Celtics’ key to forcing Game 7 vs. Warriors is offense


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BOSTON — Win or lose, Golden State has consistently played offense in the NBA Finals.

The Warriors have scored about 110 points per 100 possessions, regardless of the outcome.

Boston hasn’t been able to find that offensive consistency, however, and that’s why they’re on the fence, trailing 3-2 in the series going into Game 6.

In their wins, the Celtics have been fantastic at 125.5 points per 100 possessions. As she loses, her score drops to 95.5 points per 100 possessions.

More than anything else in this series for Boston, offense will determine the outcome of every game, and much of the focus will be on wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – Boston’s top two offensive players – and their ability to hold up Golden State’s strong defense to break.

With Boston’s offense humming, the finals head for Game 7. If not, the Warriors win Game 6 and another title Thursday at TD Garden.

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Celtics coach Ime Udoka seems to know that too.

“Look at the bigger picture, we’re defending well enough to win,” he said on Wednesday. “It’s really some stagnant offensive breaks that really hurt us. We have one or two or three quarters of really good basketball, then we have one or two quarters that really hurt us.”

The Celtics dig deeper into Boston’s Finals losses and are:

  • Shooting 39.6% from the field and 38.3% on 3-pointers in losses and 49.4% and 44.7% in wins.
  • 17.7 turnovers per game in losses and 12.5 turnovers per game in wins.
  • 21.3 assists per game in losses and 30.5 assists per game in wins.
  • Stuttered in the fourth quarter, topped 57-39 in the final quarter of Games 4 and 5 after trailing a point in both games after three quarters.

Golden State’s defense and composure have played a part in Boston’s struggles, and the Celtics have self-inflicted problems with turnovers and suspect shot selection. The Warriors put a lot of effort into making offense difficult for Tatum and Brown, trying to get the ball out of Tatum’s hands.

“They try to knock him out at certain times of the game,” Udoka said. “But it’s up to him to read that and it’s up to us to put him in positions where when he understands he’s doubling down and he’s going to be the bait at times, he includes everyone else. We have to make them pay for it.”

In fact, Tatum was largely involved in Boston’s three losses, barring some trouble in the fourth quarter of the last two games. When Tatum and Brown can put together good games, it usually leads to better performances from Boston’s role players.

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Almost all of the Celtics who met with reporters Wednesday had answers for offensive struggles.

“Play harder. Sprint, get on the court. Don’t let the shot clock run out before we get on our offense, take a late shot. Increase our pace. Play a lot harder,” Brown said. “I think that would help us and benefit us a lot.”

Tatum mentioned getting to their spots offensively on purpose, not just randomly getting into an offensive set.

“If they’re playing half court, let them build up their defense, they’re really, really good,” Tatum said. “I think it obviously starts with getting stops, then kicking the ball forward when you stop and playing in transition.”

Udoka rattled off a list of areas that can help the Celtics: stop dribbling into the crowd, attack the rim with stronger finishes, find the open shooter in drives into the better-spaced suit.


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“As confident as we are in the situations we’ve found ourselves in, we understand that Golden State is a well-trained, high-IQ team that won’t beat themselves,” Udoka said. “You have to go out there and take it.

“Always confidence for us because we went through it. But we can help ourselves and play better offense overall and not help them with turnovers. All the same little things we’ve talked about throughout the series.”

Figuring out how to win at each stage of the playoffs is nothing new and dates back to the “bad boys” Detroit Pistons, who suffered setback after setback before eventually beating Boston in the conference finals and then beating Los Angeles in the 1988 finals Lakers lost before you beat them next season.

Trailing 3-2 to Milwaukee in the Conference Semifinals, the Celtics needed to win Game 7 on the road against Miami to reach the Finals. They reacted in elimination matches.

“I don’t know exactly what it is, but I think it’s just our will to want to win, we’re just trying to figure it out,” Tatum said. “It’s the first before four. It’s not over yet. So as long as it’s not over, you have a chance.

“I think if you’ve done it before you should have even more confidence than you can. Not that it will be easy or given to us, but you should be extremely confident as long as you have a chance.

“We have a chance.”

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgit.

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