As noted in the wake of Game 5, this series has been mostly about Boston’s end of the floor. And as ugly as the Eastern Conference finals were at times, Games 4 and 5 of the Finals were the first time since December that the Celtics have been held under 105 points per 100 possessions in consecutive games.
Still, with Stephen Curry shooting 0-for-9 from 3-point range in Game 5, the Warriors had to find some offense from other sources.
Here are some notes, numbers and film regarding Golden State’s success on both ends of the floor.
1. Wiggins wants it
Late in the first quarter on Monday, a Warriors’ possession stalled when Andre Iguodala chose not to shoot a wide-open 3-pointer created by a Curry drive. Jordan Poole went to set a screen for Curry, but Curry remained in the right corner, seeing what was happening under the basket.
With Iguodala looking for somebody to pass to, Andrew Wiggins went to get the ball and held off Derrick White to catch Iguodala’s entry pass. And from the left wing, he got into the paint and into a comfortable left-shoulder turnaround from just inside the free-throw line …
In the biggest game of his life, Wiggins wanted the ball. And he was notably aggressive when he got it. On the Warriors’ second possession of the game, he attacked Jayson Tatum off the dribble and drew help, only to have the wrong guy spaced in the strong-side corner …
Wiggins, like the rest of Golden State, had a rough third quarter. But his aggressiveness returned in the fourth, when he attacked both Al Horford and Robert Williams off the dribble …
The last two games account for two of the nine times this season (94 total games) that Wiggins has had more than 10 drives, according to Second Spectrum tracking. And the Game 5 victory came with Wiggins’ highest usage rate (26.4%) of the postseason. He was 0-for-6 from 3-point range, but 12-for-17 inside the arc.
2. Target found
The Celtics seemingly have no defensive weaknesses in the top seven of their rotation. But the Warriors’ offense has found a target in White.
According to tracking data, the Warriors shot 14-for-33 against White through the first three games of the series, with about half of those attempts (7-for-16) coming from 3-point range. Over the last two games, they’re 17-for-30 against White, with only nine of the 30 shots coming from deep.
And they’ve had plenty of success inside the arc, shooting 14-for-21 from 2-point range against White over the last two games. That includes 8-for-8 shooting in Game 5 on Monday.
The Wiggins iso vs. White illustrated above wasn’t the best shot; Wiggins is 99-for-258 (38.4%) on pull-up 2-pointers this season. But the Warriors were able to get all the way to the rim against White early and often in the fourth quarter.
It was a one-point game in the first minute of the fourth when Wiggins grabbed a rebound, saw he had White in front of him, and just attacked the basket, with White providing very little resistance.
Two possessions later, White switched a Klay Thompson screen for Poole, who blew right by White, drawing a foul as he got to the rim …
White was immediately subbed out, but he was back as the Celtics went super-small (no Horford or Robert Williams) with three minutes to go. And the Warriors (aided by the lack of rim protection) immediately went right at White on the next two possessions, getting a layup from Curry and a dunk from Wiggins …
White actually pre-switched that pick and roll (switching onto Kevon Looney before he set the ball screen) and then completely whiffed when it came to containing Wiggins’ drive.
Neither team’s bench has been particularly good in this series, but among players who’ve averaged at least 10 minutes, the worst on-court marks for their team’s point differential per 100 possessions are Daniel Theis (who hasn’t played since Game 2), Grant Williams (minus-19.1) and White (minus-12.5).
3. The 6-6 rim protector
In the Finals, the Celtics have shot just 51.1% in the paint, down from 58.8% in the regular season and 55.2% through the first three rounds of the playoffs. Their drives to the rim have often been met by multiple bodies and arms. And on Monday, Draymond Green was particularly strong in preventing Boston from converting at the basket.
When Looney shut down a White drive midway through the first quarter, Thompson got caught ball-watching and was beat back door by Jaylen Brown. But Green saw the cut, slid down off Tatum, and kept Brown from getting off a clean shot at the basket …
Late in the fourth quarter, Tatum was able to get a step on Wiggins, but he was met by Green, who forced him into a tough (and contested) turnaround.
At times, the Celtics have been able to punish Green for zoning up in the paint. They took their first lead of Game 5 when Green sunk deep into the paint to help against Tatum, leaving Horford wide open at the top of the arc …
But there hasn’t been enough of that from the Celtics’ perspective. And opponents have shot just 50% (37-for-74) at the rim when Green has been there to protect it in the playoffs. That’s tied for the third best mark (with Robert Williams, 30-for-60) among 30 players who’ve defended at least 35 postseason shots at the rim. The two guys ahead of the 6-6 Green and the 6-9 Williams are 7-0 Brook Lopez and 6-11 Deandre Ayton.
4. Not giving up the switch
Like the Warriors did with White on Monday, the Celtics have targeted Curry throughout the series. Through five games, there have been 114 ball screens where Curry was either defending the screener (66) or was the guy being screened (48). The latter scenario has been a little more successful in getting Curry switched onto Tatum.
But, whether he’s been the ballhandler’s defender or the screener’s defender, the Warriors have been more successful (allowing just 0.69 points per chance) when Curry hasn’t switched than when he has (0.96 points per chance).
A lot went wrong for Golden State in the third quarter of Game 5. And one of those things was Curry switching too much. He was the screener’s defender on 17 ball screens on Monday and he switched eight of those. Six of those switches came in the third quarter, and the Celtics scored 14 points after those six switches.
Late in the third, Curry switched the second half of a double-drag screen for Tatum. To provide help for Curry, Gary Payton II zoned up in the paint, leaving Grant Williams in the weak-side corner. Green rotated out after Tatum’s skip pass and one Williams fed another for a dunk …
Midway through the fourth quarter, Tatum set a screen for Marcus Smart and got the Curry switch. But Smart’s pass to Brown allowed Wiggins to switch back. Smart then set a cross-screen for Tatum, but Wiggins fought through it and got back in front of Tatum …
Smart then set a ball screen for Tatum and, instead of switching, Curry blitzed it. Wiggins’ high hands forced a tough pass to Smart, the Warriors rotated well, and Payton picked Brown on a late-clock drive …
After that disastrous third quarter, the Warriors made a better effort to avoid the switch in the fourth. That effort was rewarded.
5. The deadly split
Everybody knows what the Warriors are doing when they enter the ball into the post. But in their eighth season under Steve Kerr, they’re still getting open 3s and layups from their “split” cuts.
On the possession before the Payton steal above, Wiggins entered the ball into Looney in the post and set the standard screen for Curry to curl toward the ball. Tatum chased Curry around the screen and Horford left Wiggins to prevent a catch-and-shoot 3. Curry quickly got the ball to Wiggins, who attacked the rim …
Five possessions later, Smart tried to ice the same screen (this one from Payton), but Curry got another big bucket by going the other way and draining a floater in the paint.
This series has been more about the Celtics’ offense, but for the last two games, the Warriors have executed better on both ends of the floor. And with that, they’re 48 minutes from glory.
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