Barstool vs. America presented by High Noon - Season 2 | Episode 3WATCH NOW

The Celtics Were Dominant In Game 3 And Now An NBA Title Is Within Their Reach

Nathaniel S. Butler. Getty Images.

Deep breaths. That is what we all need to take right now. In through the nose, out through the mouth, and repeat. 

In the event you may not thrive at the whole math thing, the Boston Celtics woke up this morning just 2 wins away from the NBA title. That is a real sentence that I sure am glad I was able to type. While everyone knows that 2 wins is not 4 wins, I think we can all agree that Game 3 was about as ideal a performance as we could have asked for. The Celtics were dominant from start to finish. There may have been a little hiccup there for a second, but overall what you saw was complete domination. Not the made up kind like Draymond and Steph talked about for 41 minutes of a Game 1 loss, but actual, tangible, domination. What we saw on Wednesday night were the Boston Celtics we've come to know and love. The team that is tough as shit, plays with energy and most importantly, plays the right way. When this team plays the right way they are honestly the most unstoppable force known to man. Nobody can beat them. We have a 5 month sample size, including playoffs, that confirms this hypothesis. If they are coming off a loss? Forget about it

That Grande bomb is literal insanity. It hasn't matter who the opponent is or where the game takes place, this team refuses to lose 2 games in a row. Every other team in NBA history that has been able to go 7-0 (as the Celts have now done) after losses in the postseason all won the NBA title. That's not my homerism talking, that's just NBA history. 

How important was Game 3? Well, that all depends

Teams that start a series 1-1 on the road who then win Game 3 are also 12-5 all time in the NBA Finals. So while there is a TON of work to still be done, winning Game 3 is pretty important. I cannot express how relieved I am that the Celts didn't pull a MIA Game 3 and immediately give homecourt advantage back. Now they roll into Game 4 with all the momentum in the world and a real possibility to make this a 3-1 series. 2 more wins to go with 2 of the next 3 in their own building. Everything is RIGHT THERE for the taking which doesn't even feel real. None of this feels real. 

But it is. It's very real. This is now where I suggest you clear your calendar because it is time to relive it all in glorious fashion.

The Good

- Through 3 games, my Finals MVP is Jaylen Brown. After Game 1 I talked about how I was done having to watch this man's accomplishments happen in the shadows. Fuck that. Jaylen deserves the spotlight so that's exactly what he's getting for the second time in this blog. Jaylen Brown showed us all for the billionth time why he is a franchise player. He's not a #2, he's a 1B who on any given night can look like a 1A. This is what that looks like

What you just watched were the highlights of half of the best duo in the NBA

Like he so often does, First Quarter Jaylen set the tone in this game right from the opening tip. He was the best player on the floor for either side and it wasn't even relatively close. What I love about Jaylen is when he's locked in, you know right away. I'm talking like his first shot. When he made his first three off a great pass/decision from Smart, I knew we were in for a real treat. What I didn't expect was that Jaylen (17 points on 6-9 shooting) would nearly outscore the entire Warriors team by himself (22 points) in his opening 12 minutes. That was insane. It wasn't just his scoring either which is what made it so great. Jaylen's defense was solid, he had 3 assists and 0 TOs to start this game and it's now the second time in 3 games that we've seen this man put the Celtics on his back and dominate. Fourth quarter, first quarter, it hasn't mattered. 

Then, when the game got late and it came time to get stops, Jaylen played the best defense of his life. While he does tend to have off ball issues, Jaylen's on ball defense remains elite. The defense he played late in the 3rd quarter was a huge reason why the Celts were able to stop the bleeding of what disaster quarter. The numbers speak for themselves

Jaylen guarded Klay on 40 possessions and allowed 5 points on 2-8 shooting. Otto Porter Jr had 0 points on his 8 possessions. Wiggins only 2 points on his 6 possessions. Overall, all Warriors shot just 4-15 while being defended by Jaylen in this game. That's pretty good! 

- I'm trying really, really hard to not be a condescending asshole about this, but part of me doesn't really care. What if I told you that of every Celtic on this roster that takes at least 11.0 FGA a game so far in these Finals, so of a group of Tatum, Brown, Smart, White, that is is MARCUS SMART who leads the team in shooting? 

That's right. Marcus Smart.

Through 3 games of the NBA Finals, starting point guard Marcus Smart is currently averaging 14.7/4.7/4.7 on 47/41% splits with 2.3 3PM a game. That includes his horrific Game 2 performance if you were curious. Read that again. 47/41% shooting splits with 2.3 3PM on 11 FGA a night. For all the crying about Marcus Smart shooting, some would argue that the player who is currently the best shooter in the Finals should take however many shots he wants. 

Game 3 was just the latest example of why we love and trust. During the good times AND the bad. Everything we have wanted from Smart if the Celts ever got to this stage he is giving us. The proof is in the production. It's in the eye test. Denying or discrediting it at this point is bananaland stuff that only exposes you for blind hatred and an inability to accept your reality.

24/7/5 seems pretty good to me. Smart tied for the team lead with 8 4th quarter points including multiple winning plays to help seal the deal late. Defensively, he once again had Steph Curry in JAIL

For those keeping track at home, we've now seen Smart match up with Curry on 75 possessions over the course of these NBA Finals. He has allowed 12 points. Call me crazy, but that seems decent. Some might argue DPOY worthy. Let's be very, very clear about something before we move on. The Boston Celtics do not have a 2-1 series lead without Marcus Smart. Fact, not opinion. For some reason people refuse to accept that Smart is part of the Big 3 for this team. It's bizarre. They can cry about it all they want, here on planet earth we see things like this

They say the NBA Finals is the ultimate test right? For years we had to hear people complain that Smart wasn't a good enough point guard to even get to the Finals (false). Then people argued if he was a good enough to win an NBA title as a #3. Well, we're 2 wins away from answering that question as well.

- This feels about the right place for our 3rd member of the Celts Big 3. If Jaylen handled all the scoring early, Smart did a little bit of everything, I'd say Tatum did a great job of making sure his early impact came through playing the right way. 

The shooting is still leaving something to be desired, but overall? This was exactly how I want Tatum to play. Both he and Brown were aggressive right from the opening tip, and I never got the sense that Tatum was forcing anything. That can sometimes happen in these huge home games, but I thought Tatum did a great job of staying within himself and simply taking what the defense gave him. At times, that can be just as important as his scoring. When Tatum is a well rounded assassin, this team is unstoppable.

When the Warriors made their run in the 3rd quarter and took that 1 point lead at 83-82, the Celtics responded with a 28-13 run to regain control. Tatum was responsible in one way or another for 24 of those points. He tied Smart with 8 points in the 4th quarter. Most importantly, despite his high usage Tatum only finished with 2 TOs. If Tatum is taking care of the ball while also being a willing passer and then also dropping 26 on a night where he couldn't really shoot, holy shit. What do you do? You pray. That's basically your only option. 

The biggest thing that stands out to me about Tatum's Finals is that he is finding ways to make a legit impact despite not really being able to shoot. In Game 1 it was the 13 assists despite 3-17. Last night it was 26/6/9 with legit defense despite the 9-23 from the floor. That's growth. Early Tatum gets down on himself for his shooting struggles. Current Tatum finds other ways to impact winning. That's a massive difference.

- It's pretty clear what a difference having a version of Rob that can actually move does for this team on both ends. He's a complete difference maker and is such a vital piece of this team's success. The difference from when you can clearly tell Rob isn't right (like Game 7) and last night where he looked like his same old self

is night and day. The Celtics as a team had 14 blocks/steals, and Rob had fucking 7 of them by himself. The one shot he missed, he got the OREB putback. As you see with every elite shot blocker in the NBA, it's not just about the shots that Rob actually gets to. His impact is also around the fact that when he's on the floor, nobody even wants to entertain the thought of attacking the paint/rim. If they do, they are worried more about Rob getting to their shot than they are focusing on actually making it. That impact is real and it changes this series. If you can take away the rim from the Warriors, they're cooked. 

The concern now is there's only 1 day off before Game 4. I am terrified of how Rob's knee responds. It's been a mixed bag so far these playoffs when they play every other day, and it's clear that Rob is playing through some shit

- I don't want to get too ahead of myself, but I saw something last night that pretty much tells me that I'm actually coaching the Boston Celtics? 

Uh, that's me. I have the internet ink to back it up. Nobody, and I mean nobody has asked this team to not play like assholes more than me. That's literally my phrase. So, now that I know Ime is reading this blog, I would like to take this opportunity to make it clear that I will die for you Ime. No questions asked. You are a top 10 thing to ever happen to my life. I'm glad you enjoy the blog and I appreciate the pageview. My DMs are currently open if you'd like anything else as you prep for Game 4. 

- Al Horford promised us he would be better after his Game 2 performance, and Al Horford does not lie. 

Vintage Al in this game. An all around solid 11/6/8 on 5-7 shooting (1-2) in his 30 minutes. Love the production, love the low minutes, love that he's back on track. You want to know why I respect Al? It's not just for what he did in the game, but even afterwards when he was asked about the play against Steph, he owned it

Much like Bucks Twitter did, Warriors Twitter is currently crying about how Al is supposedly a dirty player. It's some of the funniest copium you'll find on the internet. 

Al was much better at winning his mismatches on the block, I thought he did a great job of not panicking when the Warriors picked up their ball pressure against him, and he continues to be this settling force that at times this roster desperately needs. We're so close to Al getting his ring, I need this for him. As long as he continues to play like this, he has as great a shot as any.

- Just so we're clear here, the Warriors need to win 3 of the next 4 to win the NBA title. I cannot think of the last time the Celtics lost 3 of 4. That pleases me.

- Basketball doesn't have to be complicated. We tend to try and make it that way, but winning is simple. Take care of the basketball and rebound and you'll be fine. 

After 8 TOs led to 14 Warriors points in the first half, it's what gave them life. Pretty frustrating to watch in real time to be honest. Over the final 24 minutes though, the Celts only had 4 TOs which led to 5 Warriors points. It's not complicated, if the Celts are only going to turn the ball over 12 times, they won't lose. 

Then there's the rebounding portion of this discussion. Celts owned the glass 47-31. The Warriors only had 6 OREB for 11 2nd chance points. So just think about it. The Celts limited their turnovers in the second half and owned the glass throughout, taking away two huge areas for the Warriors. When they are locked in and playing with the right energy, that's what happens.

- So much of beating the Warriors comes down to your shot quality. You need to find ways to maximize the paint against a team that does not have elite rim protection and some pretty weak perimeter defense. That is exactly what the Celts did in Game 3. They DOMINATED the points in the paint 52-26, and throughout this entire game the Celts had the right approach. Of their 89 FGA, just 35 were 3PA. When it came to their three best players, look at their offensive approach

Look at the rim. It's very clear that Steph cannot handle Marcus when he uses his size to get into the paint, he's too small. Jaylen and Tatum no longer have to deal with active hands always reaching in on drives like they did against MIL/MIA, so their path to the rim is so much easier. Beating the Warriors isn't always about matching their three point shooting. If you take high quality looks and finish at just a normal rate, you can beat them.

Remember, the Celts also missed a billion layups in this game and still won comfortably. My question is, what is the Warriors answer to this? Their roster is their roster. That's not changing anytime soon.

- This was easily the best game of the Finals for Grant. All that talking from Draymond just for him to be embarrassed and Grant to do this

As we know, role players play better at home and that is especially true for Grant. It wasn't just his shooting (4-7) either, it was mostly his energy and physicality. Grant imposed his will in this game and at no point could the Warriors match it. If this is the Grant we can get moving forward, it changes a lot. It gives Ime more options in terms of playable lineups, it gives the Jays another safety valve offensively. 

Once you get to the Finals, these are the type of small performances that can swing a game and a series. If Grant is going to match the offensive production of Jordan Poole, I'm not sure the Warriors have enough firepower. 

- So much of the analysis of this series was around the idea of NBA Finals experience. The Warriors had been there 6 times in 8 years and the Celts had never been. Did you know that? Well here's what I know. I know the team with zero Finals experience has now won a 4th quarter 40-16 and 23-11. Both at home and on the road. 

Meanwhile, the Warriors are crying about a crowd being mean. It seems to me that experience hasn't really made a difference so far in this series. It's basketball at the end of the day. If the Celts had two 4th quarters like GS has had, the talk would be about how they aren't ready for the moment. About how their inexperience in closing Finals games was costing them. So what's the deal?

The Bad

- Let me get this out of the way first. What the hell is going on with Paul Pierce catching Ls like this

This is unacceptable. Paul Pierce is one of the greatest Celtics to ever live. Fact, not opinion. He is Celtics royalty. This cannot keep happening. I know that dude was probably very excited, but I need him to be better. You don't leave The Truth hanging like that. Not at home. Not in his own building. That was tough.

- As awesome as Smart was, I need better ball security and decision making. That is non-negotiable. He finished with 5 TOs which is way too many for the primary ball handler, and way too many were the brutal live ball turnovers that this team desperately needs to avoid. Part of the issue was getting caught jumping to pass on drives, which they pretty much teach you when you are 10 years old to not do. Over passing can be an issue at times, just take the floater/layup. 

If Smart is going to turn it over, pass it out of bounds. The no look over the head pass on drives is dangerous and considering how important every possession is, I need that kept under control. I like the idea of being aggressive and looking for others, but I need better execution. That's the deal when you are the starting point guard. Now just 2 wins from a title, I need better ball security from here on out.

- I cannot express how pathetic it is that the Warriors are crying about the fans. What losers. Especially when it's all hypocritical bullshit. Did Steve Kerr say it was classy when Draymond flipped off the entire Grizzlies arena when he got ejected? Did he call Warriors fans classy when they were throwing stuff at Chuck?

Was Klay making comments about cursing and being classy when this happened?

When you have Draymond's wife talking about how classless it is to curse around their children and then you have Draymond himself cursing right next to his son

It's all just so pathetic. Is this the playbook? When you get embarrassed at the Garden you just turn and cry about how the fans are mean? Kyrie did it, and now the entire Warriors franchise and family are doing the same. Hey, guess what, it's the NBA Finals! The Garden is a tough environment to play in! Welcome to planet earth. If you think kids in Boston haven't heard the word fuck or motherfucker before, I'm not sure where you've been. We come out the womb with that in our vocabulary.

I just don't get the logic. Draymond & Co believe they can say whatever they want and act however they want, but when someone responds to those actions, they are classless and it's fucked up? Cry me a goddamn river. We talk about the pussification of America all the time, well this pretty much embodies it. Don't chant mean things during a Finals game? Is this real life? Am I on planet earth?

The Ugly

- I am begging this team, stop playing drop against the Warriors. Just don't do it. If you think you're high enough on screens, go higher. Switch everything. The number of times we saw Horford or Rob get caught being too far back coming off a Curry screen was inexcusable. I don't want to see that shit again for the rest of these Finals. It's literally the worst thing you could possibly do if your goal is to limit the Warriors offensively. Daring two of the greatest shooters on earth to make open threes where they can step into them with ease is NOT a recipe for success. 

By now they should know that even the slightest mental mistake with that is going to bury you. Steph needs virtually no space to get his shot off so maybe don't give him like 3 feet of space. Just an idea I thought I'd throw out there into the universe.

- Having said that, Steph is absolutely the most terrifying player the Celts have faced this postseason and that includes a run of Kyrie/KD/Giannis/Butler. There just isn't a weakness in Steph's game. He can score from all 3 zones, he's an elite passer, and trying to defend him is so fucking terrifying. I haven't felt this way watching the Celts defend any of those previous stars. They all had a weakness. I'm just not sure what you can do about Steph other than pray he misses, but he never really misses. 

Which is what happened in that 3rd quarter. It's crazy that when the entire world knows the Warriors are going to dominate the 3rd, and then they still come out and do it with Steph dropping a massive 15 points, there's nothing you can do but hold onto your butts. I find myself staring at the clock praying it would move faster just to limit the Curry damage.

I will say though, even though the lead went from 12 down to 4 by the end of the quarter, punching back and having that slim lead heading into the fourth was huge for the Celts momentum. I would just like them to stop being so bad in the 3rd quarter for a team that was really good in that frame all season long.

After all that, here we sit. Just 2 wins away from the NBA title. It's all so surreal and terrifying at the same time. A title is legitimately on the table if this team just keeps doing what they're doing. I dunno about you, but I need it to be Friday immediately.

2 more. Love and Trust.