Boston Celtics: 3 key adjustments that led to Game 1 win vs. Warriors

The Boston Celtics made these 3 key adjustments to beat the Warriors in Game 1 Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
The Boston Celtics made these 3 key adjustments to beat the Warriors in Game 1 Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Boston Celtics shocked everyone with a spectacular fourth-quarter performance in game one of the NBA Finals, taking a 1-0 series lead on the Golden State Warriors. They seemed content to lose the first game in enemy territory through three quarters but suddenly turned everything around in one of the best 12-minute stretches of Celtics basketball in recent history.

This victory sets up a pivotal game two on Sunday night, in which, if Boston comes away with another win, puts them in a prime position to win their first championship since 2008. Obviously, Golden State will come out desperate, as going down 0-2 and having to go back to Boston for two more contests is quite the tall task.

However, Celtics fans have to be extremely encouraged with the C’s play, managing to come back from multiple double-digit deficits. They aren’t backing down from anyone, and have proven themselves throughout this long playoff run.

Ime Udoka and his coaching staff made impressive adjustments along the way to help Boston come back into this game. Let’s go through 3 of them that directly led to the win:

Boston Celtics adjustment No. 1: Abandoning the drop coverage

In the first quarter, the Celtics opened their defensive scheme in a drop coverage. Essentially, off of a simple pick-and-roll or dribble handoff involving Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, the big man involved in the action, usually Robert Williams, would allow the ball-handler to step into a three, rather than contesting his air space.

This method is usually implemented in an attempt to contain both the ball-handler and the screener while the defender being screened has time to get back into the action. However, it’s extremely dangerous to implement a drop coverage when the ball-handler has the ability to pull up from beyond the arc with ease.

Since Curry is the best 3-point shooter the game has ever seen, the drop is rarely used against the Warriors. He went for 21 points on six 3-pointersin the first quarter, as Boston made a number of defensive errors both in terms of scheme and communication. Here’s one example of a Daniel Theis drop coverage possession on Curry:

That shot was there the entire first half for Curry, and he made Boston pay. As the fourth quarter came around, the Celtics made adequate adjustments to move away from the drop coverage. Instead, they mixed in some blitzing but mainly used straight switches on screens both on and off the ball.

In the final period, the C’s switched on 29% of pick-and-rolls, compared to only 18% in the first three quarters. This shift gives less separation to the Warriors’ ball-handlers, with Williams and Horford being able to guard on the perimeter reasonably well. If Curry’s able to hit a contested shot at the rim or 15-foot step-back, so be it. He shouldn’t be getting wide-open step-in 3-pointers consistently considering his track record.