The Celtics were tied 2-2 against the Bucks, and they won. They were tied 2-2 against the Heat, and they won (although Jimmy Butler made them sweat abundantly). Throughout these playoffs, they’ve learned a lot about themselves — their tendency to choose the hardest path possible and their ability to finish the job anyway. They know they can win Game 5 against the Warriors on Monday, and if they don’t, they know they can win Game 6 in Boston.
“We know what it takes. We know what we have to do,” Jayson Tatum said Sunday. “Attention to detail and things like that. I’m confident like I’ve been in all the playoffs, confident that we’ll react and play better for the majority of tomorrow’s game.
Still, Ime Udoka couldn’t help but express some frustration at his team’s tendency to miss opportunities and then come roaring back rather than just charging forward unhindered. Asked about Steph Curry’s otherworldly offensive performance in the first four games of the series, Udoka praised Curry for having “a successful streak offensively” – a typical Udoka response that avoids overestimating the star of the series. opposing team.
After all, as Udoka said: “If we play the attack in the right way, we would be 3-1, at least, right now.”
The offense seemed to be a talking point for the Celtics.
“The offense is going to determine, I think, the rest of the series for us in a sense,” Grant Williams said. “If we take control and do what we are supposed to do, we are successful.”
After Game 4, Tatum – with a wry smile – reminded a reporter that the Celtics “are not doing this on purpose, I promise” and to his credit, the Celtics are still undefeated after a playoff loss. If they keep this streak alive indefinitely, they will win the final.
So what will it take to even the streak? The Celtics offered some clues after practice on Sunday.
Stop looking for fault
The Warriors defended Tatum well without fail, and a common thread in Games 2 and 4 — both losses — was Tatum’s admirable but thwarted determination to reach the free throw line. When Tatum comes up and doesn’t get the call, he often returns the ball or misses in a way that essentially amounts to a turnover.
Tatum said it was important to play harder.
“I think one thing I’ve noticed is playing a lot more on two feet,” Tatum said. “As the coach said, playing on one foot and trying to look for fouls hasn’t worked in my favor as much. I think playing on two feet, attacking from angles, instead of trying to initiate the contact and things like that.
Udoka added that Tatum missed some lay-ups he usually does, especially given the Warriors’ lack of rim protection.
“When he gets a cross game, to burst space or roll into the pocket and try to get an advantage as far as that,” Udoka said. “Some of the isolations, the elbows, the things we did for him, they really charge. And even with that, he has to invite that and do some other shots at the guys. More spacing. Then play at the fingernails and elbows in the series.
“For him the numbers – I think, sometimes too penetrating. But he did a good job of mixing that up and pulling in the crowd, which is there every time, and finding a shooter.
Limit Steph Curry’s ‘out of touch’ 3-pointers
When the Celtics maintain their space and challenge Curry, they’ve been relatively successful against him (at least by Curry’s incredibly high standards).
“I think it was 3 for 6 [or] 3-8 in the last game from the touchdown, which isn’t great, but he looks up,” Udoka said. “What he obviously does is once he has left the ball, the movement is different. Do not stop. And they’re all chasing shots for him, as you saw when we changed it up a bit.
“We can mix things up there, being more physical, getting unders to him when he’s that high. We’ve been good so far. But the fact that he’s such a strong-willed and good playmaker makes it harder to chase him down, unlike other guys who don’t want to let go of the ball. He finds the guys in the pocket. Obviously, this is when Draymond is at his best, making plays for others.
On a related note:
Guarding Curry isn’t easy, but the Celtics can make it a little more enjoyable by maintaining their mental energy throughout the game.
” Word of the Day ? Focus,” Jaylen Brown said. “I think concentration is something that for us differs from game to game. It’s almost human nature when our backs are against the wall a bit, we play with more concentration, intensity and determination. And sometimes, when we’re not, we’re a little too comfortable. I would like our concentration to be intense, and I would like our concentration to be at a high level before the game 5. »
Sometimes basketball is simple.
“Don’t get tired of doing what works,” added Robert Williams.
Find ways to use Jaylen Brown
The Warriors made a smart adjustment by putting Draymond Green over Brown, limiting Brown while trusting their swarm of defenders to do a good job against Tatum.
Still, there should be plenty of ways to take advantage of this, even against a high IQ defense like the Warriors.
“I think putting Green on him on the perimeter takes Green out of his comfort zone a bit, and he’s one of their best defenders,” Udoka said. “He had advantages there, where they don’t like to put the ball out.”
Win the bounce battle
Especially against a team like the Warriors, offensive rebounds are a killer – shutting down their well-oiled machine is a boost, but giving them a second chance is deflating.
“They’re still killing us on the glass,” Robert Williams said. “It’s a lot of emphasis that we put on a lot of different things. But it is above all the physical and the execution.
Schematically, going out in transition is much easier after a miss. But for the Celtics, who are also ball-spitting prone, putting defensive possessions to rest after a miss is doubly important.
“I would say I think it’s just a mindset to make sure we take those points away,” Grant Williams said. “A lot of their points are down to transition, open opportunities, and then offensive rebounds. I think they had 16 offensive rebounds and I think we had 16 turnovers. So these are 32 opportunities for them that we can seize ourselves.
embrace the moment
And finally, Brown thinks a lot of “great basketball” awaits the Celtics.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s the biggest stage in the world. I’ll take our group, our guys, against anyone. So I can’t wait to be there. »
Game 5 predictions at 9 p.m. Monday.
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