the Warriors had Klay Thompson cover Horford. In Game One, Draymond Green covered Horford. Which of those two defenders is more likely to help out in the paint, leaving Horford open from three? Green did exactly that in Game One, while Thompson did not in Game Two.

  • Putting the Warriors’ shooting guard on the Celtics’ 4/5 was not the only unusual match-up. When Celtics center Robert Williams played, he often matched up against a perimeter player, (former number one pick) Andrew Wiggins. On the other end, Warriors 4/5 Draymond Green often matched up with the Celtics‘ shooting guard Jaylen Brown. After a 4 for 6 first quarter, with two threes, Brown went 1 for 11 the rest of the game. Even worse, he had to listen to Draymond all game long, something which would exhaust anyone.
  • After the game, it felt like the Warriors’ sixth man Jordan Poole had played a good game. On second thought I’m not so sure. In the first half, while the game was still competitive, Poole went 1 for 5 for only three points, and remained a defensive liability. He was outscored by Gary Payton II who had not played in a month with a broken left elbow — Payton is left-handed. By the numbers, Poole had a much better second half: 5 for 9 from the floor, 4 of 7 from three, for 14 points. But all of that happened after the Warriors had built the lead to double-digits. Poole entered the second half with only 1:19 left in the third quarter with his team already up 79-64. That said, in that minute plus, Poole had an assist, a long three and then this shot which finished the third quarter, and essentially finished the Celtics too:

  • Long-time readers know I love box scores. How about this one? In a game the Warriors won easily, with Curry and Poole seemingly raining threes, the Warriors went 15 for 38 from three. In a game in which the Celtics got crushed, with Derrick White, Marcus Smart and Al Horford going from making 15 threes in Game One to only 2 total in Game Two (both by White), the Celtics as a team went 15 for 38 from three, exactly the same as the victorious Warriors.
  • Before the Finals started, we ran a poll asking which team SpursNation thought would win the championship. In a nail-biter, SpursNation favored the Warriors 52 - 48%.

We now have these two odd games in the books and only five games or less remaining. The Celtics have home court advantage, with Games Three, Four and Six (if necessary) in Boston. If the Warriors can get to a seventh game, they will host that game for the rings.

Who do you think will win now?


Who wins the finals?

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