SAN FRANCISCO — Here are nine thoughts about the NBA Finals as the series returns to Boston for Game 3 Wednesday night tied at one.
1. If Draymond Green had been ejected from Game 2 for two of the most harmless skirmishes possible, it would have been outrageous. His technical foul, called after he gave Celtics forward Grant Williams a mild get-off-me discard as they leaned on each other during a dead ball, did not need to be called. The referees seemed to sense that the game was getting chippy and wanted to calm things down. Fine.
Then in the second quarter, Green fouled Jaylen Brown on a 3-point attempt. Brown kicked his leg out a bit and Green fell on him, and his legs were briefly draped over Brown. Brown shoved them away, Green shoved Brown, Brown stood over Green, and Green stood up and took exception. The 1980s Celtics and Pistons would have called this “saying hi.”
If this had been a meaningless regular-season game, the officials probably would have handed out double technicals for the same reason Green received his first one: to keep things from escalating. But nothing in either situation was an unavoidable tech.
And this is Game 2 of the NBA Finals. To throw one of the key actors out of a massive game for a pair of harmless moments would have been a disaster. Of course, Celtics fans were hopeful that Green would be tossed, but the officials handled the situation properly. Everyone move on.
2. Having said that, when Brown and Green hopped to their feet and were momentarily face-to-face, there was a chance that the situation was going to rise to a level that would have left the officials no choice but to hand out technical fouls. But Jayson Tatum pulled Brown away and Marcus Smart got in front of Green.
The guess here is that the Celtics will be instructed by their coaching staff to stand down if a similar situation arises.
3. After Al Horford erupted for six 3-pointers in the Game 1 win, Warriors coach Steve Kerr switched up his defense in Game 2 and flipped Green onto Brown and Klay Thompson onto Horford.
Guarding Horford on the perimeter is a low-juice assignment for Green, who can’t avoid straying to where the action is. There’s more value in having him on Brown anyway. Thompson is quick enough to deal with Horford on the perimeter and will not be as tempted to stray.
Horford did try to post up Thompson a few times, but the actions were slightly forced and clunky.
4. At some point, Celtics coach Ime Udoka could have a Robert Williams decision on his hands. When Williams is at his best, soaring above the rim for lobs and blocked shots, he is arguably Boston’s third-most important player. But he just hasn’t done much of that as he deals with left knee issues during the playoffs.
He appeared truly hobbled during the Game 7 win over the Heat in the conference finals. He looked better in Game 1 against Golden State, but once again was not moving very well in Game 2, when he took one shot and had two rebounds in 14 minutes.
The Celtics were at their best in the fourth quarter of Game 1 when Udoka went with a smaller group that featured Horford at center and Derrick White in the game for Williams. He could go even smaller, with Grant Williams gobbling up some center minutes. But backup center Daniel Theis’s stints have not gone well during the playoffs, and Williams at 75 percent is more valuable.
Udoka has said the extra rest between games will help Williams, but keep a close eye on Game 4, which is the only one in the series that follows just one day off.
5. The time between games is probably just as meaningful to Golden State and its over-30 core. The Celtics have taken pride in wearing down opponents over the course of the two previous grueling series, and both ended with Game 7 wins.
But the Warriors have minimized the wear and tear on their stars so far, with everyone kept below 39 minutes. Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo topped the 40-minute mark a combined eight times in their series against the Celtics, and there were times when it showed.
Golden State’s low workload start to this series combined with the extra time off should keep this from becoming a war of attrition.
6. The crowd at the Chase Center over the first two games of this series was … fine.
Aside from Golden State’s fourth-quarter collapse in Game 1, the Warriors mostly controlled play, so there was plenty to cheer about. But the arena just doesn’t have the same raucous feel that Oracle Arena did.
Talking to some locals over the past few days, there’s a general sense that many of the true fans who roared in Oakland’s aging edifice for so many years have been priced out of seats at this luxurious downtown arena.
TD Garden remains the most lively building I’ve watched a game in during these playoffs, and it hasn’t been close.
7. Speaking of that, the Celtics should do whatever they can to get Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett courtside for Game 3. With all of the pyrotechnics, gimmicks, noise meters, and other celebrity appearances, no one gets the crowd going quite like those two. Although Bill Belichick isn’t far behind.
8. One thing that should worry the Celtics a bit: Thompson has hit seven or more 3-pointers in at least one game in each round of these playoffs. He was just 4 for 15 from beyond the arc over the first two games of this series.
9. About 10 months ago, Sam Hauser went undrafted and had to be unsure where the first steps of his pro basketball journey would take him. On Sunday night, he made a 3-pointer in an NBA Finals game.
Sure, the outcome was already decided, but it had to be a pretty cool moment for the rookie from Virginia who signed a two-way contract with the Celtics before having it converted to an NBA deal in February.
Hauser has shown that he is a true sniper, and at some point he’ll get a chance at meaningful NBA minutes.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.