TV: ESPN, 9 p.m. ET
BetMGM Line: Celtics -3.5
The NBA Finals are all tied up as the series heads to Boston for the first time, which is about as good as the Celtics could have hoped for beyond a 2-0 series lead.
Though they’ve yet to drop consecutive games this postseason, things didn’t go great for the Celtics in the back half of Game 2. The Warriors erupted in the third quarter before pulling off a 19-point blowout win that shut down the Celtics.
Wednesday’s game isn’t a must-win for Boston by any means but failing to bounce back after a tough loss to the Warriors could prove to be fatal and may result in a quick ending to the Finals.
Can Boston bounce back?
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were fine Sunday night, but that was about it for Boston offensively.
They were the only two Celtics starters to score in double figures, and Al Horford, Robert Williams and Marcus Smart were all held to two points a piece. Boston had 18 turnovers as a team, and mustered just 14 points in the third quarter.
If the Celtics are going to win, that can’t happen in Game 3.
Tatum and Brown need help to pull off a win Wednesday night, and they need the versions of Horford and Smart from Game 1 to show up. Horford dropped 26 points and shot 9-of-12 from the field in that win, and Smart added 18 points with four 3-pointers. The Celtics also shot an impressive 51.2% from the 3-point line in that win.
With two big men on the court at a time — either Horford, Williams, Daniel Theis or Grant Williams — Golden State has outscored Boston by 33 points in the first two games.
Boston needs a well-rounded front to beat, or at least contend with the Warriors. Without much assistance from two-thirds of its starting lineup, that task isn’t likely to be accomplished, even with home-court advantage on its side.
Will the third quarter Warriors show up again?
The Warriors have thrived in the third quarter so far this series, though they still ended up splitting the opening two games.
In Game 2, the Warriors erupted on a 35-14 run in the third quarter behind 14 points and a wild buzzer-beater from Jordan Poole en route to Golden State's 107-88 blowout win. After just a two-point game at halftime, that’s a massive change.
Game 1 was similar, too, except Boston mounted a 17-0 run in the fourth quarter to stun the Warriors and get the win. Still, Golden State has outscored the Celtics 73-38 combined in the period.
If this third quarter version of the Warriors shows up again Wednesday night, they will be in great position to take a 2-1 lead. If the Celtics can finally show up after halftime, it will likely be a very different story.
What about Draymond Green?
There are plenty of people who say Draymond Green should have been ejected from Game 2 after his altercation with Jaylen Brown just before halftime.
Green already had one technical when that incident occurred. Had he received a second, that would have triggered an automatic ejection.
Though there’s no going back now, all eyes are sure to be on Green come Wednesday night after a physical Game 2. If the Celtics can get under his skin with the Boston crowd on their side this time, things could turn out very differently at TD Garden should Green be in a similar situation.
And, based on how the Celtics felt after Game 2, they won’t be backing down.
“I mean, you respond to fire with fire, right? Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “We’ve just got to turn around and do the same thing. If he’s going to come in here and try to be physical, this is our house and we’ve got to protect it.”