SAN FRANCISCO — The NBA Finals allow the smallest margin of error. Opponents are too elite and opportunities are too precious to squander in a seven-game series. There were too many offenses in Game 5 for the Boston Celtics to beat a Golden State Warriors team with championship pedigree at home. The Warriors won 104-94 and are now one win away from their fourth championship in eight years.
Aside from a handful of standout individual performances and team bursts, the 2022 Finals has been a tough defensive game. In Game 5, both teams executed their defensive plans deftly, if not perfectly. Golden State relies on its superb defense, while the Celtics try to turn Warriors shooters into drivers, delivering controversial long-range shots as the Warriors settle down.
Celtics broke fourth-quarter lead in Game 4 and had a chance to lead 3-1 series as Celtics coughed up possession 18 times — in Game 5 Both teams struggled to maintain a solid offense with turnover in the game. The loss also squandered what Celtics loyalists have been craving from their superstar — a Jayson Tatum game.
The All-NBA first-team leader led all scorers with 27 points in his most dominant output of the series. To make matters worse, Stephen Curry put on one of his weaker performances, giving the Celtics another opportunity to exploit.
For the Warriors, the maturity of Andrew Wiggins was one of the few offensive highlights of the night, when Curry missed 15 of his 22 shots, including a painful 0-for-9. The night behind the three-point line. Wiggins remains a revelation for the Golden State Warriors. For all of the Warriors’ appealing offensive style, they created limited individual shots off the dribble, especially with the departure of Kevin Durant in 2018-19.
While it’s unreasonable to expect Wiggins to fill the vacuum left by Durant, it’s exciting for the Warriors to see him attack the paint and hit the backboard. Wiggins scored 26 points on 12-of-23 shooting with zero turnovers. He also played well for the Warriors, with a game-high 13 rebounds.
In the playoffs, when he was the primary guard for Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies) and Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), Wiggins could get another stamp on his passport to become a postseason One of the game’s outstanding individual defenders. Once again, he took most of the blame against Tatum, forcing the Celtics star into a series of tough attempts.
One of Wiggins’ signature moves came midway through the fourth quarter, when he forced an aerial ball from Tatum, then passed from Curry on the left wing and then the right past the Celtics’ big man. Al Horford, the tallest, extended the Warriors’ lead to 11 points. Wiggins took the shot with just over two minutes left, and he dunked hard on Celtics’ Derrick White.
Andrew Wiggins worked his way to the rim and took the game home with a huge dunk that helped the Warriors out of the game.
While playing the most inefficient basketball of his postseason career and mostly in a whirlpool of emotions, Draymond Green has reemerged as one of the most impactful and creative players in the game. He got out of his offensive slump early with a couple of buckets in the first five minutes. From there, Green fulfilled his usual functions as an offensive facilitator and defensive back.
Interested parties may hear a more detailed analysis of Green’s podcast. But during the few hours in the live performance, Green was focused only on the task at hand and delivered excellent results. The Celtics went 1-for-10 with Green as a defensive player. He was fouled in the final minutes of the game and had eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 35 minutes.
All season, the Warriors have emphasized that their team is different from the one that won three championships in Curry’s youth. This is proven in this series of tractor pulls. Yet despite its aesthetic flaws and ugly offensive efforts, this Warriors team has one thing in common with previous incarnations: the ability to win high-stakes games by any means.
Win again Thursday night by any means and those differences become irrelevant.