Brian Windhorst can see the Celtics raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy at some point over the next week-plus, as long as they correct a problem that’s been plaguing the team for some time.
Boston’s ongoing third-quarter struggles have surfaced in the early going of the NBA Finals. The Celtics managed to beat the Warriors in Game 1 despite losing the third-quarter battle by 14 points, but a 21-point difference in that frame doomed Boston on Sunday night at Chase Center.
It’s unrealistic to expect either the C’s or the Warriors to play perfect basketball for the remainder of the best-of-seven series. But if Boston can eliminate one of its shortcomings, Windhorst believes it needs to be the third-quarter woes.
“I could spin it around and say the rest of the game is even besides the third quarter, which is where the Warriors have outscored the Celtics,” Windhorst said Monday on ESPN’s “Get Up.” “You better brace yourself if you’re a Celtics fan when I’m about to give you this number. The Warriors have outscored the Celtics by 35 points in the two third quarters in this series. I would say that is where the game has changed.
“I obviously have talked to Celtics players about this. You don’t think Ime Udoka brought it up at halftime? ‘Let’s prepare ourselves for this third-quarter onslaught.’ They brought it up, but the Warriors have this thing that they just are able to do. Bottom line, the Celtics have some issues: turnover issues, getting continuity from some of their stars. But if they don’t fix the third quarter, they ain’t gonna win. So, that’s gotta be a big factor. I think the rest of this series, frankly, has been played even except for that period.”
The Celtics will try to start the process of being more competitive in the third quarter Wednesday night when they host the Warriors for Game 3. Tipoff from TD Garden is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.