A week and a half ago, the Boston Celtics (44-15) traveled to Oracle Arena and blew out the Golden State Warriors (27-33). The Dubs will have an opportunity tonight to avenge the embarrassing loss but don’t expect the Celtics to be gracious hosts. They have won 26 of the 31 games played at the TD Garden this season and plan on making things extremely tough for Golden State tonight.
When we went Inside the Scope to preview the first match up, we discussed the Celtics collective basketball IQ as well as their willingness to share the ball. The continuity they have on offense means that they are always in motion and their unselfish players are always more than willing to feed an open player. The end result is that Boston averages 24.2 assists per game and 25.6 shot attempts at the basket on average (seventh most in the league).
The easier the shots, the better a team will shoot. Given the fact that Boston executes so well on offense, it’s no surprise that they lead the league in field goal shooting at 49.2%. This was on full display on February 22nd as the Celtics essentially paraded their methodical offense in front of the Warriors faithful.
Doc Rivers’ team spent the evening in the lane as they scored 54 points in the paint against the Warriors porous defense. The kicker? Boston manufactured 28 shot attempts at the rim (making 22) but only shot 11 free throws. Teams that generate a lot of field goal attempts at the basket usually create a lot of free throw opportunities as well. But with the way that the Celtics were playing and sharing the ball (35 assists), the Warriors couldn’t even rotate in time to foul someone.
Couple that with Boston shooting 16-for-25 on field goal attempts from 16 to 23 feet (60% conversion mark) because of the Warriors’ inability to challenge shots and you have the recipe for a huge scoring night. A Celtics offense that normally scores 98.3 points per game (19th in the NBA) put up 115 points against the Warriors on 55.6% field goal shooting. Unless Golden State decides to play any form of defense against Boston this time around, there is little reason to believe that the home team will have trouble scoring given their ability to generate points on the interior as well as the perimeter.
Defensively, the Celtics have been known to smother teams and completely take them out of what they are trying to accomplish. Their big men do an excellent job of providing help on screens (on or off the ball) and then recovering back to their man without compromising the defense. As a result, teams have an extremely hard time getting open shots against Boston. Indeed, they only allow opponents to shoot 43.6% from the field (third best in the league).
Because Boston’s players are always in a position to help, it becomes awfully tough to get any type of drives going towards the basket against them. According to Hoopdata, the Celtics only allow 22.7 shots at the rim per game (seventh lowest mark in the association); and even when opponents manage to get all the way to the basket, they have a tough time finishing there, as evidenced by the 59.7% shooting at the rim allowed by Boston.
When the Celtics and Warriors faced off last time, the Garnett led defense was actually better than usual. Although they surrendered 25 shots at the rim, Golden State struggled to convert because the Celtics contested most of their shots at the basket. Consequently, the Dubs shot 12-for-25 (48%) on shots taken directly at the rim. Granted, the Warriors still got to the line 28 times, but the inability to convert at the rim went a long way towards deciding their fate.
By the end of the game, the Celtics had allowed 93 points on 39.3% field goal shooting.
The Warriors did a great job of lighting up the scoreboard in the first half as they scored 60 points; however the Celtics defense limited them to 33 second half points. And although the scoring output was not great, had Golden State defended better they would have been in a tighter game. In order for the Warriors to stay within striking distance on the road, they will have to provide better resistance on the defensive end. Given the fact that team has its limitations on defense, it will have to determine what it is willing to concede: interior baskets or perimeter ones. But not both.
Also, the Warriors force 15.9 turnovers per game (second in the league), which allows them to get out in transition and score. If they turn up the pressure, they might be able to get a few fast break opportunities at the Garden.
Boston game notes: Since the All-Star break, Kevin Garnett is averaging 19.6 points, 12.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists on 59.2% field goal shooting. Shades of his MVP season.
Golden State game notes: Since the All-Star break, Monta Ellis is averaging 17.0 points, 5.0 assist and 2.8 steals on 36.2% field goal shooting.