The Golden State Warriors are down 2-1 against the Boston Celtics, but they’ve been here before.
“We’re not going to overreact. We’ve been in this situation before. Getting big 2015 vibes,” Klay Thompson said after Wednesday’s 116-100 loss in Game 3. “With just being down 2-1 in a championship series … we can rely on our experience.”
After trailing 2-1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 NBA Finals, Steve Kerr swapped Andrew Bogut out of the Game 4 starting lineup for Andre Iguodala, who hadn’t started a game for the Warriors that season. The lineup change proved pivotal. The Warriors went on to win the series 4-2 and Iguodala was named the Finals MVP.
Fast forward to 2022, the Warriors may need to pull another move out of their back pocket to match the Celtics’ overpowering size and physicality.
Game 4 is Friday in Boston (9 p.m. ET, ABC).
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The Celtics’ defense snuffed the Warriors late surge in Game 3 at Boston’s TD Garden. The Celtics had 28 assists on 43 buckets, 22 second-chance points off 15 offensive rebounds and outscored Golden State 52-26 in the paint. Boston is now two wins away from winning the franchise’s first title since 2008.
“We’re the bigger team. We want to impose our size in the series, no doubt about that,” Ime Udoka said Thursday. “Like I said, we have multiple guys that can attack the paint.”
With their backs against the wall, Golden State is turning to past experience. Having made the Finals from 2015 to 2019 and winning three titles, the Warriors have been in many different situations, including a critical Game 4 on the road that they now face.
Like the 2015 Cavaliers, the 2022 Celtics “spread the court with really good shooters,” play “a lot of one-on-one” and have an NBA All-Star in Jayson Tatum, Thompson said, similar to Lebron James. But the Celtics are bigger, stronger, deeper and more athletic.
“To Klay’s point, it does help knowing that we’ve been through a little of everything the last eight years and can draw through that experience of when you need to, to stay in the series,” Curry said, adding that he doesn’t see any “specific” similarities between teams.
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The main thing the Warriors need to draw from the 2015 Finals is adjustments, because experience alone has been inadequate so far as the veteran Warriors have been outmatched and outplayed by the upstart Celtics.
Kerr added Iguodala to the lineup in place of Bogut, moving Green to center in 2015. Is there another series-changing move to be made to match the Celtics’ physicality?
“I think that’s always what you kind of weigh as a coaching staff,” Kerr said Thursday. “You balance any type of adjustment or lineup change or anything like that, and you have to weigh it according to where you feel you are in the series. Not only with the series score, but emotionally, spiritually, where are the players.”
Ker added, “Everything factors in, and there’s no clear path to a right or wrong answer. It’s just every year is unique and circumstantial. That’s what today and tomorrow will be about for our staff. You know, what adjustments we feel like we need to make.”
Even if Kerr were making a lineup change, he wouldn’t tell. In 2015, Kerr said there wouldn’t be any changes ahead of Game 4 before the Iguodala-Bogut swap. “I lied. Sorry, but I don’t think they give you the trophy based on morality,” he said afterward.
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Could the answer be adding rookies Jonathan Kuminga or Moses Moody into the mix to match the Celtics’ verticality and jumping abilities?
“It’s always a possibility,” Kerr said when asked about the rookies. “You never rule out anything. … Do we need to insert another player into the rotation? Do we need to change a combination, lineup combination? All that stuff is discussed, and we just make the best decision that we think can be made and roll with it.”
Thompson said the Warriors don’t need to do anything radical, but start “playing better.” Draymond Green said that starts with him after playing “soft” and “like (expletive)” in Game 3. He’s combined for 15 points and 15 fouls in the 2022 Finals so far.
“They’re going to make things tough. That’s why they’re in the NBA Finals. That’s why we’re in the NBA Finals,” Green said. “They’re a very physical team. They have a lot of size, a lot of bulk. They try to muddy the game up. I think it’s important that we continue to move the ball, move bodies, not just standing still where they can just muck the game up, use their hands and chuck guys.”
That could be tough with Robert Williams lurking.
Williams – who Udoka calls “the modern-day NBA center: a little undersized, can move his feet, guard on the perimeter, guard in the post and, obviously, rim protection” – was a game-time decision because of left knee soreness following surgery in late March. But he was the X-factor of Game 3 with 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 blocks, plus 8 points.
“They have rim protection when Robert is out there,” Curry said. “It’s a big part of why their defense is ranked as high as it is and why it’s been a difference in a couple of these games, because you know he is back there. You know he is coming. Even if he is not directly in the paint, he is guarding somebody off the ball. He is going to be flying in there.”
The Warriors are 3-5 on the road in the 2022 NBA playoffs. Golden State has won a road game in a record 26 straight playoff series and have not lost consecutive games in this postseason.
Follow Cydney Henderson on Twitter at @CydHenderson.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Warriors feeling ‘2015 vibes.’ Can lineup change match Celtics’ size?