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TV: ESPN, 8 p.m. ET
BetMGM line: Warriors -4.5
Everything was going right for the Golden State Warriors in Game 1. Until it wasn't.
After trailing 56-54 at halftime, the Warriors blitzed the Boston Celtics in a vintage 38-24 third quarter to take a 92-80 lead into the final stanza. We all know what happened next. The Celtics countered with a 17-0 run in the fourth to cruise with the win and leave the Warriors dazed, stunned and staring at a 1-0 series deficit on their home floor.
Sunday is as close to a must-win for Golden State as a Game 2 gets. The alternative — traveling to Boston with a 2-0 deficit — isn't pretty.
3 keys to the game
Can Warriors limit Celtics from long distance?
Boston shot 21 of 41 (51.2%) from 3-point distance in Game 1. That's not a sustainable rate. But the fact that Celtics role players feasted on the road against the league's second-rated defense from the regular season is an ominous sign for Golden State.
Boston has a size advantage across the lineup and bigs who can shoot. Meanwhile, Klay Thompson isn't the elite perimeter defender he was prior to ACL and Achilles tendon injuries. Golden State must find a way to make life harder for Boston's shooters.
Warriors must adjust to Draymond Green's offensive deficiencies
Draymond Green has never been on the floor for his offense. But there was a period during Golden State's initial run of Finals appearances where he could be counted on to hit open 3s. He shot 36.5% from distance on 4.5 attempts per game in the 2016 postseason and 41% on 4.6 attempts per game in 2017. Those days are long gone. See Green's 22.2% rate from long distance this postseason.
A 32-year-old Green is often a non-factor when the Warriors have the ball and a liability when he's at his worst. He was at his worst against an imposing Celtics defense in Game 1, tallying four points, five assists and three turnovers while shooting 2 of 12 from the field including misses on all four of his 3-point attempts. His ineffectiveness allows defenders to play off of him and focus their efforts elsewhere.
Green didn't shy away from his Game 1 effort while speaking on his podcast Friday, telling listeners that he failed Stephen Curry, who opened the game with an NBA Finals-record six made first-quarter 3-pointers.
“When I look back at the game, I failed him because I didn’t play well," Green said. "And when he comes out guns blazing like that, playing the way he’s playing, I have to make sure that I do my part to make sure that ends in a win.”
Green's contributions on defense and the glass are too valuable to bench. So Golden State must find a way to limit his offensive deficiencies. Green remains a capable playmaker, averaging 6.2 assists per game this postseason. But every time he shoots is a win for the Celtics.
Al Horford X factor continues to key Celtics
Al Horford's playoff run has some placing him in the Hall of Fame. While that's borderline absurd, there's no denying his impact this postseason. Boston likely isn't playing in the Finals without his efforts on both sides of the ball. He helped contain Giannis Antetokounmpo in the conference semifinals. Meanwhile he has averaged 12.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 blocks while shooting 51.9% from the floor and 46.3% from 3-point distance throughout the playoffs.
Horford is not the best player on Boston's roster. But he was the best player in Game 1 with 26 points and six rebounds while shooting 6 of 8 from 3-point distance. His effort helped power Boston to victory despite Jayson Tatum's 3-of-17 effort from the floor. Boston remains a tough out as long as Horford is playing like this.