The Boston Celtics’ quest to become the franchise with the most NBA titles, breaking a tie with the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, is in peril. Both have 17, but it is the Golden State Warriors who are in a favorable position to win their seventh championship and fourth in the last eight seasons when Game 6 of the Finals takes place tonight at TD Garden in Boston.
After losing Game 4 at home by 107-97 last Friday, the Celtics dropped Game 5 on Monday on the Warriors’ home court at the Chase Center in San Francisco by 10 points again (104-94) to fall 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. The Celtics’ carelessness with the basketball and poor foul shooting doomed them in Game 5.
They commited 18 turnovers and missed 10 free throws (31-21), and lost a game in which Warriors guard Stephen Curry, widely regarded as the greatest shooter in NBA history, was an uncharacteristic 7-22 from field including misfiring on all nine of his three-point attempts (0-9) an occurrence as rare and unbelievable as a sighting of Bigfoot. Curry had gone 233 straight games and 133 consecutive playoff games making at least one three.
However, it is the Celtics’ 2022 All-NBA First Team selection Jayson Tatum’s inconsistency and haphazardness with the rock that has been problematic for his team. While Tatum’s stats in the Finals in important measures such as points (23.2) rebounds (7.6) and assists (7) are suitable, he has not elevated his game to the level of imposing his enormous talent on the Warriors.
Conversely, below the surface of the aforementioned numbers, Tatum is shooting just 23.8% (5-21) in five games in the fourth quarter heading into Game 6, and managed only three points in the last 12 minutes in Game 4 and five in Game 5.
“I had a couple of shots that were short,” the 24-year-old three-time NBA All-Star said on Monday after playing 44 of the game’s 48 minutes. “I just got to not fade as much. Use my legs. I mean, you’re not going to be a little more tired in the fourth than you are in the first quarter.”
Cherishing possessions is also an issue for Tatum. He is averaging 3.6 turnovers per game in the Finals and after having four in Game 5, reached his 95th in 23 playoff games this season, passing LeBron James for the most in a single postseason. James had 94 in 22 games in 2018.
Tatum isn’t wholly accountable for the Celtics facing elimination tonight and is capable of having series-altering performances in Games 6 and a possible Game 7 to lead the Celtics to a title. Credit the Warriors’ blanketing, physical defense—similarly the prominent characteristic of the Celtics—with causing Tatum, fellow All-Star Jaylen Brown and the Boston’s collective offense to shoot a modest 43.7% in five games and turn the ball over an average of 15.6 times per game.
The Celtics’ negative trends must dramatically change for the better tonight or the Warriors will be celebrating another NBA championship victory.