Celtics’ key to forcing Game 7 vs. Warriors is offense


BOSTON — Win or lose, Golden State has played consistent offense in the NBA Finals.

The Warriors have scored about 110 points per 100 possessions no matter the outcome.

Boston, however, has been unable to find that offensive consistency, and that’s why it faces elimination, down 3-2 in the series heading into Game 6.

In their wins, the Celtics have been fantastic at 125.5 points per 100 possessions. In their losses, their scoring drops to 95.5 points per 100 possessions.

More than anything in this series for Boston, its offense dictates the outcome of each game, and much of the focus will be on wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown — Boston’s two best offensive players — and their ability to break down Golden State’s stout defense.

If Boston’s offense is humming, the Finals is headed for a Game 7. If not, the Warriors will win Game 6 and another title on Thursday at TD Garden.

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Celtics coach Ime Udoka seems to know that, too.

“You look at the big picture, we’re defending well enough to win,” he said Wednesday. “It’s really some stagnant lulls offensively that have really hurt us. We’ll have a quarter or two or three of really good basketball, then have that quarter or two that really have hurt us.”

Digging deeper into Boston’s losses in the Finals, the Celtics are:

  • Shooting 39.6% from the field and 38.3% on 3-pointers in losses and 49.4% and 44.7% in wins.
  • Committing 17.7 turnovers per game in losses and 12.5 per game in victories.
  • Delivering 21.3 assists per game in defeats and 30.5 assists per game in wins.
  • Faltering in the fourth quarter, getting outscored 57-39 in the final quarter of Games 4 and 5 after trailing by a point after three quarters in both games.

Golden State’s defense and composure have played a part in Boston’s struggles, and the Celtics have self-inflicted problems with turnovers and suspect shot selection. The Warriors have put a lot of effort into making offense difficult for Tatum and Brown and tried to get the ball out of Tatum’s hands.

“They are trying to take him out at certain times of the game,” Udoka said. “But it’s on him to read that and us to put him in positions where, understanding he’s going to be doubled and be the bait at times, get everybody else involved. We have to make them pay as far as that.”

Tatum has actually been really for the most part in Boston’s three losses, except for some issues in the fourth quarter of the past two games. If Tatum and Brown can put together good games, that usually leads to better performances from Boston’s role players.

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Almost all of the Celtics who met with reporters on Wednesday had answers for offensive struggles.

“Play stronger. Sprint, get up the court. Not let the shot clock dwindle down before we get in our offense, get up a late shot. Get our pace up. Play a lot stronger,” Brown said. “I think that would help us and benefit us a lot.”

Tatum mentioned getting to their spots offensively with purpose, not just haphazardly getting into an offensive set.

“Playing in the half court, let them set their defense, they’re really, really good,” Tatum said. “I obviously think it starts with getting stops, then kicking the ball ahead when you do get a stop, playing in transition.”

Udoka rattled off a list of areas that can help the Celtics: stop dribbling into crowds, attack the rim with stronger finishes, finding the open shooter in drives into the paint with better spacing.


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“As confident as we are in the situations we’ve been in, we understand Golden State is a high-IQ, well-coached team that’s not going to beat themselves,” Udoka said. “You have to go out there and take it.

“For us, confidence always because we’ve been through it. But we can help ourselves and play better offense overall and not aid them with the turnovers. All the same little things we talked about throughout the series.”

Figuring out how to win at each stage of the playoffs is nothing new, going back to the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons who had setback after setback before finally beating Boston in the conference finals and then losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1988 Finals before beating them the next season.

The Celtics were down 3-2 to Milwaukee in the conference semifinals and needed to win Game 7 on the road against Miami to reach the Finals. They have responded in elimination games.

“I don’t know exactly what it is, but I think just our will to want to win, just trying to figure it out,” Tatum said. “It’s the first to four. It’s not over with. So as long as it’s not over with, you got a chance.

“I think having done it before should give you even more confidence that you can. Not that it’s going to be easy or it’s going to be given to us, but you should be extremely confident as long as you’ve got a chance.

“We’ve got a chance.”

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgit.

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