Fri. Sep 22nd, 2023

The Golden State Warriors are looking for positives after their disastrous fourth-quarter meltdown against the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Boston made their first seven 3-pointers of the frame en route to a 40-16 shellacking in the final 12 minutes, and that helped the Celtics score a 120-108 victory to take a 1-0 lead in the series. 

But Draymond Green isn’t dwelling on the last few minutes. No, in his eyes, the Warriors can take solace in how well they played in the rest of the game. In fact, in his eyes, the Warriors dominated the earlier portion of the contest. “They stayed within striking distance and they made shots late,” Green said. “We’ll be fine. We’ll figure out the ways we can stop them from getting those 3s and take them away. I don’t think it was a rhythm thing. We pretty much dominated the game for the first 41, 42 minutes, so we’ll be fine.”

On balance, Green’s point isn’t crazy. The Warriors led by as many as 15 points in the third quarter and were ahead for the bulk of the three opening frames. But “dominated” is a bit of a stretch. The Warriors even trailed at halftime, 56-54. The third quarter was dominant on their end, but the Celtics quickly scored the first nine points of the fourth to cut a 12-point lead down to three. If there was a truly dominant stretch in there for Golden State, it didn’t last 41 or 42 minutes.

The other anomaly Green noticed was in Boston’s shooting. “They hit 21 3s and Marcus Smart, Al Horford and Derrick White combined for 15,” Green said. “Those guys are good shooters, but they combined for what, 15 out of eight, Smart seven, eight, 15-for-23. Is my math right? Eight, seven and eight. Eight, seven and eight. Yea, that’s 23, right? 15-for-23 from those guys. Eh. We’ll be fine.”

Again, Green does have a point here. While all three are perfectly capable of making 3s, none are particularly reliable marksmen. Prior to his last three games, which have been excellent, White shot 20.8 percent from deep in the playoffs. Boston nearly unraveled in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals in part because of the 3s a wide-open Smart kept missing in the final minutes. Horford made just 33.6 percent of his 3s in the regular season, and while he’s been better than that in the past, he’s always been a somewhat reluctant shooter from deep. The Celtics probably can’t expect them to make all of those shots again in Game 2. 

But they also can’t expect Jayson Tatum to shoot 3-of-17 again, either. The Warriors can’t rely on Stephen Curry making six 3-pointers in the first quarter. The truth is that game-to-game variance is going to swing wildly regardless of who succeeds and who fails. Each game is its own distinct entity, and if the Warriors focus solely on what should regress, they’ll miss whatever other unsustainable phenomena power the Celtics in Game 2.

The Warriors lost Game 1 because they were outplayed in the fourth quarter. At this point, it hardly matters what happened before that and it hardly matters how it happened. Golden State needs to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to fix it. 

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