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C's Admit to Stagnant Play, Vow To Return to Celtic Basketball

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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The Boston Celtics admitted Friday night what everyone who watched Game 4 already knew: they were far too stagnant throughout Game 4.

Now, it’s time to remedy the issue as the series shifts back to The Bay.

The Warriors tied the NBA Finals up at two games apiece after snagging a 107-97 victory Friday night at TD Garden. They were able to come out on top, in large part, because Boston’s offense went stale and totaled only three points over the final 5:17 of the game.

Those final five-plus minutes decided the outcome of the contest, but the first 43 minutes of the night set the tone for Boston’s sleepy offense. The Celtics lacked energy and movement throughout the game at the offensive end, which resulted in only 22 assists compared to 15 turnovers.

For context, Boston entered Game 4 having averaged 28.3 assists per game through the first three games of the series.

“I think we just kind of got a little stagnant,” Derrick White said of his team’s offensive performance. “Everybody just kind of standing around looking at whoever had the ball, no player movement, no ball movement.”

And, as a result, no efficiency.

The Celtics finished the contest having shot just 40 percent from the field. That’s a significant drop from their Game 3 victory, during which they shot 48.3 percent, and an even stepper fall from their Game 1 triumph, when they shot 50.6 percent from the field.

Boston’s recipe for success at the offensive end is ball and player movement. There’s no secret about that. They are oftentimes unguardable when the ball is popping from player to player, and when players are consistently cutting off the ball.

They did not do either of those things on a consistent basis Friday night, and every player or coach who took to the postgame podium admitted as much. Fortunately for them, they know how to fix the problem. All they need to do is look back at the film of Games 1 and 3.

“For us, we just got to move, plain and simple,” Marcus Smart said matter-of-factly. “If the ball gets stuck and you see it, go screen somebody. But we have to move. We cannot let the ball get stagnant and let them load up on us.”

What Smart is referencing in that final statement is Boston’s tendency to allow the Warriors’ defense, via a lack of movement, to sag into the paint and take away driving and passing lanes. That’s exactly what Golden State wants, and it’s what makes life very difficult on Boston’s guards and wings.

Jayson Tatum felt the brunt of that loading up Friday night, as he shot a woeful 4-for-15 from inside the 3-point arc. White, who is typically a very strong finisher in the paint, also struggled to a 1-for-7 effort from inside the arc.

Those two players and the Celtics as a whole now set their sights on getting igniting the offense when Game 5 arrives Monday night. For the Celtics, it’s time to learn from the loss, to move on, and to bounce back the way they have at every opportunity this postseason.

“These opportunities right now, playing at the highest level, on one of the biggest stages, is also moments to learn,” Brown calmly stated after the loss. “Sometimes nights like tonight, it's tough to take a tough loss on our home floor. We have to have a short-term memory and get ready for the next game, come out and play Celtic basketball.”

What is Celtic basketball? It’s ball movement. It’s player movement. It’s playing for each other. And it’s defending at a high level.

If the Celtics play that way Monday night and abstain from the stagnant offense that plagued them throughout Game 4, they could very well find themselves on the verge of a title when they return home for Game 6 next Thursday.