Stat Breakdown: 2022 NBA Finals First 3 Games

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With Boston up 2-1 against Golden State, what can we expect in Game 4 of the NBA Finals?

Full coverage: 2022 NBA Finals

The 2022 NBA Finals have taken place over three games so far, and as of this writing, the Boston Celtics are halfway to an NBA title as they hold a 2-1 lead. But how did the teams stack up in terms of stats? We take a closer look below.


Traditional statistics

There were 144 minutes played in the first three games of the final, with Boston having led for 69 of these minutes (47.9%) and Golden State leading for 66 minutes (45.8%). Moreover, there were nine minutes with the draw (6.3%). There have been a total of 20 lead changes and 12 draws so far, but most of them have come from the first two games in San Francisco. In their first home final game in 12 years, the The Celtics led for 47 of 48 minutes in a game that only featured three lead changes.

Much of Boston’s +17 rebounding advantage in the Finals came in Game 3 as the Celtics won the boards 47-31 overall and 15-6 on offensive glass. While Golden State’s Kevon Looney is the series leading rebounder (23) and offensive rebounder (10), the Celtics have done the job as a collective as they have seven of the best rebounders in the series, led by Jaylen Brown and Al Horford with 22 boards apiece.

Should Steve Kerr make any drastic changes to the Warriors roster for Game 4 on Friday?

Brown secured the rebound on 73% rebound chance *, the second highest rate of any player with seven or more total rebounds behind teammate Payton Pritchard (83%).
(* = A player has a chance to rebound if they are the player closest to the ball at any time between when the ball has crossed the rim and when it has fully rebounded.)

When looking at those traditional stats, the only significant advantage for the Warriors is in steals (+11). Similar to Boston’s rebounding advantage, much of that advantage was built in Golden State’s Game 2 win when they racked up 15 steals – the most in a finals match since Game 2 of the 2017 Finals, when Cleveland intercepted 15 balls in a loss to Golden State. Our own John Schuhmann dug into those interceptions (live turnovers for the Celtics) in his Game 2 Finals stat breakdown for this game.


Shooting stats

What separates the Celtics and Warriors across three games are two baskets (116-114) and five free throws (43-38), all in favor of Boston. The teams are even 3-pointers with 49 apiece, though Boston is making 3-pointers at a higher percentage. Looking back at Golden State’s six Finals since 2015, the Warriors allowed more than 40% 3-point shooting in a single series before those Finals — when Portland shot 42.8% 3-pointers in the 2016 Western Conference Semifinals.

Boston has made five more free throws (and also attempted seven more) than Golden State so far. The key stat to watch here is drives to the basket, where Boston has a 155-114 advantage in total readers and a 15-10 advantage in free throws made on drives. The Celtics drew twice as many fouls as the Warriors when they got to the hoop.


Miscellaneous statistics

A stat tied to the winner of all three matches is the number of points in the paint – the team that wins this battle has won each match. Boston had a 34-26 advantage in Game 1, Golden State led it 40-24 in Game 2, and Boston had it, 52-26, in Game 3 (as detailed by Schuhmann here).

In front of the highest ranked defense in the league — 106.2 defensive rating in the regular season, 105.1 in playoffs enter the final – the Warriors must take advantage of transition opportunities to score easy baskets before the stifling Celtics defense can set in place. However, holding the advantage at the break doesn’t guarantee a win: Golden State beat Boston 18-4 in quick break points in Game 3…and still lost by 16.

The Celtics (15.4%) and Warriors (15.1%) turned the ball over at similar rates during the playoffs and in the finals, More precisely. In Game 1, Boston outscored the Warriors by 11 points on turnovers (21-10) and finished with a 12-point victory. In Game 2, it was Golden State’s turn to capitalize on Boston’s mistakes, building up an 18-point (33-15) advantage in points on turnovers in a 19-point win. The only game that didn’t hold up was Game 3, as Golden State won the rotation points battle, 19-17, but lost 116-100.


Advanced statistics

While the Celtics are unlikely to match the 119.2 offensive rating they posted in their first-round sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, their three-game offensive rating of 113.3 is better than the one they posted. they displayed in each of the last two rounds against the Milwaukee Bucks (108.8) and Miami Heat (110.7). Meanwhile, Golden State’s 110.5 offensive rating is well behind the way it worked against the Dallas Mavericks (120.3) and Denver Nuggets (121.9), but is slightly better than he did against the Memphis Grizzlies (108.3).

The similarities between effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage illustrate how close this series is. However, one statistic that is surprisingly not near is the assist percentage. The Celtics use the pass to create scoring opportunities at a much higher rate than the Warriors.

In the regular season, the Warriors led the NBA in assist percentage because more than two thirds of their baskets (66.9% to be exact) obtained an assist. In contrast, Boston placed 14th at 60.9%. In the playoffs (before these finals), the Warriors were the best team in assist percentage (66.9%), while the Celtics moved up to second place (65.5%). But since the start of the Finals, Golden State aid is down to 62.3% and those in Boston are in another stratosphere at 73.3%.

Some of that drop has to be attributed to Boston’s defense, which disrupted Golden State’s normally fluid and pass-heavy offense. But if we look at the numbers, Warriors passing frequency has steadily dropped since the regular season (310.3 assists per game, second in the NBA), at qualifiers before the final (281.6 assists per game, fifth of 16 teams), and now at 267 assists per game through three games of the final — 23 fewer assists per game than the Celtics.

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