Grit and adaptability giving Warriors edge in Finals originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea:
SAN FRANCISCO – The beautiful basketball often associated with the Warriors never made it to Chase Center Monday night. Rather, they and the Celtics spent 48 minutes launching themselves into each other until one hit the floor.
That it was the Celtics who dropped made an impressive statement on behalf of the Warriors, and it’s something they’re going to need to take these NBA Finals.
The Warriors in Game 5 surpassed Boston on the scales of grit and adaptability. The team known for its fancy ball movement and rhythmic flow is seeking and finding other ways to succeed against its bigger, longer and more youthful opponent.
With the Celtics taking away so much of what they do on offense, the Warriors won ugly. Not only in Game 5, but that has been a theme for much of the series. That’s how they’ve won three of the five games.
“Two physical teams, two great defensive teams, there’s a lot of adjustments from game to game,” Stephen Curry said. “The deeper you go in the series. . . you just know each other so well. Things become a little harder for both sides. If you embrace the fact that even if it’s not pretty, you can still win the game, and that’s all that matters.
“Might not be the most free-flowing situation or the prettiest high-level skill out there, but it’s just grinding it out. That’s what the Finals is all about. ”
In eight seasons under coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors have measured their offense not only by quality of shots but also by passing. The total number of passes matter, but particular importance is placed on those leading to buckets. The goal for every game is 30 assists.
They have not come close against the Celtics.
The offense, as designed, is failing. So, the Warriors are adjusting. Boston’s active, rangy defense is too busy deflecting passes and chocking off lanes to allow assists all over the court. The Warriors, who averaged 28.3 assists per game 16 playoff games before the Finals, are averaging 22.8 against the Celtics.
Golden State’s offense is getting “mucked up,” as coaches like to say, and the Warriors are finding other ways to score. They’re adjusting, something that comes easier with their edge in postseason experience and general acumen.
Curry shot 7-of-22 from the field in Game 5, including 0-of-9 beyond the arc. The Warriors, famous for being able to create and convert open 3-pointers, were 9-of-40 on their preferred shot. They shot 16 fewer free throws than Boston.
And still won by double digits.
Credit the Warriors’ defense, the grimiest part of the game. Aside from the third quarter, in which they were crushed, 35-24, they limited Boston to 35.7 percent shooting from the field, including 21.7 percent from distance.
“Our strength, our pressure, our help was there all the time,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We just did not allow a lot of openings. And our rotations were good, and then we flew out to shooters. Just tried to make it as tough as possible. ”
Defensive pressure tends to force turnovers, especially against a team prone to committing them. The Celtics in Game 5 outrebounded Golden State by eight (47-39) and won the battle of second-chance points (16-7) – but gave the Warriors 22 points off 18 giveaways. With 3s not falling, they shot 66.7 percent inside the arc. With one path closed, they found others.
The Warriors are responsible for giving Boston back-to-back losses for only the second time since January. The Game 4 win at TD Garden was produced by Curry’s spectacular offense and great defense, as the Celtics shot 40.0 percent for the game and 33.3 percent in the decisive fourth quarter.
The Warriors brought that defense home for the first quarter of Game 5, limiting the Celtics to 16 points on 34.8-percent shooting.
“Our energy, and especially these last two games, has been amazing on both ends of the floor,” Curry said. “That’s all you want, is an opportunity to play hopefully the best game of the year. Does not have to be perfect, but play the best game of the year, in terms of our intensity, focus and execution and knowing what one more win means. ”
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The Warriors do not like how they look on offense, but they understand that aesthetics matter more in the regular season. The Finals are about stacking victories, results over means, until reaching four.
Golden State now has three, even if at times they do not look much like the Warriors.
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