In the Golden State Warriors’ 104-94 victory over the Boston
Celtics in Game 5 of the 2022 NBA Finals, a few themes prevailed,
powering them one win shy of their fourth title in eight seasons.
Broadly, the formula was an elite defense once again reminding
everyone that Boston is not the lone menacing unit in the Finals,
along with timely shot-making and star-powered
Rather than laser in on a singular storyline and highlight every
play connected to it, let’s touch on an assortment of different
sequences that help summarize all of these prevailing
1. Draymond Green’s renewed offense
Draymond Green’s offense has justifiably drawn prominent ire in
this series. Prior to Game 5, he recorded 17 points on 26 shots and
his lack of scoring prowess, particularly as a spot-up shooter,
constantly bogged down the offense.
Yet on Monday, he scored 8 points on 6 shots, handed out 6
assists and committed only 2 turnovers. He’d turned in some
excellent defensive showings to this point, but Game 5 was easily
his most well-rounded of the series.
His first assist of the night previewed the next couple hours.
Sometimes, Green’s dismal offensive performances are partially
defined by erratic, undisciplined passing, but that wasn’t the case
in Game 5. To kick off the festivities, he lofted a perfect feed
into Otto Porter Jr.’s bread-basket for the bucket.
Porter slipping the screen was emblematic of Golden State
deciphering just enough openings in the crannies of Boston’s
fortress to complement its own imposing defense. A 107.5 offensive
rating is quite poor, but this club’s formula for a title has
always been shepherded by the defense.
Al Horford hugging Stephen Curry along the baseline, removing
him entirely from any chance of helping on the pass, laid the
foundation for a game where the superstar’s gravity regularly
opened up chances for others. His own 7-of-22 line was unremarkable
scoring-wise, though the manner in which the Celtics tethered
themselves to him created space elsewhere instead.
2. Andrew Wiggins, the All-Star starter
Three days after gobbling up a career-high 16 rebounds, Andrew
Wiggins returned to score the second-most points of his playoff
career with 26. With Curry marred in an uncharacteristic shooting
slump and Boston still successfully limiting Klay Thompson’s
scoring volume, somebody had to prop up the Warriors’
That man was Andrew Wiggins, who repeatedly exposed the single
coverage he faced, using his size and physicality to launch off the
He particularly flourished in the final frame, when he scored 10
of his 26 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Wiggins’ handle can be robotic
and leave him susceptible to stunts or digs. As the Celtics often
face-guarded Curry and Thompson (look how they’re defended in that
clip), the Canadian wing enjoyed added space to operate and wield
his self-creation chops. Nearly 70% of his baskets have been
assisted during the playoffs, whereas that mark fell to 50% in Game
All series, Boston's defense has appeared content funneling
shots to Wiggins. He capitalized monumentally on Monday’s pivotal
3. Jaylen Brown and the terrible, horrible, no good,
very bad offensive experience
Overwhelmingly, Jaylen Brown’s 2022 NBA Playoffs have been
sensational. He’s endured some hiccups, including Game 2 of the
Finals, but they’ve merely been hiccups and haven't become the
norm. Monday was another hiccup.
He logged 18 points on 5-of-18 shooting and committed 4
turnovers. Golden State continually forced him left as a driver and
pull-up scorer, which is assuredly not his preference. His handle
and ball control are precarious as is, let alone when he’s guided
away from his dominant hand.
To further eliminate the right side as a driving lane, both for
Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Warriors loaded the gaps and invited
middling shooters to bomb beyond the arc. Derrick White entered
Game 5 drilling 50% of his triples in the Finals, yet Green helped
one pass away and prevented Brown from frequenting the paint. The
result is a midrange pull-up Golden State will likely accept, which
occurred after Green initially walled off the middle for Brown
around the screen.
4. Golden State making Boston get comfortable with the
At the point of attack, Golden State’s most lucrative defensive
approach in this series has been to apply pressure on the catch,
and extend the Celtics’ offense well away from the hoop. Boston’s
scheme involves considerable side-to-side movement, with flare
screens or other subtle actions designed to create small advantages
that morph into sizable ones.
The Warriors refused to let that be commonplace in Game 5,
swarming virtually everyone immediately on the catch. Hardly
anything Boston achieved felt seamless. Arduous was the defining
term of their experiences. On a giveaway midway through the second
quarter, Golden State’s pressure arrived at every turn.
Gary Payton II bothered Tatum on the inbounds. White hardly has
room to collect himself before Curry is fastened to his hip.
Horford caught the ball with Porter draped on him. Tatum generated
a bit of space, but even if Horford’s delivery wasn't errant, Green
rotated over to complicate matters.
The Celtics committed 18 turnovers in Game 5. Although some were
unforced, many unfolded similarly to the one above, with Golden
State’s defense making every brief opening feel fleeting and
spurring hurried decisions.
5. Succumbing to the orbit of Stephen Curry’s
the clinching possession of Game 4’s defeat, Boston
twice brought two defenders to Curry. The second time, it led to a
bucket that pushed the Warriors’ edge to five with roughly a minute
remaining. In Game 5, the Celtics didn’t necessarily blitz Curry
each play, but their defense afforded him extra attention more
often — on and off the ball.
Previously, they’d predominantly stomached dropping and
switching against him, but the coverage skewed more extreme Monday.
This isn’t to say Boston’s defense was the culprit of its loss —
the offense is the prevalent issue. Yet the game-plan clearly
shifted and the burden of scoring responsibility didn’t almost
exclusively rest on Curry’s shoulders anymore.
As a response to that heightened concern, Curry countered with
his finest playmaking production of the series, dishing out 8
assists to 1 turnover. Helping to ease the impact of Curry’s cold
shooting spell was Payton, who scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting
to tie a playoff career-high.
Neither Green nor Kevon Looney can even approximate a similar
finishing punch to Payton. He’s not a roller the defense can
entirely abandon and his screening induced favorable switches or
opportunities for Golden State’s offense.
Porter struggled defending in space, while Looney battled foul
trouble all evening. So, Payton stepped up for a postseason-best 26
minutes and crafted necessary interior-scoring verve in addition to
his steadfast defensive versatility.
6. Jayson Tatum and his fourth quarter
Through three quarters, Tatum had 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting,
including 4-of-6 inside the arc. The last number was an absolutely
welcomed sight for the 24-year-old superstar, who began Game 5
having converted a paltry 27.4% of his two-point attempts
(14-of-51) in the Finals.
Twelve minutes later, he ended with 27 points on 10-of-20
shooting, including 5-of-11 inside the arc — a good, not great
overall outing. The leading candidate behind the demise of a
five-point, 1-of-5 shooting fourth quarter was Wiggins, whose
length, mobility and physicality perturbed Tatum into plays like
Golden State is closing off many drives to Tatum’s right all
series, so he aimed to take advantage of an early offense
opportunity. Instead, Wiggins slid alongside him and swiped down
*just* as Tatum began to gather for a finish. That swipe
extinguished Tatum’s rhythm, provoked an extra, illegal slide of
the back foot and he was called for traveling.
7. Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and a synergistic
Green’s Game 5 defensive brilliance extended beyond help on the
perimeter and guiding Brown away from right-hand drives; he was
sensational as an interior helper. During his 35 minutes, the
Celtics’ took just six shots at the rim. When he sat for 13
minutes, they took four. Their rim frequency was 10.9% with him on
the floor and 20% without him, according to NBA.com.
Boston could hardly score in the paint when he was involved.
Shooting and passing near the hoop were chores around him.
Tatum wiggled into the key, with Green awaiting him. Green
jutted out his right arm to deter a drop-off to Robert Williams
III, swiveled his left arm up and contested a challenging fadeaway
Wiggins and Payton gave help on the drive, which muddied Tatum’s
passing vision as he simply worked to avoid being stripped. Once
Green committed to Tatum, Wiggins peeled into Williams, stuck a
body on the bouncy big man and ensured any sort of lob would be
incredibly challenging to execute or corral.
All 10 of Williams’ points came in the first half, largely due
to Golden State neutralizing him as a release valve after
intermission. He’s Boston’s lone aerial threat and best means of
generating shots around the rim.
There’s simply scant space to function inside the arc against
this harmonic Warriors defense. Those efforts grow increasingly
laborious when Green and the entire unit are enforcing the rim like
they did Monday.
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