BOSTON – Warriors forward Draymond Green playing in his sixth NBA Finals. Green came up with82 players vs 16 playersframing. He certainly understands what it takes to get through the grueling road to this point.
“You don’t allow yourself to think about being tired or feel tired,” Greene said. “You feel it after the show has ended. When you are in the middle of it, you don’t have time to think about it. The show has a lot to think about.”
Celtics coach Ime Udoka used the word “tired” seven times in his press conference following the loss in Game 5. Six times in response to questions not directly related to the topic!
It was an amazing confession. Coaches rarely discuss fatigue at this stage of the year. Especially not a coach intolerant of excuses like Udoka.
But Boston did look tired on Monday.
Nobody more than Jason Tatum, who played 45 of 47 minutes before trash time but scored 1 of 8 in the last 18 minutes. However, don’t expect him to rest much more tonight before being eliminated in Game 6.
“That’s what timeouts are for,” Tatum said. “… I can rest all summer.
“It’s just mental. You must fight this. I’m not the only person who is tired or dealing with injuries or whatever. Only two teams left.
However, no one has carried a load like Tatum to get this far.
After leading the Celtics to a seven-game win over the Bucks in the second round and the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, Tatum spent 3,677 minutes between the regular season and the playoffs—significantly more than anyone else this season:
Indeed, Tatum, who also played for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, carries a burden almost unmatched in many years.
In the 2014 Finals, the Spurs, who were way ahead of the pack at rest, upset the exhausted Heat, ushering in the current era of workload management. Since, only LeBron James in 2017-18 (when he had to work so hard to keep the Cavaliers) and Draymond Green in 2015-16 (when the Warriors were chasing and scoring a record 73 wins) played more in a season than Tatum. And Tatum has to pass Green today.
Here are the players with the most regular season and playoff minutes in a season since 2014-15;
While Boston appears to be slowing down, Golden State’s most used player is Andrew Wiggins – rushes to the finish line.
“I feel great,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins, by primarily defending Tatum, helped the Warriors build a solid defense. Of course, Wiggins is not doing this alone. Led by Green, Golden State excelled in relief and rotation.
The Celtics’ obvious solution was to play faster and run into standard defense less often. But this is easier said than done, especially when you’re already exhausted.
Boston on the other end can’t catch its breath either. The Warriors offense on the move requires the defense to keep up, and no one pushes defensemen as hard as Stephen Curry. It would seem that Curry runs tirelessly around the screens and everywhere in between (which allows him to help even with poor shooting).
At their best, the Celtics looked bigger and sportier than the Golden State. Fatigue neutralizes these benefits. Now older warriors actually look more cheerful.
To extend, let alone win, this streak, Boston must muster the energy that didn’t show up at the end of Game 5. Unfortunately for the Celtics, this is a problem that usually gets worse during the game.