If Ime Udoka and the Boston Celtics are going to avoid elimination at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, a number of things must happen.
Boston fell by 10 on the road Monday evening to take a 3-2 deficit back home for Game 6 on Thursday. The team struggled out of the gate, falling down by 16 in the first half.
Once the Celtics made a run, Golden State countered with its own 14-0 spurt to conclude the third quarter and start the final stanza. That was pretty much ball game.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continued to be inefficient shooting the ball. And while Boston clamped down hard on Stephen Curry after a 43-point Game 4 outing, Andrew Wiggins’ scoring and rebounding made the difference.
Below, we look at three things the Celtics must do Thursday night to win and send this one back to San Francisco for Game 7.
Boston Celtics must stop with the silly turnovers
It’s not a secret what has been the recipe for success in Boston this postseason. The Celtics are 1-7 when they turn the ball over 16-plus times. They are 13-2 when that plateau is not met.
Tatum himself is to blame for a lot of these issues. He’s now committed 95 turnovers in 23 games throughout the 2022 NBA Playoffs. That’s the most in a single postseason in NBA history. It’s certainly not a record he’s comfortable setting.
Game 5 saw Boston’s top-three players in Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart combine to turn it over 13 times. For comparison’s sake, the normally-turnover prone Warriors committed a total of six giveaways. That was pretty much the difference in the game.
Boston Celtics have to keep Andrew Wiggins off the boards
When Boston took a 2-1 series lead in Game 3, a lot was made about just how much better the team was on the boards. It pulled down 16 more rebounds, including being plus-nine on the offensive glass. This played a huge role in the Celtics’ overcoming a Game 2 meltdown in San Francisco.
Fast forward several days, and the narrative has flipped on its head. The primary reason? A player in Andrew Wiggins who is averaging all of 4.4 rebounds throughout his eight-year career.
Over the course of the past two games, Wiggins has pulled down a whopping 29 rebounds. A total of 25 of these have come on the defensive end of the court. Boston’s inability to get second chances has been a major issue especially with Brown and Tatum struggling from the field.
The onus could be on an injured Robert Williams to hold down his end of the bargain on the offensive glass. He has 12 offensive rebounds in five games. That number has nearly been matched by wing Jaylen Brown (10).
It’s time for the Boston Celtics stars to actually star
The aforementioned Tatum has scored all of five points in the final five minutes of the first five games in this series (say that three times fast). Meanwhile, deep bench option Luke Kornet has seven points in said situations.
Averaging seven assists per game in this series, Tatum simply needs to be more aggressive with his shots. He also must overcome struggles from inside the three-point line (31% in the series). A lot of that has to do with Wiggins’ defense — meaning the onus is on Tatum to break from his grasp.
As for Jaylen Brown, he’s scored 39 points on 37 shots during the Celtics’ current two-game losing streak. You can’t be ineffective shooting the ball against these Warriors and expect to come out on top.
This means honing in on potential mismatches. There’s no reason why Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney should be yielding sub 40% shooting marks on defense. Stephen Curry? Opposing Boston Celtics players are hitting on only 41% of their shots with him as the primary defender. This must change if Boston is going to extend its season Thursday evening inside TD Garden.