There’s an old saying that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Despite missing shots in the first half of the game, the Boston Celtics were clicking and finding holes in the Golden State Warriors’ defense. They pushed the ball, got easy transition baskets, and made the right reads. Then the Celtics went headhunting and couldn’t “fix” what they had broken.
Holding a three-point halftime lead, the C’s kept attacking the Warriors, building a 17-point lead with under five minutes left in the third quarter. Amid the run, Stephen Curry picked up his fifth foul midway through the quarter.
When Curry checked back into the game, Boston’s offense changed for the worse. It’s normal to try and attack the player who’s in foul trouble (especially if it’s their best player,) but after a few minutes of trying to foul him out, the Celtics failed to go back to what was working.
Each possession started with the Celtics trying to isolate Curry, which in turn, used the majority of the shot clock. Failing to draw his sixth foul, the Celtics scrambled to find an open man, leading to poor shots, usually a three.
Jaylen Brown admitted that the Celtics might have tried to find Curry too much on offense.
“They did a good job of hiding him. We were trying to put him in action. I felt like if we would have just played instead of looking around [for Curry], maybe we would have been able to attack. We were trying to put him in certain actions and I think that kind of hurt us,” Brown said. “But for the most part, I thought we were intentional tonight about how we wanted to go about attacking the matchups and we got a lot of wide-open looks, we just came up short.”
In addition to trying to attack Curry, Brown talked about the team “settling” and not being “aggressive.”
“We definitely had plenty of chances to win this game. We missed a lot of shots. Missed some easy shots at the rim,” Brown said. “A lot of wide open looks, but I felt like we kind of settled at times. We could have been more aggressive [in] getting to the paint. We settled for a lot of threes.”
“I think we could have got to the free throw line a lot more,” Brown added.
The Celtics made 15 of their 17 free throws but went 17 of 58 from three. The 41 misses are a franchise record. Despite the poor shooting from distance, Joe Mazzulla said he was “satisfied” with Boston’s “process.”
“We missed 20 layups in that game and 41 threes,” Mazzulla said. “I thought we got great looks the entire night, [we] just didn’t make them.”
Joe Mazzulla has mentioned multiple times that there were 15 possessions he wishes they could’ve changed, but they missed 20 paint shots and 41 threes (a franchise record) so he was satisfied with their process overall tonight.
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) December 20, 2023
“There’s probably 15 possessions during that game where it’s like ‘That can’t happen” where you have to execute, but I thought our process was good,” Mazzulla said. “They made more plays than we did down the stretch.”
The Celtics will be kicking themselves for all the points they left on the court. With just over a minute left in regulation and the game tied at 121, the Celtics missed two open threes, one contested three, one layup, and a tap-in. All of which summarized Boston’s night in a nutshell.
It’s not a great start to the west coast road trip, but on the positive side of things, it’s unlikely that the Celtics’ starting five will combine to shoot 14/46 from deep again, with Sam Hauser missing all six of his threes from the bench.