Celtics

5 takeaways as Warriors defense suffocates Celtics in Game 2 blowout

The Celtics couldn't generate any offense around the rim.

Celtics Warriors Game 2
Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) celebrates with forward Draymond Green (23) during the second half of Game 2. AP Photo/John Hefti

The Warriors handled business in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, beating the Celtics 107-88 after a stunning Game 1.

Here are the takeaways as an even series shifts back to Boston.

1. The biggest takeaway for the Celtics: They have to find a way to generate points around the basket. Game 1 turned when the Warriors collapsed into the paint and gave Celtics shooters wide-open looks. Game 2 was a slog — none of the Celtics’ best players could figure out how to score around the rim.

The Warriors’ defense ramped up significantly. Gary Payton II’s return added a highly competitive defender — certainly a major improvement over Andre Iguodala. Draymond Green was active and pestering. Andrew Wiggins was solid. Every time the Celtics drove, they were met with active, swiping hands and they finished with 18 costly turnovers including nine total by Smart and Tatum.

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“They switched a few more things,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “Then [we] turned the ball over and didn’t give ourselves a chance with a lot of those turnovers.”

When they did get into the paint, they couldn’t capitalize — Jaylen Brown took a lot of brutally difficult shots, Robert Williams looked limited, and Smart and Horford combined to shoot a catastrophic 2-for-10. Derrick White shot 4-for-13 and scored 12 points.

In the first half, the Celtics shot 52.6 percent from three, and 38.6 percent overall which spells out their struggles inside the arc nicely. They generated a lot of open 3s in Game 1. They need to put some pressure on the Warriors in the paint in Game 3 to get some of those looks back.

2. Once again, the third quarter was immensely costly: The Warriors outscored the Celtics 35-14. The Warriors have been a great third-quarter team all season, but the Celtics can’t keep allowing them to take control of the game in that period.

“I don’t know the answer to that question,” Brown said, when asked about third quarters. “We’ve just got to come out and play basketball for 48 minutes. … We know the Warriors are a third-quarter team. We talked about it. They still came out and were able to go on a run. We’ve just got to be able to answer, and we didn’t tonight.”

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3. After struggling in Game 1, Jordan Poole finally got going in the third quarter and finished with 17 points on 6-for-14 shooting. A positive for the Celtics: He still looked shaken when the game was competitive. A negative: Sometimes all a young player needs is to see the ball go in a couple of times.

Still, Poole is a target on the defensive end. Playing him off the floor is a double-edged sword.

4. Much will be made of the officiating, particularly in the first half after the Warriors benefitted from several dubious calls. Draymond Green drew a foul on Grant Williams after trucking straight through him. Jaylen Brown picked up a shooting foul even though replays showed he clearly didn’t touch Gary Payton II in mid-air. Officials blew a Celtics fast break dead to call a technical on Jordan Poole, only to rescind the technical, leaving the Celtics without a free throw and without a fast break.

The biggest issue for the Celtics, however: All of the early foul calls sent Brown and Tatum to the bench with two fouls apiece. When they returned, the entire tenor of the game had changed.

“Can’t let that be the reason why in the second half I wasn’t able to be as effective, but definitely changed the game with that phantom call,” Brown said.

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Al Horford came as close to complaining about the referees as you’ll hear him in a postgame press conference.

“That whole first half, it was definitely different,” Horford said, with a meaningful emphasis on the word “different.” “We knew that it was going to be different.”

However you feel about the officiating, the Celtics need to handle it better. Their shot selection suffered for the rest of the half, and they never appeared comfortable after that stretch. A championship team needs to be able to overcome those frustrations, whether or not they are legitimate.

When a reporter asked about a technical he picked up in the third quarter, Udoka was careful not to say anything that can get him fined, but he walked right up to the line.

“I just let them now how I felt throughout the game,” Udoka deadpanned. “In a demonstrative way. On purpose. To get a technical.”

5. The Celtics were asked repeatedly about Green, whose histrionics seemed to annoy multiple players.

“That’s what Draymond Green does,” Brown said. “He’ll do whatever it takes to win. He’ll pull you, he’ll grab you, he’ll try to muck the game up because that’s what he does for their team. It’s nothing to be surprised about. Nothing I’m surprised about. He raised his physicality to try to stop us and we’ve got to raise ours. Looking forward to the challenge.”

Horford, meanwhile, was steadfast claiming Green’s dust-ups had “no impact.” The Celtics seemed determined not to let Green know how much his style of play annoyed them, even though it clearly did.

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“That’s one player that you can only guard one person at a time,” Udoka said. “We had 11 turnovers for 18 points in the first half.”

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