Warriors dominated by Celtics in Game 3, but not due to lack of size

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Lack of size not why Warriors lost physical battle in Game 3 originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

BOSTON – After the Warriors were clobbered into submission Wednesday night in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, the subject never far from the tongues of basketball fans this season came roaring out of its temporary slumber.

Size. And Golden State’s lack of it.

The Warriors are too small. Again.

As if James Wiseman, who last played 14 months ago, could have been the answer on a night when the Celtics scrapped out a 116-100 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

As if Golden State’s failure to add an unwanted or unemployed 7-footer at the trade deadline in February might have been the difference between winning or losing.

The Warriors’ issue in Game 3 was not their stature. It was their lack of conviction relative to that displayed by the Celtics. With a chance to make a statement against a youngish team buoyed by a hostile environment, the Warriors from the opening tip were the less assertive squad.

“They put a lot of pressure on us and felt like we were kind of swimming upstream most of the night,” coach Steve Kerr said.

One barometer of effort is rebounding. All five Boston starters snagged at least six, with center Robert Williams III leading the group with a game-high 10. Guards Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart combined for 16. The Celtics dominated the glass 47-31 and had a 15-6 advantage on offensive rebounds.

“The offensive rebounds were just a killer,” Kerr said. “They had like 20-something second-chance points (actually 22). That was really the difference in the game.”

The most impactful player on the court was Williams. He’s 6-foot-8. Weighs about 235. He’s not much of a scorer; his surest shot is a dunk caught off a lob. He’s blessed with an abundance of athleticism, some of which is not yet available because his tender left knee is two months removed from surgery.

Yet there was Williams, hobbling up and down the court, the definition of perseverance – or insanity – and still able to control take in the paint, gobbling rebounds, blocking shots (four) and putting in eight points on 4-of-5 shooting.

“In our game plan . . . we've talked about just being aware of where he is because, especially depending on who he's guarding, he can kind of come out of nowhere,” Stephen Curry said. “There was a play early in the fourth, I got by Grant Williams and thought I had daylight to get a shot up, and you underestimate how athletic he was and how much he could bother that shot.”

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Williams is smaller than Kevon Looney, roughly the same size as Otto Porter Jr. His massive impact on the outcome was not a matter of size but one of desire. He was quicker to the rim.

And his teammates were quicker to the ball. They played at a different speed than the Warriors, and it paid off not only in rebounds but also recovery of loose balls.

“We let them get to too many of their strengths,” Draymond Green said.

“And when you allow a team to get comfortable, especially in their home – in front the home crowd, then it's tough.”

With two losses in a three-game stretch for the first time this postseason, it’s apparent the Warriors are facing a bit of a competitive crisis. They know what they have to do but have not been able to do it well enough to prosper.

The size conversation silenced as the Warriors defeated taller teams to reach the NBA Finals returned in Game 3 because the Celtics piled up 52 points and owned the glass. But it wasn't because of their size. Boston had the tougher dogs, the more resolute disposition.

If the Warriors can’t win that battle, they can’t win the series.

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