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Monday, June 06, 2022

Warriors Ride Late Third Quarter Run to Blowout Victory

The Boston Celtics won game one of the NBA Finals convincingly and they were within striking distance of a game two victory before the Golden State Warriors hit them with a 19-2 run in the final 4:58 of the third quarter. The Celtics never recovered, and the Warriors won 107-88 to tie the series at one game apiece as the action shifts to Boston for games three and four. The main story of game two was Golden State's excellent defense (or Boston's bad offense, depending on how you view it); the Warriors' offensive efficiency improved little from game one, but Boston's offensive efficiency cratered from 120 points on .506 field goal shooting to 88 points on .375 field goal shooting.

It is not surprising that the Warriors responded to their game one loss by being more energetic and physical in game two, but it is surprising that Draymond Green is permitted to repeatedly throw opposing players to the ground, hit opposing players with forearms and/or elbows aimed above the neck, and instigate confrontations while only being punished with one technical foul. As ABC's Jeff Van Gundy has repeatedly noted, there is a bizarre double standard that works in Green's favor: Green is expected to behave poorly, so he is therefore given a benefit of the doubt that is not given to players who are more mild-mannered. Had another player fouled a three point shooter, landed on top of the shooter, rested his legs on the opposing player, and then grabbed the opposing player's shorts after the opposing player pushed his legs aside--as Green did to Jaylen Brown late in the second quarter--that player would have received a technical foul; unfortunately, because Green was the offender here and he had already received a technical foul, the referees assessed no penalty. Basically, after Green received his first technical foul he had a license to commit any mayhem short of a flagrant foul without being penalized. In the good old days, the game was more physical than this and yet also more sensibly officiated: players had a lot contact when the ball was live, but dead ball contact was not tolerated, and the issuance of a first technical foul was not a license to commit future mayhem but a warning that you are one false step away from being ejected. 

If Green behaves in a similar way in a subsequent game and receives an ejection and/or suspension, no one should sympathize with him or the Warriors; Green pushes the envelope deliberately and repeatedly, so he, his team, and his team's fans have to accept the logical consequences of his actions. That is why I dismiss as irrelevant the notion that the Warriors would have won the 2016 NBA Finals if Green had not been suspended for one game during that series: being suspended is a logical consequence of how Green behaves, so if/when he is suspended no one should be surprised or sympathetic. Green and the Warriors apparently believe that the benefits that Green provide outweigh the risks of him being ejected and/or suspended.

I have no problem with the Warriors (or any other team) pressuring the ball, being physical (within the rules) with cutters, and playing with great energy--but much of what Green does is not physical but just cheap (if not dirty). Again, in the gold old days there were ways to deal with such conduct; one way was to put your 10th, 11th, or 12th man in the game, and make sure that he squared off with the offender: maybe the reserve would crack the offender with a hard screen, maybe he would get in his face, but the message would be clear that the offender needed to settle down, or else risk getting caught up in a fracas with a player whose basketball value is minimal. 

Instead, in game two the referees gave Green a metaphorical license to kill, and the Celtics seemed puzzled about how to respond; it looked and felt like at a certain point the Celtics just gave in and figured, "We already took home court advantage, and we can finish this series at home even if we don't win game two." I am not suggesting that the Celtics should take that approach or even that they took that approach consciously, but rather I am suggesting that it is human nature to be a bit satisfied with a 1-1 road split as opposed to digging deep to win a second road game against a very determined team.

Stephen Curry led the Warriors in scoring for the second straight game, netting 29 points on 9-21 field goal shooting, including 5-12 from three point range. Jordan Poole added 17 points on 6-11 field goal shooting. Kevon Looney contributed 12 points on 6-6 field goal shooting, plus a team-high seven rebounds. Looney had a +24 plus/minus number, tying Curry and Otto Porter Jr. (who had just three points in 15 minutes) for game-high honors. Klay Thompson (11 points on 4-19 field goal shooting) and Andrew Wiggins (11 points on 4-12 field goal shooting) were Golden State's other double figure scorers. Green led the Warriors in histrionics while posting yet another "triple single" (nine points, seven assists, five rebounds) with a +7 plus/minus number.

Jayson Tatum topped the Celtics with 28 points on 8-19 field goal shooting, but he had a game-worst -36 plus/minus number, and his scoring total had more empty calories than nourishment, much like Curry's game one performance; both players scored a lot early during their respective big performances, but then disappeared down the stretch when the opposing team blew the game open. Jaylen Brown added 17 points on 5-17 field goal shooting but he was a non-factor in the second half. Derrick White (12 points on 4-13 field goal shooting) was the only other Boston player who scored more than six points. Game one heroes Al Horford and Marcus Smart disappeared in game two, finishing with two points each while combining to commit seven turnovers.

Did the Warriors make some incredible adjustment between games--or at halftime of game two--that changed everything? No; what we saw is the home team play with great desperation to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole, while the road team fought for a while before giving in and setting their sights on game three.

It is amusing to observe the game to game overreactions during an NBA playoff series; when a team wins, commentators act as if there is no way to imagine the other team ever winning another game, and then when the other team bounces back commentators act as if there is no way to imagine the first team ever winning another game. I never expected or predicted that the Celtics would sweep the Warriors, so a Golden State home win does not change my belief that the Celtics are the superior team that will eventually take the series. Frankly, a game two win by the Celtics would have been at least a mild surprise to me, because then the series would be unlikely to last six games, which is how long I expect the series to last. The so-called "momentum" from game two will last about as long and mean about as much as the so-called "momentum" from game one; game three will be a separate entity played in a different venue with a different officiating crew, and it is almost always the case that role players perform better at home than on the road. One trend worth noting is that the Celtics have yet to lose back to back games in the 2022 playoffs.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:07 AM



At Monday, June 06, 2022 3:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The officiating in this game was interesting to say the least, a huge contrast to game 1 that was largely very well officiated

Boston still has a pretty favorable road with 3 home games remaining in what is now a best of 5. They've done a poor job of protecting home court so far but they've also shown resiliency in those moments as well with 2 game 7 Ws (one on the road) and no back to back loss even after some blowouts and hearbreaking losses

I'm expecting another split before Boston closes it out in games 5 and 6

At Monday, June 06, 2022 8:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I, too, was appalled that the officials allowed Green's bully-boy tactics. They should absolutely have given him a second tech after his fracas with Brown and thus ejected him from the game. Unfortunately, Green was rewarded for his bad behavior in the sense that he did rattle Boston, shook them off their game. This is where Boston's youth and inexperience - in terms of the Finals - showed itself. Also, as you suggest, Boston needs a goon/enforcer type to neutralize Green's foolishness. Or at least leadership from Tatum or Brown, or from the veteran Horford, to keep the team on point despite Green's dirty play.

But, going forward, the NBA can't continue to give Green this "license to kill" as you put it lest the integrity of the game come into question. In my own mind there's an asterisk next to Golden State's win last night because every minute that Green played past what should have been his second tech was illegitimate to me.

At Monday, June 06, 2022 8:52:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I try to avoid criticizing NBA officiating because I think that, in general, it is very good, but last night's game was not officiated very well.

I agree with your expectation of a split in Boston and a 4-2 Boston series win.

At Monday, June 06, 2022 8:57:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Not only did the officiating surprise me, but I was surprised that Steve Javie agreed with not ejecting Green. Recently, Javie correctly expressed frustration that too many current referees allow the players too much leeway to complain and to act poorly. During his day, Javie was known as an excellent referee who did not put up with any nonsense, and I have no doubt that he would have ejected Green, so it is disappointing that during the ABC telecast he took the company (NBA) line.

I am hoping that yesterday's crew just had a bad game, and that this does not represent the beginning of a trend in this series. Green's antics and complaining detract from the game. Curry also whines a lot.

At Monday, June 06, 2022 12:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha reading this you'd think the Warriors lucked into a three point win because of a bad call instead of winning comfortably. Your contempt for them kind of jumps off the page.

I just don't know man none of this looked unsustainable. Boston's problem on offense all year has been that they really only have two players who can create for themselves so when their role players aren't hitting things grind to a halt fast. They could survive those stretches better against Miami and Milwaukee because those teams weren't elite offenses but going cold against GSW even for one quarter can be a death sentence.

As for Draymond he is a giant whiner but Boston is like the one team in the league he can play where he's only the third biggest whiner on the court behind Smart and Grant Williams. I am also not sure that throwing him out would have changed the game sometimes when they do that it fires the Warriors up even more like it did against Memphis.

I don't think Curry is bad as a whiner by superstar standards. He whines more than Giannis or Butler but less than Harden, Westbrook, Embiid, Durant, Doncic and especially relevant for this series Tatum. But superstars have always been whiners. Jordan, Kobe and Duncan were all giant whiners too we just forgive them because they were awesome.

Also to be fair to Curry he and also Wiggins got smoked on a lot of those missed layups without getting a call so it's not like he was whining about nothing in this one. The refs were letting them play on both ends which helps GSW's defense but hurts their offense.

If GSW can keep up their effort level then I think Boston needs unusually hot shooting, foul trouble, or an injury to win games in this series. It is not a good sign that they are shooting .462 on threes and are still only up one game with none of the Warriors besides Curry yet playing very good on offense. It feels a little like the Memphis series where it's hard to shake the feeling that eventually a big Klay or Poole or Wiggins game is coming. Maybe Boston will solve Curry by then and it won't matter but so far he's pretty much getting what he wants against them.

I think if Boston can win Game 3 we have a series but if they lose they might crumble. Several of their key perimeter players like Tatum and Smart are a little soft or erratic mentally IMO and if they lose Game 3 I would probably also expect them to lose Game 4 and while 3-1 is not a guarantee for the Warriors in the Finals the Celtics don't have Lebron James.

You are right that the Celtics have not lost two games in a row yet but neither have the Warriors. If both things stay true then the road team will win 5/7 games in this series and I do not expect that to happen so I think it is more likely than not that somebody is going to lose twice in a row and unless the Celtics can either find a way to significantly slow down Curry or find a way to create offense more consistently for their non-stars I expect it to be them.

At Monday, June 06, 2022 3:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a big difference between Green's suspension following game 4 of the 2016 Finals and game 2 of the 2022 Finals. Green was penalized from past games' actions when he was suspended, as well as the flagrant foul he received after game 4 which was very controversial and doesn't seem like it was warranted. In last night's game, his actions are directly from this current series, whether you agree with the decision to not eject him or not. And nothing Green did warrants a technical until after Brown pushed him. When that happened, Green should be allowed to protect himself somewhat. He barely nudged Brown after that and lightly pulled his shorts down an inch or so. Maybe he/they should've gotten a technical(s), but this seems minor to me. Sure, Green was probably instigating something when he/Brown fell when his legs were on Brown, but still from his fall and not enough for a technical.

It does seem hard to predict the losing team(Boston in this case) will win the series after the winning team(GS) blows them out, I get it, especially when that winning team in game 2 was up big after 3 quarters before blowing the 4th quarter badly in an epic comeback in game 1. Series still up for grabs obviously.

At Tuesday, June 07, 2022 1:19:00 AM, Anonymous Jazz Man said...

Can't agree that the Warriors didn't make great adjustments, mate. Switching Draymond and Klay's assignments took away Horford's threes, by dint of not having the defender roving off of him, and besides a few transition threes early, it slowed Brown quite a bit as well, as he couldn't blow by Draymond the way he could Klay. Adding Payton back to the mix gave them another plus defender into the action, and one that can hound blokes ninety-four feet to boot. They also tweaked the rotation to play Poole and Klay less together, since both have largely been traffic cones to this point, although I'd give Klay credit that he played better defensively in G2 than G1.

Seemed as though they played more one-on-one defensively, to boot, leading to less open swing passes to good open threes.

Curry showed out defensively as well. They switch-hunted him all night and got nearly nothing out of it, bar one Tatum three over his head.

Offensively the main adjustment seemed to be "Draymond don't shoot so much" which is a simple, but important, adjustment.

Now it's Boston's turn to counter-adjust, and thus far this year they've been sharp at that. But as much as Golden State ratcheted up the defensive intensity, swapping the assignments, plugging in Payton, and nixing most of the Poole + Thompson minutes were at least as important.

As for how Boston should adjust, they need to figure out some way to challenge Curry. For all the talk of how great Smart and Boston play Curry, so far they're letting him average 31.5 on 46/46/82 shooting. If those numbers hold, Golden State is winning the series, and probably winning it quickly, so they need to find something to either dent his percentages or lower his volume. Exacerbating the issue, as Anonymous the First mentioned, it's likely only a matter of time before one of the other shooters starts waking up.

On offense the Celts need to run some proper plays. Golden State has gotten wise to their bread-and-butter pet actions and switch-hunting, and they're only going to get sharper at defending them if Boston can't mix it up more to keep them honest.

A last note, Boston has some legitimate, if overblown, complaints about the level of physicality in the second game, but they can't fixate on the zebras. Even if the calls start going their way, if they're thinking about the officials instead of the Warriors, that's a losing mentality. Tatum spent a lot of time on the wrong side of the court arguing with whistles in Game 2 which didn't help their transition troubles.

Under normal circumstances I'd predict a great effort from Boston in Game 3, but they've been strangely erratic at home this postseason. Can't afford that against the Warriors. Suppose we'll see what they're made of on Wednesday.

At Tuesday, June 07, 2022 2:10:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Do you care to cite a specific passage from my article that denies that the Warriors won convincingly and/or demonstrates "contempt" for the Warriors?

We will soon find out what is "sustainable" for both teams in this series.

I don't like whining by any player. Green was the biggest offender in game two, and he was also the biggest instigator of trouble when the ball was not in play. He should have been ejected, regardless of whether or not that would have changed the outcome. Double technical fouls are called all the time for infractions less severe than what Brown and Green did; if double technical fouls should not be called at all in similar situations, then referees should stop calling them--but if the standard practice is to call them, then they have to be called even if that results in ejecting a prominent player.

Many players whine too much. Curry is among the worst whiners of the players who are playing now. Why would I write about the whining of inactive players in a recap of game two of the NBA Finals?

You offer a lot of speculation about what might happen and who might crumble. My analysis is based on Boston having a size advantage, and how that size advantage will have an impact over the course of a series. This is not a 40 minute NCAA Tournament game. This is a best of seven series, with each game lasting 48 minutes.

Also, teams prone to crumble probably would not eliminate the reigning NBA champion after trailing 3-2, so psychological analysis may not be your strong suit.

At Tuesday, June 07, 2022 2:24:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


My point about Green's 2016 suspension is that Golden State fans are still whining that the suspension unfairly cost them a championship. The suspension was the natural consequence of Green's pattern of behavior. To call this unfair would be the same as calling it unfair if a team loses because their point guard--who leads the league in turnovers--turns the ball over on a key possession. The consequences of a player's known tendencies/weaknesses are not unknown or unfair.

Similarly, Green was pushing (literally and figuratively) the Celtics in game two. Green either felt that he could get away with a lot, or felt that trying to get away with a lot was worth the risk. Either way, Golden State fans would have had no rational basis to complain if Green had been hit with a second technical foul.

I rooted for the Jordan-Pippen Bulls, but I never complained about the many technicals, ejections, and suspensions that Dennis Rodman received, because he earned those with his conduct. I also think that the Bulls made a calculated decision that if Rodman was available for X number of regular season games and most playoff games he was a net positive for the team because he provided defense and rebounding that no one else on the roster could provide.

At Tuesday, June 07, 2022 2:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jazz Man:

Horford was unlikely to match his game one output regardless of the matchup. He is an impactful player, but he is not an elite scorer on a consistent basis. Payton's return is not an adjustment so much as just a player becoming healthy enough to reclaim his spot in the rotation.

I am not so convinced that Curry is playing such great defense. Tatum is missing a lot of shots that I would expect him to make, and he is not often under duress when he takes those shots.

Boston's defense versus Curry has been mystifying thus far; it is baffling how often the Celtics have left him wide open. I can understand a blown coverage resulting in an open shot for a lesser player, but a blown coverage should never result in Curry shooting a wide open shot. If a defender is not sure what to do and/or notices Curry might be free, that defender should contest Curry even at the risk of giving up something else. This reminds me of my frustration during rec league and pick up games when the best player on the other team would be left wide open and I would ask my teammate closest to him why he did not move to contest the shot. "He's not my man," would be the reply, and I would note that his man might not be able to score 20 points if locked in a gym by himself, but the guy who just shot is averaging 30 ppg, so the percentage play is to make the dangerous player pass the ball or at least contest his shot.

I agree that the Celtics complained too much, but if the officiating does not improve in game three then the Celtics may need to put whoever their version of Jo Jo English is on the court for a spell; that is not an ideal solution by any means, but if the referees are not going to clean up Green's act then someone else has to do it, and if I am the Celtics I don't want to "trade" Jaylen Brown for Green.

At Wednesday, June 08, 2022 5:12:00 PM, Anonymous Alfredo Zucchi said...

Hi David, long time reader here (Al Fahridi). Off topic comment (I'd send you an email but I don't know your address).
I wondered if you have seen the series "Greatest Peaks" (available on youtube on the channel "thinking basketball"). It sorts of overalps with your Pantheon series. It makes an interesting use of advanced stats but, in my view, misses an important point. I'd be interested to discuss it with you. Cheers

At Thursday, June 09, 2022 11:25:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Hi Al,

I have not seen the "Greatest Peaks" series.

My email is Doc319@yahoo.com (it is listed in my Blogger Profile on the upper right hand corner of the 20 Second Timeout home page).


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