NBA Finals Game 3 Recap and Analysis: The Warriors Collapse in the Fourth Quarter


Game 3 of the NBA Finals felt like an emotional rollercoaster to all Warriors fans, from a feeling that the Warriors were going to pull out one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Finals history to a feeling of disgust and sadness. This NBA Finals Game 3 loss might be the biggest loss of the season so far, as this loss gives the Warriors immense pressure to perform well, and win, in Game 4 on Friday since no one wants to go down 3-1 in the NBA Finals. Especially the Golden State Warriors. From the start of the game, Boston came out with a sense of urgency, as if this game was the final game of their season, and that sense of urgency allowed the Celtics to go up big in just the first couple of minutes of the first quarter. The game plan for the Celtics was clear from the get-go: be dominant on the rebounds, and attack Steph on defense whenever possible. Just like Game 2 of the Finals, Jaylen Brown was extremely hot, while the Warriors, particularly Klay, were very cold. By the 6th minute mark of the first, Boston was up 18-9, and the Warriors were shooting 1 of 8 from three. The lead for the Celtics continued to expand, and generally, the Warriors just looked very frazzled on both ends of the floor, with horrible misses, careless turnovers, and poor rotations on defense. For example, in the first quarter, why did two Warriors defenders rotate to guard Derrick White, who is not a good shooter, and leave Al Horford wide open in the paint? The first quarter was simply a mess for the Warriors. Even GP2's dunks were not falling. At the end of the first, Boston led 33-22. 

Steve Kerr opted to go with Bjelica rather than the active Iguodala at the start of the second, most likely for offensive purposes, but in doing so, Grant Williams got a couple of easy buckets on Bjelica. What happened in the first continued in the second, as the Warriors were playing poor defense and everything for Boston was falling. The defensive game plan was pretty good, as Steve Kerr went for a box-n-one on Tatum when Brown was not on the floor, but role players for the Celtics attacked the Warriors' four-man zone and made them pay. Also, the Boston players continued attacking Steph on defense whenever possible, and they were scoring pretty easily while also making Steph be in foul trouble.  The lead for the Celtics had bloomed to 17 points, forcing Kerr to call timeout again, but after that timeout, things seemed to be trending upwards for the Warriors. The Warriors immediately went on an 8-0 run after that timeout, with Klay and Steph each making a three and Wiggins throwing down an emphatic dunk. The lead was cut to single digits, giving the Warriors hope that they could come back. The Celtics bounced back pretty well after that run, as they stuck to their game plan and continued to have a superior advantage over the Warriors on rebounding and second-chance points. The halftime score was 68-56 Celtics, but that 8-0 run by the Warriors gave them hope, and hope was all that was needed. 

The third quarter has been dominated by the Warriors throughout this Final= series, and the third quarter in Game 3 was no different. Steph started off extremely hot, and their split actions and screens were working very well. Klay was also playing very well, for the first time in this Finals series. Though there were a few defensive miscues, such as that Horford to Brown play from the sidelines out of bounds, the Warriors' defense was generally much improved compared to the first half. Everyone from the Warriors was making threes, while Boston was not scoring as easily as they were in the first half. The Warriors even took the lead during the third quarter. However, one thing that Boston did not lose was its impressive rebounding and second-chance opportunities. But, the Warriors did shorten the gap, and they were just down 4 points by the end of the third. However, in the fourth quarter, the Warriors started to play like the Warriors of the first half. They could not make any threes after some key defensive adjustments by the Celtics, and overall, the Warriors had just gone cold. Turnovers were also starting to pile up for the Warriors, and at one point, they had 3 turnovers in a row. That was a huge point in the game, as the Celtics capitalized on those 3 consecutive turnovers by the Warriors and expanded the lead back up to double digits. Again, Boston's rebounding and second-chance opportunities were impeccable, and on offense, the Celtics kept attacking Steph Curry on almost every offensive possession. The Warriors were ice cold throughout the entire fourth quarter, to the point where they could not even make a wide-open three, and by the two-minute mark, both teams emptied their benches, as the lead for the Celtics had bloomed yet again to 15+ points. The final score for Game 3 of the NBA Finals was 116-100, Celtics. 

Boston's fantastic rebounding and second-chance opportunities kept getting mentioned in this article, and here are some stats to back it up. Boston had a total of 47 rebounds, compared to the Warriors' 31. More importantly, Boston had 15 total offensive rebounds compared to the Warriors' 6, meaning that Boston had 9 extra offensive possessions, and it felt like Boston capitalized on every single extra possession they had.  It felt like the number of second-chance opportunities and points that the Celtics got was draining for the Warriors, and as a result, they did not have much energy on the offensive side of the ball. Though Steph and Klay were lights out in the second and third quarters, the Celtics made some key defensive adjustments that limited the Splash Brothers, and the rest of the Warriors. The most important adjustment that Boston made in the fourth after the Warriors' impressive third quarter was that coach Ime Udoka forced his bigs to step up on the Warriors' signature high screens. The main reason that Steph and Klay got hot and had so many threes was that previously, the Boston bigs were not up on the Golden State shooters, but instead, they were backing off from them, giving them some airspace. However, in the fourth, Boston bigs did not give the shooters any airspace whatsoever, so all the threes they took were heavily contested. Overall, the Warriors' defense was just flat-out poor today, as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart combined for 77 points. They are the first trio since the showtime Lakers to each have 20+ points, 5+ rebounds, and 5+ assists. The Warriors need to tighten up on their defense, which certainly includes rebounding, and find efficient ways to score when the Boston bigs decide to step up on the Warriors' high screens in order for them to win Game 4.  

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