The Golden State Warriors have built a dynasty of beautiful basketball brands built on movement, passing and creativity. Down 2-1 and desperate for a win on hostile soil at Boston’s TD Garden, the Warriors showed little precious dance, but as the series returned to San Francisco, the Warriors went 107-97 Barely won the finals. Game 5 on Monday (9 p.m. ET, ABC).
For a team that has shared the ball as a defining quality of their style, the Warriors are again heavily reliant on Stephen Curry. The two-time MVP had a great Friday night. Facing the NBA’s No. 1 defense targeting the game’s most famous shooter, Curry found minimal space in the Celtics’ pick-and-roll coverage for looping shots and post-dribble shots from long range. Acrobatic running. He scored 43 points on 14 of 26 shooting, including 7 of 14 from beyond the arc and 8 of 9 from the free throw line. The youngest starter of the two teams also grabbed 10 rebounds in 41 minutes.
The Warriors have traditionally had plenty of firepower during their dynasty, but they’ve struggled to find solid shooting opportunities outside of Curry. Golden State had to rely on Curry, using more traditional pick-and-rolls heavily to maximize his shot. Curry tirelessly dribbled the ball in Game 4 against any favorable matchup — and the Celtics’ formidable defense was rarely present.
For Curry, Game 4 showcased prolific numbers and dramatic timeliness. His step-back 3 on Draymond Green’s return pass gave the Warriors a six-point lead with two minutes remaining and quieted the raucous Garden crowd.
For Curry, Friday night was his seventh career Finals game with seven 3-pointers. According to ESPN Stats & Info, only one player in NBA history has more than one player (Ray Allen has a pair). Game 4 was his second-highest output in a Finals game and the first time the guard had 40 points and 10 rebounds since Dwyane Wade in the 2006 Finals.
The Warriors still managed to make a gem out of their patented play in the final minutes when the Celtics blocked Curry from Green’s screen. As he has done countless times in this era, Curry passed the ball past an open double-teamed Green, who found Looney for a high-low pass — the Warriors threw the Warriors’ lead with just over a minute left in the game. The lead was pushed to 5 points.
The Celtics led most of the game and looked as if they would get a long-awaited signature performance from Jayson Tatum, who averaged 22 points in his first three games, The true shooting percentage is 48.4. Both Tatum and Jaylen Brown put in solid efforts — decisive, decisive offense and smart playmaking. In the final inning, however, the Celtics simply couldn’t convert their chances, as they trailed 28-19 in the fourth quarter. They missed seven of their last eight shots as Golden State finished 17-3.
While Game 4 will undoubtedly feature heavily in Curry’s personal scrapbook, it’s not necessarily material for the Warriors’ time capsule. Green continued to struggle, sitting on the bench for much of the fourth quarter. While Klay Thompson hit a clutch 3-pointer late, he continued to struggle to find and make looks. Backup center Kevin Rooney started swingman Otto Porter Jr. (2 points, 0) and their 20 assists were paltry for a team that won championships by passing.
However, the Warriors will fly back to San Francisco for the first time in a week as the series favorite, regardless of unsightly flaws and worsening issues. Curry is one of those unique NBA players who can make you forget what you’re missing and celebrate what you’ve got.