The Celtics looked comfortable for much of the first half of Game 3 in the NBA Finals. In fact, they might have looked a little too comfortable.
After taking an 18-point lead roughly halfway through the second quarter, the Celtics saw their lead get cut in half in less than two minutes. The Warriors’ latest score in the run came when Steph Curry made a 3-pointer in transition off a Marcus Smart bad pass, which was the Celtics’ eighth turnover in the first half.
Turnovers have killed the Celtics all postseason and they know it. Entering Game 3, they were 0-5 in games they committed 16 or more turnovers (which they were on pace to hit at that point in Game 3) compared to going 13-2 in playoff games they committed 15 or fewer turnovers.
Heavy.com’s Steve Bulpett, who’s covered the Celtics for decades, shared that Celtics coach Ime Udoka asked his team a simple question during one of the timeouts sparked by the team’s turnover problems in Game 3.
“Ime Udoka may have saved the Celtics with a key question during a timeout after his team had committed some bad turnovers,” Bulpett tweeted following Game 3. “According to a source, Udoka stepped into the huddle and said, ‘Will you guys stop playing like [expletive]?’
“Aaaaaand we have our coaching moment of the year.”
Bulpett didn’t specify during which timeout Udoka exactly said that, but that second-quarter timeout was the only one he called that came right after a turnover.
As Bulpett mentioned, Udoka’s message to his team appeared to have worked. That Smart turnover was the Celtics’ last of the half, allowing Boston to hold a 68-56 lead going into halftime.
The Celtics committed three turnovers in the third quarter, which led to three points for the Warriors as part of their 33-point quarter, which saw Golden State briefly take a one-point lead.
But Boston kept the ball under control in the fourth quarter, committing just one turnover in the final frame. Golden State’s inability to get out into transition by forcing turnovers was a big reason why they scored just 11 points in the last quarter and why Boston grabbed a 116-100 win in Game 3.
Udoka shared what he felt was the difference between the Celtics’ offense in Game 3 and Game 2.
“Offensively it was really to keep our composition and not get sped up,” Udoka said. “I felt last game we weren’t our best at attacking the rim and finding our outlets. Our spacing was much better tonight. Guys being patient and finding the driving lanes and getting to the basket. The second-chance points and offensive rebounds were big for us.”
Jayson Tatum had a good night in terms of controlling the ball. He had nine assists to two turnovers, with the second one not coming until late in the game.
Tatum shared what he and the team saw on the film after Game 2 and how they applied it in Game 3.
“We had a lot of turnovers at the rim last game, with those guys stunting and getting back to the big,” Tatum said. “So I think just watching film and seeing where open spaces were and making sure we were getting to those, so guys could see kick-outs and things like that.”
Sign up for Celtics updates🏀
Get breaking news and analysis delivered to your inbox during basketball season.