How Key Third-Quarter Aspect Helped Celtics Avoid Game 3 Disaster

Boston did not stop scoring in the third quarter despite hardships


June 9

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics were up to their usual tricks at the usual time during their eventual Game 3 win in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

The Celtics, who came out of the halftime locker room with a 12-point advantage, opened the third quarter fine. Robert Williams went up strong and finished on the first possession of the quarter before Al Horford hit Jaylen Brown with a full-court assist as the Warriors fell asleep on defense. But midway through the period Boston’s 13-point lead quickly disappeared as the Celtics failed to make it difficult on Warriors sharpshooter Steph Curry all while going stagnant on the offensive end. Golden State ultimately went on to claim a 83-82 lead within four minutes of that 13-point advantage by the hosts, benefitting from a seven-point possession (yes, you read that right).

Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, however, acknowledged a big aspect in that quarter. Even despite the fact Boston was outscored by eight points in the 12-minute period, the Celtics didn’t go into their shell.

“Defensively, (Golden State) hit some tough shots in the third, obviously — four-point play, seven-point play with the flagrant foul there. But we didn’t fall off the cliff offensively like we did in other games,” Udoka said after Boston’s 116-100 victory on the back of a fourth-quarter run.

After the Warriors took their 83-82 advantage, Boston rebounded to go on a mini 11-3 run of its own. Marcus Smart connected on a 3-pointer, Jayson Tatum scored a pair of free throws and finished in the paint and Grant Williams added one from long range, as well.

“We kept scoring,” Udoka said. “And then obviously that big fourth quarter. So that was the main key, to continue to be solid on offense and stay out of the teens, like we did in the first two games in the third quarter.”

The Celtics were outscored by 14 (38-24) in the third quarter of Game 1 and by 21 (35-14) in the third quarter of Game 2. Those type of quarters are difficult to make up, although, yes, they did so in Game 1. Boston’s final run at the end of the frame ultimately gave the Celtics, despite having their lead slashed from 12 to four, momentum to carry over into the final quarter. And that’s exactly what the Green did.

The Celtics certainly still have questions to answer pertaining to their third-quarter woes, but making sure Golden State’s run didn’t snowball into something more was key to their Game 3 victory.

Boston and Golden State will return to TD Garden on Friday with Game 4 set for 9 p.m. ET.

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