Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

  • The 2022 NBA Finals is officially a best-of-three, with a pivotal Game 5 taking place Monday night at 9 p.m. ET at Chase Center. And the Boston Celtics face some significant questions entering the home stretch of the series, particularly as it relates to their duo of young stars.

    After the Warriors rose up in the fourth quarter of Game 4, while the Celtics shrunk, now’s a good time to remind everyone that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are a little ahead of schedule. At 25 and 24 years old, they remain relatively young in the context of emerging star players on the championship stage.

    If either of them can play better at the end of the series and pull off a title, one of them would certainly win the NBA Finals MVP award. Either one would become the youngest Finals MVP since Tony Parker won it for the Spurs at age 25 in 2007.

    But the hope is that both Tatum and Brown become greater and more accomplished than Parker ever was. So if you want, you can go back to Tim Duncan in 1999 to find a star who won this early in his career.

    If the Celtics want to win this NBA Finals, they’re going to need a lot more from their All-Star duo offensively, particularly late in games. So that’s the main thing to watch for in Game 5 on Monday night…

    Can Tatum and Brown close?

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 10: Jaylen Brown #7 and Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics talk over a play in the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors during Game Four of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 10, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 10: Jaylen Brown #7 and Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics talk over a play in the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors during Game Four of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 10, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Marcus Smart hit a three-pointer with 5:18 left in Game 4 last Friday night, putting the Celtics up four points. From that point on? Tatum and Brown went 0-for-3 from the field in those closing minutes. Brown also lost a pass to turn it over with 56 seconds left. Tatum was particularly bad, with just three points on 1-for-5 shooting in the quarter. Al Horford scored Boston’s only basket in the final five minutes with a late three, which came after the damage had been done.

    If the Celtics want to keep up with Steph Curry late in these games, Tatum and Brown need to 1) be willing to take shots late in the first place, and 2) hit them when they need it. That much is obvious.

    “We at times get a little disorganized and at crunch time get a little sped up,” Brown said Sunday, on the end of Game 4. “At times I do need to take the onus and get us more organized and get us more space and a little bit more composed. That’s a part of my growth as a basketball player and my maturity and things like that. Can’t put everything on the coaching staff. We’re on the floor. So at times, somebody has to get everybody square, get everybody level-headed and be a little bit more composed.

    “But we just got to be better as a group overall in those moments and just take our time a little bit and just be a little bit more poised.”

    Toucher and Rich | Previewing Game 5 of the NBA Finals

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    It’s important for us all to realize that it wouldn’t be some epic disaster if Tatum and Brown don’t quite have the championship thing figured out just yet. This likely won’t be their final opportunity to play in the NBA Finals. And it’s not surprising that Curry looks better prepared for these moments than they do. Brown basically just acknowledged that he and the C’s are far behind the Warriors in the experience and team maturity department.

    Tatum was asked Sunday if he puts a lot of pressure on himself to live up to the greats of the game. Overall, he hasn’t played to that standard over the course of the series. But his place in NBA history should not be anywhere near the top of his mind right now, and he says it isn’t.

    “That’s all I really care about right now is winning,” Tatum said. “Whether you win or you don’t win, you guys will debate rankings or, you know, what does that matter for your legacy and things like that. That’s kind of not up to me. You know, in this moment, I’ve said it, I felt like every day, just trying to do what I can to impact winning by all costs.”

    Tatum and Brown are learning on the fly what it takes to win it all, and their performance in fourth quarters going forward will show how much they’ve learned about themselves in a short time. And if they lose this series, there will still be a few more years to see if they can apply what they’ve learned and finish the job.

    The window’s wide open. It’s a matter of how ready they are to step through right now.

  • Robert Williams and his knee

    Jun 8, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) dunks the ball against Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) and forward Nemanja Bjelica (8) during the second quarter in game three of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden. Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 8, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) dunks the ball against Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) and forward Nemanja Bjelica (8) during the second quarter in game three of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden. Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Head coach Ime Udoka said the Celtics are “optimistic” that starting center Robert Williams will be “good to go” for Game 5. Williams appeared to tweak his left knee late in Game 4 on Friday night.

    As has been the case, Williams will test out his knee before the game and go from there. He’s officially listed as questionable with “left knee soreness,” an issue that’s kept him out of the lineup at times. But this is the NBA Finals. So there’s likely a level of expectation internally for Williams to play through it, especially with, at most, three games left in the season.

    Fortunately, Williams sounds like the soreness doesn’t creep into his head while he’s playing, which serves him well to play without hesitation.

    “To be honest, I don’t even think about it anymore when I’m on the court,” Williams told reporters Sunday. “Been playing almost the whole playoffs basically. Obviously, it’s tough to deal with, but I don’t really think about it on the court. I guess you could say my adrenaline is carrying me, thankfully.”

    Clearly, the knee hasn’t seemed to affect Williams’ overall performance. He’s been a force at both ends of the floor in the series, scoring at a .923 (!) clip and averaging three blocks per game. His presence and production will play a huge role in the next question for Game 5…

  • Who gets the glass?

    Jun 2, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) dunks the ball against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first quarter during game one of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 2, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) dunks the ball against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first quarter during game one of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

    Despite the barrage of three-pointers from both teams so far in the 2022 NBA Finals, the bigger factor in wins and losses has been closer to the basket.

    Through four games, the team that scores more in the paint has won every time. The first two games in Boston only continued to underline the importance of that area, as the Celtics attacked the hoop more aggressively at both ends in Game 3 and the Warriors made a point to respond to that in Game 4. The team with the edge in total rebounding won each of those games.

    Now that the Celtics threw that punch and the Warriors countered, it’ll be interesting to see how the board battle unfolds in Game 5 and beyond. Much has been made of the Celtics’ superior size and length, and how they used it to their advantage in Game 3. But the Warriors proved in Game 4 that they could hang on the glass more than they’ve shown.

    “You know, we just have to execute, man, make the reads, don’t get tired of doing what works,” Robert Williams said. “In my opinion, obviously step up the physicality. They’re killing us on the glass again. It’s a lot of emphasis we’re putting on a lot of different stuff. But mainly it’s physicality and execution.”

    Ironically, the play around the hoop has been more of a deciding factor in the series than pure shooting. If the Celtics can re-assert themselves physically and win battles like paint points and rebounds, they’ll give themselves a good chance to win Game 5 and the series.

  • Who gets hot from three?

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 10: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics shoots a three point basket against Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors in the second quarter during Game Four of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 10, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 10: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics shoots a three point basket against Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors in the second quarter during Game Four of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 10, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Speaking of battles, the aerial war has been remarkably even. Both teams have made exactly 64 three-pointers through four games, although the Celtics did it in fewer attempts (42.3 percent for the C’s, 38.8 percent for the Warriors).

    But ultimately, Game 4 came down to who closed better, in this case who got hot from three. That would be Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined to go 3-of-4 from downtown in the fourth quarter of Game 4, and totaled 18 points in that frame.

    Udoka sounds in his media availabilities that, defensively, it’s mostly going according to plan for the Celtics. The issue is more with making make-able shots, which Tatum and Brown missed repeatedly late in Game 4. Smart also missed a pair of threes on the same possession late in the fourth.

    So, say Game 5 goes exactly the same way, but the same shots start to fall. If even just one of the aforementioned players got hot, that could result in an entirely different ending and postgame narrative.

  • Can Derrick White keep it up?

    Jun 2, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) dribbles the ball while defended by Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole (3) during the second half in game one of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 2, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) dribbles the ball while defended by Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole (3) during the second half in game one of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Derrick White has emerged as the Celtics’ most valuable bench player in the NBA Finals. Four games in, he’s averaging 14 points and shooting 50 percent from three. He’s also made three steals and three blocks at the defensive end in the four games.

    Most notably, White scored 21 points in Game 1 on the road. Now that he’s back in San Francisco, he’s feeling confident in the Celtics’ ability to play their best basketball in a hostile environment.

    “I think we’ve shown that we are capable, we’re capable if we’re on the road, and we understand that the crowd is just going to be on another level just because of the situation and everything. We’ll be ready to go.”

  • Game 5 Broadcast Info

    SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 02: A general view inside Chase Center immediately prior to Game One of the 2022 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics on June 02, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 02: A general view inside Chase Center immediately prior to Game One of the 2022 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics on June 02, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    Game 5 of the 2022 NBA Finals takes place at 9 p.m. ET on Monday at Chase Center. You can watch the game on ABC, and get the radio call with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

    In addition to the game broadcast, the Sports Hub will carry pregame coverage with Grande & Max starting at 8:30. Before that, Joe Murray will preview the game live on the Sports Hub from 7-8:30.

    After the game, Sean Sylver will be on the air until 1 a.m. to react to the game. You can call in for a chance to share your thoughts at 617-779-0985.

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