The NBA Finals is set for a pivotal Game 5 on Monday night between the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors. The winner of Game 5 when the series is tied 2-2 in the NBA playoffs goes on to win the series 83 percent of the time.
The Celtics had a golden opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 lead on Friday, but poor offensive execution down the stretch doomed them. Celtics’ head coach Ime Udoka believes his team’s self-inflicted wounds on offense are why the series is tied.
“If we were playing offense the right way we would be up 3-1,” said Udoka on Sunday. “At least, right now.”
Ime Udoka says while Steph Curry has had success against the Celtics’ drop coverages, Boston’s offense is the issue: “If we were playing offense the right way, we would be up 3-1, at least, right now.”
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) June 12, 2022
That’s bold talk, but he’s not wrong. Despite Warriors, two-time MVP Steph Curry having an NBA Finals for the ages the Celtics have been the better team.
But in the NBA Finals, margins are thin. When you give championship teams like the Warriors opportunities, they’re going to make you pay.
“I think they had 16 offensive rebounds and I think we had 16 turnovers,” said Grant Williams. “So that’s 32 opportunities for them that we can take for ourselves.”
Late in Game 4 the Celtics’ offense got very stagnant down the stretch. There were a couple plays where they didn’t start an action on offense until seven seconds to go on the shot clock. That is death.
This is the NBA Finals. You’ve got to be racing on both sides of the floor and putting your opponent under constant pressure.
But this has been the Celtics’ modus operandi all playoffs long. They have success and are unable to follow up and capitalize. Making things harder than they need to.
Playing offense in a crowd leading to turnovers and run-outs. You can’t do these things in the NBA Finals. This might be a byproduct of youth.
Much has been made about the Celtics’ lack of Finals experience and all that the Warriors have. Perhaps they are too young to understand the magnitude of the moment.
“I feel like they’re just disciplined. That’s where that maturity comes in,” said Williams. “They’ve been here many times before, so they try not to beat themselves, even if they do have one or two breakdowns or turnovers that lead to open baskets, they still execute and do what they need to do.”
Though with a coach like Udoka it’s hard to believe his team lacks discipline and an understanding of the moment.
But that’s youth. With its braggadocio and confidence there might be a tendency to think there will be a next game or get them next time deep in your subconscious.
Maybe the Warriors’ six Finals trips in eight seasons is a mark this Celtics team believes they can get to. Being on the verge of a dynasty.
Of course that underscores how extremely difficult it is to do that. The Warriors’ Finals trips in 2017, 2018, and 2019 were aided because Curry was on an extremely low contract for his value and that allowed them to sign Kevin Durant as a free agent. Make no mistake, Durant was key to those Finals’ appearances and two wins. They likely three-peat if he doesn’t rupture his Achilles tendon.
When you arrive at this stage there is no guarantee you’ll make it there ever again. The league is littered with young teams that break through and make the Finals only to never reach the ultimate round again.
The Celtics better realize this is their opportunity and do whatever they can to win this year, because who knows if they’ll ever get back.