How the Warriors are putting the squeeze on the Celtics’ offense

BOSTON — Before the NBA Finals began, much was made of how the Warriors would overcome the Celtics’ top-ranked defense. But now it’s the Celtics who must come up with an answer for the Warriors’ impressive defensive scheme.

Golden State’s strategy is simple, even if the execution is complex: Force Boston to turn the ball over. A lot.

That’s a common thread through all three of the Warriors’ wins so far — and could be a focus in a potential clincher in Game 6 at TD Garden on Thursday. When the Warriors win, Boston commits an eye-opening number of turnovers. The Celtics had 18 in Game 2, 15 in Game 4 and 18 in Game 5. Golden State held Boston under 100 points in all three of those games.

Boston managed to keep its turnovers under control in its two wins, recording 12 each in Game 1 and Game 3. But the Warriors would say the low turnover count was a sign they failed at their job defensively. After their Game 3 loss, in which Draymond Green said he played “like s—,” Green said they’d need to match Boston’s physicality on defense at the point of attack.

“They can’t just break us down and get to the paint and that obviously starts with me,” Green said on his podcast following the Game 3 loss in Boston.

The Warriors answered the call for physicality and switched gears defensively in Game 4 and 5 with Andrew Wiggins hounding Jayson Tatum and Klay Thompson disrupting dribble drives from the perimeter. Gary Payton II is arguably the Warriors’ best point-of-attack defender for his ability to stay in front of any Celtic, cutting off driving and passing lanes with his quick feet and hands.

And then there’s Steph Curry, who has handled Boston’s relentless offensive attack on him with a strong defensive stand on his own.

Individually the Warriors have played a more physical defense deeper into the series, allowing them to collectively close the driving lanes for Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. Boston hasn’t played well in the crowd — often rushing into their shot attempts or throwing bad passes.

“I think when your defense is good at the point of attack, it allows your help defense to be there,” Green said. “There is no one person that can stop Jayson Tatum, there is no one person that can stop Jaylen Brown. At times in this series, there has been no one person that can stop Marcus Smart, but if you put up force at the point of attack, you allow your help to respond wherever they need to be.”

The Celtics are particularly susceptible because they don’t have a true point guard. Smart plays the part, but he’s exploitable as a playmaker. After not turning the ball over once in Game 1, the Warriors have forced Smart into 16 turnovers over the last four games.

Tatum is averaging nearly four turnovers per game and shooting 37.3% from the field — a far cry from his 45.3% during the regular season — because Golden State is forcing his hand. Strong 3-point shooting on kick-outs has fueled most of Boston’s big offensive runs. The Warriors are betting that those runs won’t always come.

Related Articles

Golden State Warriors |

ESPN’s Windhorst attempts to clarify ‘checkbook win’ comment on Warriors

Kurtenbach: Looking for the unsung heroes of the Warriors title push? Meet the Minnesota Timberwolves
Klay Thompson impersonator reaches Chase Center floor, banned for life
Warriors expect a ‘livid’ Steph Curry to bounce back in Boston from poor 3-point night
Editorial: Win or lose, these Warriors are fun to watch. Savor it while it lasts

In these playoffs, the Celtics are averaging 16.3 turnovers per loss and are 1-7 when they commit 16 or more turnovers in a playoff game and 13-2 when they come out under that figure.

The Warriors, who’ve had turnover issues of their own throughout the years, have committed just 64 turnovers in these Finals, compared to Boston’s 75. That includes just seven Golden State turnovers in Game 5.

If the Warriors win the turnover battle by double digits again Thursday night, odds are good that they won’t need a seventh game to lock down another title.