NBA Finals Game 2 Recap and Analysis: The Warriors Bounce Back in Dramatic Fashion


Entering tonight, the Golden State Warriors, along with its fans and the media, believed that Game 2 of the NBA Finals had to be a must-win game for the Warriors. Losing one game at home means losing the Warriors' home-court advantage, but losing two games at home essentially means that the Warriors have forfeited this series. At the start of the game, it seemed like the Warriors were on the verge of being down 0-2 at home, as the Boston Celtic stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum got off to a hot start, going 5-5 from the field. Both teams wanted to play fast, but at the 9-minute mark of the first quarter, the Celtics were up 13-5, forcing Warriors turnovers and enforcing stifling interior defense. However, the Celtics went a bit cold, as they missed their next five shots after going 5-5, allowing the Warriors to catch a bit of momentum. One play that was highly effective for the Warriors at the start was with a guard and Looney at the dunker spot, where a guard drives into the paint and dumps it off to Looney for wide-open dunks. At one point in the game, Looney was the leading scorer for the Warriors with 6 points, as the Warriors stars started off the game shooting very poorly. 

With 9 minutes gone by, the Celtics' lead was shortened to 5 points, and the best player for the Celtics at that time, Jaylen Brown, went to the bench as he picked up two fouls. That was when the Warriors picked up their intensity, particularly on defense. The Warriors forced two consecutive turnovers, and good defense naturally creates good offensive opportunities, which the Warriors capitalized on. After a wild exchange of threes by both teams, the Warriors ended the quarter on a 10-2 run, and they led 31-30 entering the second quarter after the Celtics dominated the first few minutes of the game. The biggest reason for the Warriors' lead at the end of the first was because they had significantly fewer turnovers than the Celtics. Boston had 7 turnovers in the first quarter alone, while the Warriors only had 2 turnovers in the first quarter. The turnover battle proved to be a huge factor not just in the first quarter, but throughout the rest of the game. 

Though the Warriors picked up their defense and got some easy transition buckets to lead the game, one thing that Boston maintained was its impressive interior defense, led by Robert Williams and Al Horford. What seemed like easy layup opportunities for Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins became bad misses, worsening their field goal percentage. It was also interesting that Steve Kerr turned to Bjelica with Iguodala inactive due to knee inflammation, but that decision ended up being a good one. Bjelica held his own when Celtic stars like Tatum were attacking him, and he provided nice floor-spacing and size. He had 4 points and 3 rebounds in just 5 minutes of action, which is pretty impressive. The Celtic turnovers were killing them, and in the middle of the second quarter, the Warriors went on a 10-0 run as a result of easy transition buckets from turnovers, giving them a 45-40 advantage. One observation to note is that with the return of Gary Payton II in the lineup, it gives the Warriors two elite perimeter defenders to guard Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, so the other Warriors defenders can actually stay on their man and not commit too much help. This is the reason why the Celtics' role players that went off in Game 1 were essentially nonexistent on the offensive side in Game 2. Ball movement for the Warriors was also elite, as they had 15 assists in the first half alone, and good ball movement means good offense. However, at the end of the first half, the Warriors only had a 2-point lead, with the score being 52-50.

The third quarter has always been known as the Warriors' best quarter, and in today's game, that was clearly the case. Klay, who had been struggling mightily, hits his first three, and the Warriors were off to a 7-2 run to start the second half, forcing coach Ime Udoka of the Celtics to call timeout. The timeout really did not do anything, however, as the Warriors continued to score at will. Everything, from their signature split actions and man movement to isolations, was working. They were even drawing fouls very effectively, being in the bonus at just the 6:55 mark. The Warriors' lead had expanded to 12 points, forcing another Celtics timeout. After the timeout, the Celtics hit 2 threes in a row, and it felt like the Celtics were about to come back, but that was further from the truth. The Warriors went on an 11-0 run soon after, and the score was 79-62 at the 2-minute mark of the third quarter. At the end of the third, Jordan Poole hit a 39- feet-long three, and the Warriors' lead was 23 heading into the fourth. That Jordan Poole buzzer-beater seemed to drain all the life out of the Celtics, and the scoring by the Warriors kept on going. The Celtics had a couple of careless turnovers in the first few minutes of the fourth, and by the 10-minute mark of the fourth, the lead had expanded even further, with the Warriors up 93-64. After that, the Celtics essentially gave up, and the game went into extensive garbage time. Though not much happened during garbage time of the fourth, one thing to point out is that Klay Thompson was playing all the way until the 3-minute mark, potentially because Klay was having such an awful game that Steve Kerr wanted Klay to catch some positive momentum heading into Game 3. By the end of the game, the Warriors won convincingly, 107-88.

There were many adjustments made that caused the Warriors to blow out the Celtics in Game 2. The most important adjustment for the Warriors was clearly on the defensive end. With Gary Payton II back, he and Andrew Wiggins could just chase around the Jays of the Celtics. Notice how the role players that went off in Game 1, such as Al Horford, Derrick White, and Marcus Smart, were barely mentioned in this article. Due to both Gary Payton II and Andrew Wiggins' defensive prowess, the other Warriors defenders, such as Klay, Steph, and Poole, did not have to help off of the non-stars of the Celtics. Since the non-stars of the Celtics were rarely wide open, they barely scored. Al Horford, Marcus Smart, and Derrick White, who collectively combined for 15/23 from three in Game 1 and scored 65 points, were limited to just 16 points altogether. Though Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown had good games on paper, scoring 28 and 17, respectively, their efficiency was not great, and they both had negative double-digit plus-minus's. Jayson Tatum, who barely played in the fourth quarter, had a plus-minus of -36, the worst in his career (according to ESPN). The Warriors realized that it was better to contain the role players and let the stars have statistically impressive games rather than the other way around. A special shout-out also has to go to Draymond Green, who had a Draymond-like statline and bounceback after his putrid Game 1 performance. In Game 2, he had 9 points with 67% shooting, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and was the defensive anchor for the Warriors. The theme that poor defense leads to poor offense and vice versa was blatantly obvious for the Celtics as well, as their offensive energy and rhythm were clearly lacking after the Warriors tore up the Celtic defense with quality ball movement and some Steph Curry + Jordan Poole magic. This game was a classic yet impressive Warriors bounceback win, and Klay Thompson has not even found his groove yet. 

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