San Francisco – When darkness replaces fog and settles over the Bay Area on Monday, the Celtics or Warriors will officially teeter on the brink of the NBA Finals.
With the series tied 2-2, the finals still lacked back-to-back victories by either team. Perhaps this finally happens, with a successful home stand on the side of the Warriors? Or will he keep the Celtics’ blunders coming?
Searching for 5 game clues? Here are four to look for:
Does Steve Curry need help getting pregnant?
Who knew that a 6-foot-2 listed ranger had such a strong back and legs? If nothing else, Curry has proven it so much by carrying the Warriors not just in terms of scoring, but with rebounds (he beat 10 in Game 4), playmaking and most of all, presence.
This questions Curry’s legacy and silences the skeptics (if there are any of those types), and the Warriors are all tied up in the Finals despite playing secondary to some in rotation. (Hey, Draymond Green.) But do the Warriors need more others in these next few games to make them all worthwhile?
That’s Golden State’s mission heading into Game 5. Curry’s unique dominance is similar to what LeBron James did for the Cavs, Dirk Nowitzki at the 2011 Mavericks and in Golden State’s franchise history, Rick Barry in the ’74-75. Curry’s average score is more than the combined averages of the following warriors with the highest score: 34.3 for Curry, 33.8 for Clay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins.
Realistically, from a scoring standpoint, that’s the job of Thompson and Jordan Paul. They are the most qualified to get 25 points or more. If either of them gets hot, the Celtics are in trouble. If they both reach 20 or more with Curry, the Celtics are on the verge of collapse.
As a footnote, Monday is the third anniversary of Thompson’s knee injury against the Raptors in the 2019 Finals. What better way to get that moment out of his memory than from comeback night? Here’s the thing: Golden State is tied up despite Curry’s lack of help, which means the Warriors are likely due. They certainly haven’t played their best game yet, assuming such a game happens.
Boston’s defense had something to do with it. Until now. Now we’ll see if a Klay or Poole Party is inevitable, and give the Warriors an edge back to Boston.
“Being able to pick up our rhythm and have two games under our belt from this series, I definitely feel like an attacking explosion is definitely coming,” Paul said.
Expect the Celtics to adapt defensively, blame Curry
As far as conventional thinking might suggest otherwise, teams would prefer not to make adjustments in the finals. It’s a bit late in the game so it smells of anxiety if not panic. They would rather stay true to themselves and their strengths and live or die with the results. Once the lineup changes and the strategies are adjusted, you get a little out of character.
But perhaps the Celtics don’t have much choice, not with Curry forcing them to rethink their plans. Nothing has worked against him so far, and the Celtics can either keep doubling down and leave the others open – he gets his points anyway – or guard him straight up and make sure no one else gets overheated.
As a side note, this presents an interesting discussion between Carey and Marcus Smart, Kia Defensive Player of the Year. Because of that award and his reputation, shouldn’t intelligence be good enough to slow Carrey? Or does legendary shot industry outperform any level of defense?
Warriors are looking for switches that give Carrey a favorable advantage, and Smart is often turned off on screens. Curry also caused issues with his excellent off-ball movement which allows him to get into his positions; There aren’t many players who can keep up or match his speed.
“The way he can impact the game is by being able to run and play on the ball and open himself up, it’s tough for a defender because you can’t take a break,” Smart said. “The moment you think he’s not doing anything, and the play is over for him, that’s when you are defeated.”
It is possible that Boston will resort to physical contact with Carey and risk being on the wrong side of the whistle. With Carrie on such a lap, perhaps the only realistic scenario is hope and prayer that he’s missing out.
The Celtics’ best defense is the best attack
Ime Udoka seems to be suggesting, and he’s made a good point, that it doesn’t really matter what Carrie does… if the Celtics hit their kicks.
“We didn’t play our best attack overall, I think the narrative goes to Curry and what he does,” said the Celtics coach. “But in our wins and our losses, (he) scored the same points. Anytime you do some bad attacks and flip the ball, we know how quickly they get back into the game.”
Dirty decisions and poor shots were doomed to fail the Celtics in Game Two, then came back to hit them again in the fourth quarter of Game Four. Odoka believes the Celtics, who have better ball security and shot selection in pressure situations, can advance 3-1 in the second half. series.
“At least,” he said.
Odoka added: “They score about 107 points. He scored 100 in one match. And when we scored good goals, we scored 120 and 116. So our balance should be better in attack.”
The Celtics rely heavily on their top three players to create their own shots. That’s because Smart, while clearly a solid player, is not a purebred goalkeeper who can beat his man of dribbling and setting up his teammates. And when the ball is not in the hands of the traditional ball player, errors can occur. So, even though he’s struggling, Tatum still has to produce points himself rather than be a scorer and get easier passes.
Speaking of that…
Andrew Wiggins quietly makes trouble for Jason Tatum
Not only will the Celtics’ scoring leader struggle efficiently and face a hostile arena on Monday, he will also stare at Wiggins once again. This isn’t the perfect time, place, and situation for Tatum to get himself out of the funk, but here we are.
A few clarifications are fine: Wiggins doesn’t defend Tatum straight for the entire game. This is a collaborative effort because that’s how Warriors do their business. But much like the previous playoff series against Dallas and Luka Doncic, Wiggins is his first line of defense (he also turns on Jaylen Brown on occasion), and he’s built a reputation for himself in the Finals.
“He jumped in these playoffs in terms of his impact on the game both defensively and on glass,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “He’s a two-way player. You have to have two-way players to get this far. He’s grown really fast and it’s exciting to watch that growth.”
Yes, Wiggins beats all the rebounders in the finals at 8.5, but his defense is most important given the stakes and how Tatum entered the series feeling fun. It’s hard to imagine the Celtics surviving if Tatum kept shooting at 34%; He still has to take 10 shots in any match.
Boston will explore using keys more suitable for Tatum, especially if those keys involve getting Curry instead of Wiggins on Tatum, where the size advantage would be in their favour. As a bonus, maybe Tatum could get Carrie into nasty trouble.
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Sean Powell has covered the NBA for over 25 years. You can email him Here, find his archive here and follow him Twitter.
The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect those of the National Basketball Association, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.