BOSTON — If you picture the Golden State Warriors as their worst, weakest, most vulnerable, and most inconsistent state, it might look like this.
Like Stephen Curry, threw the ball 3 times in 82 seconds to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
Like Draymond Green, who yelled at the referee for a few minutes after a late game foul.
Like a team easily bullied in rebounding (47-31), paint (52-26) and second-chance scoring (22-11).
Like a team that may lack the strength, athleticism and firepower to keep pace with the Boston Celtics, who dominated the court for most of Wednesday night, finishing with 116 in the NBA -100 wins and leads the final 2-1.
The Celtics led by just 49 seconds and by as many as 18 points, leaving the Warriors in perpetual desperation — just like their Game 1 loss a week ago. But that has had more worrisome consequences, namely the health of Curry’s left foot — and, implicitly, the Warriors’ chances of winning the series.
Celtics center Al Horford, who is 6-foot-9, 240 pounds, landed on Curry’s foot during a late game turnover. Curry screamed in pain, then lay on the floor grimacing long after the chaos ended. He stayed in the game for another two minutes before coach Steve Kerr — the game was out of reach — pulled away all his starters.
It was the same foot that sprained a ligament in March — as it happened, during a collision with the Celtics’ Marcus Smart — and Curry was injured for three weeks. Curry said the injury was similar to the first, but not as serious.
“That’s how it feels and we’ll see how it reacts,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to miss a game. Use the next 48 hours to get ready.”
Curry went in and out of the press conference without any noticeable limp. But there was little time to heal before Game 4 on Friday. The mere sight of their two-time MVP lying on his back, wincing in pain, made the entire team tremble.
“He’s who we are,” Klay Thompson said. “It would have been very difficult without him.”
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The first sentence has zero exaggeration. The second is a serious understatement.
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At times, the Warriors can barely score without Curry — either his shot itself, or the gravity it creates. He led with 31 points again on Wednesday — 15 in a fiery third-quarter burst to erase a double-digit deficit, Very Briefly gave the Warriors an 83-82 lead, but he couldn’t sustain the momentum.
The Warriors threw the ball over four of their first six possessions to open the fourth, Curry accounted for three of those, and the Celtics pulled the lead back into double digits.
Boston made history all the way. Jaylen Brown (27 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists), Jayson Tatum (26 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists) and Marcus Smart (24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) became the starting trio Since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper played for the Lakers…against the Celtics in 1984, teammates have each contributed at least 20 points in the Finals, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
What about the Warriors? They did get a resurgence of shooting performance from Thompson (25 points, 5-for-13 from 3-point range), but few others. And Green, who has long been the Warriors’ defensive conscience and tone, delivered a mute in a serenade in which Celtics loyalists repeatedly chanted “F—you, Draymond”: 2 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
Green again briefly sparred with Grant Williams, continuing his series trend of picking up at least one Celtics per game. He was fouled for pushing Smart away from the row that surrounded Curry.
“I saw him start pigeons and that’s it,” Green said. “So I took my foul and pushed him away because he was screaming at the bottom of the pile.”
That was Green’s biggest impact all night. According to his own evaluation, he plays “soft” and “like s—“.
So the Warriors went back to the well and reminded everyone that they played worse, saw worse, experienced worse. Thompson even went back to the beginning of the dynasty, making a comforting comparison.
“Get the buzz of 2015,” he said.
That year, the Warriors also fell 2-1 in the Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They won the series in six games. Of course, that Cavaliers team lacked stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, while this Celtics team was buoyant with few signs of fragility.
“It’s really helpful to know that we’ve been through everything for the past eight years,” Curry said.
But if Curry’s ligaments in his left foot don’t keep the dynasty from winning three more games, all that muscle memory will be meaningless.
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