Boston Celtics: 2 ways to fix stagnant offense in Game 6 of the NBA Finals

Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
2 of 3
Boston Celtics
Al Horford #42 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Boston Celtics offensive fix No. 1: Stop running a five-out offense

Boston won Game 1 of this series on the back of a 40-16 fourth quarter. They got most of their points thanks to some lights out three-point shooting, and it was a simple change that unlocked things for them in that final frame. Rather than use two bigs, coach Ime Udoka used only one, and surrounded them with shooters. That lone big was usually Al Horford, which meant Boston had five shooters on the floor and lots of spacing.

The Warriors ended up getting beat by the drive and kick game, and it looked like Boston had found their offensive gameplan for the series. Drive to the rim, and hope that you find either an open layup or draw enough help to free someone up at the perimeter. Boston’s offense has been at its best when they have been able to run this type of offense.

The problem is Golden State has largely adapted to this by playing some phenomenal help defense. When someone on the Celtics drives, Golden State usually has two or three guys in the paint waiting for them. They aren’t super worried about Boston hitting every single one of their threes, and even then, their help defenders are usually able to get back out to the perimeter to contest those shots. It’s read and react for the Warriors, and they are doing it perfectly.

The C’s haven’t been able to adapt for the most part, and it’s led to some ugly offensive outings. Jayson Tatum is being asked to do a ton on offense, and while he’s doing the best he can with all the attention he’s getting, it’s clear he’s struggling. Jaylen Brown is unable to navigate the sea of arms Golden State is throwing at him on his way to the rim, which is resulting in a large amount of missed shots and turnovers from him.

Related Story. Boston Celtics' Finals hopes on Jayson Tatum's shoulders. light

The one guy who has seemed to break this trend of offensive struggles is Robert Williams. The Warriors don’t really have an answer for Williams on offense right now. When Williams isn’t on the floor, Golden State is pressing high on the perimeter because they know they can get back to the paint and help if someone drives, in part because nobody on Boston is lurking in the paint; everyone is on the perimeter instead. That changes when Williams is on the court.

Now Williams can’t play the entire game of course, but Boston has other big men who can attempt to replicate Williams’ role, and it starts with Horford. Horford has been wasted on offense this series by primarily standing at the three and waiting for the ball to come his way. The same goes for Grant Williams.

The Celtics have a significant height advantage over the Warriors, especially when Kevon Looney isn’t on the floor, but aside from Williams, nobody has used it to their advantage. The primary issue is their five-out offense. It’s effective when shots are opening up, but Golden State has been pretty content to just sink into the paint on drives, and jump back out to the perimeter when the ball gets sent there.

When there is only one big on the floor for Boston, that guy needs to be in the paint putting pressure on the Warriors defense. In theory, it clogs up the paint, and while that may be true, the benefits outweight that potential roadblock.

light. Must Read. The Boston Celtics have what it takes to beat the Warriors

If Tatum drives to the rim and has another guy stationed closer to the paint, rather than everyone just sitting at the three, Golden State doesn’t have as much incentive to help defend him. And even if they do, someone on Boston will be in the vicinity to help, which would significantly help reduce turnovers. It also forces the Warriors to be more diligent when it comes to rebounding, as Boston hasn’t been that great on the offensive glass so far.

The offense has largely gone stagnant because everyone has been standing at the perimeter waiting for their turn to shoot the ball. That’s sunk them into a 3-2 hole, and if they want to take another trip out to California, they cannot continue to do that. Putting more pressure on Golden State in the paint with their bigs, primarily Horford, is going to be key to helping the offense stay in rhythm throughout Game 6.