Steph Drops 43, Warriors Prevail 107-97 to Tie Finals 2-2

I hate to be the “I told you so” guy, but in my post about Game 3, I said that the only way the Warriors can win games in this series is if the Celtics play like shit and Steph goes for 40.

Tonight, the Celtics played like shit, Steph went for 43, and the Warriors got the win in Boston.

This was it for the Celtics. They had this game in the palm of their hand. They could’ve put the whole thing to bed by taking the 3-1 lead. It would’ve been over for all intents and purposes.

Boston was up 94-90 with 5:18 to play. They had it.

And then they just collapsed epically in the home stretch of the game. The Warriors closed the game out on a 17-3 run. It was 94-90 Boston, and the game finished 107-97 Golden State.

Just disastrous.

Here were their possessions after Marcus Smart hit that three to go up 94-90:

  • Jaylen Brown missed 13′ jumper
  • Jaylen Brown missed 26′ 3 pointer
  • Tatum missed 28′ 3 pointer
  • Marcus Smart missed 25′ 3 pointer
  • Jaylen Brown offensive rebound
  • Marcus Smart missed 28′ 3 pointer
  • Al Horford missed 27′ 3 pointer
  • Al Horford made 28′ 3 pointer (100-97 score with 1:32 to play)
  • Jaylen Brown turnover

By the time the Celtics took their next shot (a Derrick White missed 3 with 39.2 seconds to play), the score was 104-97. It was basically out of reach, although had he hit that 3 pointer the Celtics would’ve still technically been alive.

If you’re noticing that a lot of these shots were deep threes, that’s the problem: Boston’s offense could not generate good looks late in the game.

LeBron’s tweet summed it up perfectly:

You take bad shots against the Warriors and you’re dead.

You’ve got to be sick if you’re a Celtics fan right now. Your team just went 1-6 with the game on the line in the most critical stretch.

It was all there for the taking, and Boston blew it.

I knew I shouldn’t have believed in this team. I went into that long, extended soliloquy about how I didn’t think Boston was mentally ready to be Champions, and that no matter how big and talented they were, they just don’t have the stones to go out and take it. Game 4 was that playing out in real time.

It was there for the taking, and Boston couldn’t take it. Nobody stepped up and made the Big Time Shots necessary to win a Championship.

You can’t just coast to a championship, or back in. You can’t fly under the radar and win a title. It will inevitably come down to moments where you have to step up, with all the pressure on your shoulders, and it’s on you to either Kill Or Be Killed.

Jayson Tatum is the guy that should’ve done that. But he didn’t. As you can see from the list above, he was largely absent for that late critical stretch. He had one shot attempt. He was a bystander.

You can’t be a bystander and get carried to a Championship if you want to be considered a superstar player in the NBA. You just can’t. You can’t hide during crunch time. You can’t shy away from taking the big shots and just stand there hoping your teammates do it for you. That’s not how it works.

Man, I would just be sick if I were a Celtics fan. You could’ve been up 3-1 with a Championship all but guaranteed, now you’re tied 2-2, going back to Golden State, and you have no idea how your team is going to respond to blowing this game. The Celtics could well be mentally broken after that choke job.

However, if there’s any solace for Celtics fans, it’s that their team has been seemingly dead in the water before and responded beautifully. They nearly choked away Game 7 against the Heat in the Conference Finals. They let Miami back in the game late, and in Game 6 they let Jimmy Butler go off for 47 to force the Game 7 in the first place. They also fell down 3-2 to Milwaukee in round 2 and almost blew that series, but rallied to win it in 7.

So I am absolutely not going to count out the Boston Celtics. This is just kind of how they are: they’re very up and down and unreliable, but at the end of the day, they have so much talent that they usually find a way to prevail.

And they are still the more talented team in this series. They should win this series.

But you just don’t know how blowing a game like this in the Finals will affect them. The Finals are different from the earlier rounds of the playoffs. There’s much more pressure.

I hope this doesn’t break Boston mentally, and I don’t think it will, but it might.

It was all there for the taking…

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Steph’s brilliant performance. In all honesty, it might’ve been the best game he’s ever played.

The big knock on him is that he doesn’t have any of those signature, all-time Finals performances in 5 previous trips.

Well, this was one of those signature, all-time Finals performances. This was one for the history books.

43 points on 14-26 shooting, 7-14 from three, 10 rebounds–it was truly a Pantheon-level game. It was an all-time great performance, unequivocally.

And that dagger three he hit to make it 100-94 with 1:42 to play–that may have been the biggest clutch shot he’s ever hit in his career.

I honestly thought he was going to miss it when he put it up. I’ve grown accustomed to Steph missing the mark in big, crunch-time moments like that. I sort of began to believe he was incapable of hitting those types of shots, just because we don’t really see him do it. He’s gotten a reputation for choking in late crunch time moments, fair or not.

But he delivered. He silenced a lot of the doubters, for sure.

But it’s still only 2-2 in the series. There’s a long way to go–for both teams. I have a feeling it will go 7 games at this point, just because I know if Boston wins the next game, there’s no way they’ll be able to close it out in 6 games. I just don’t think they’re capable of that.

Now, I think Boston could win in 7 games, because they did it in the previous two rounds, but the way this team is wired, I just feel like they cannot close teams out when they have the opportunity. They have to wait til their backs are against the wall and it looks like all hope is lost.

It really felt like Boston was going to win this game tonight. They weathered the Warriors’ 3rd Quarter Barrage pretty well and were only down 1 going into the 4th. They were even hitting shots in the early part of the 4th, and it looked like they were going to close it out.

But then they just went ice cold. They froze.

That’s really the story of this game. I want to give the Warriors some credit, because Steph played probably the best game of his life given the circumstances, but as this game was winding down, I couldn’t think of anything else other than: “The Celtics blew it.”

The Warriors do not win this game without Boston choking it away. It’s just the truth.

Let’s get into a few key datapoints:

  • Draymond was horrible shooting the ball again: 1-7 from the field, 2 points, 3 fouls. However, he contributed in other ways: 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals. He had a plus/minus of zero when he was on the court, and Steve Kerr pulled him from the game late. The Warriors were just better without him offensively. Boston does not respect him on offense at all–they leave him wide open. In fact they barely pay any attention to him at all because they know there’s no way in hell he’s going to shoot it.
  • Boston actually had a slightly better three point shooting performance in the game than the Warriors. Boston was 15-38, Golden State was 15-43. You’ll see this with a lot of other stats, and it bears out my original point: Boston was the better team for most of this game. They were outplaying the Warriors until the last 5 minutes.
  • Boston had 22 assists to the Warriors’ 20.
  • Turnovers were tied 16 apiece, but Boston edged GS in points off turnovers, 19-17.
  • Boston got to the line 19 times (hit 14) to Golden State’s 15 (hit 12).
  • Golden State had 21 fouls to Boston’s 17.
  • However, Golden State won the crucial categories: 16-11 in offensive rebounds. 55-42 in total rebounds. 38-32 in points in the paint. I still don’t understand how Boston can be getting out-rebounded and outscored in the paint in this series against this small Golden State team, but it’s happened in two of the four games.
  • Tatum: 8-23 for 23 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, +1 p/m in 43 minutes. Not a bad statline (he was one miss away from the Kobe Bryant 8-24). But don’t let the statline fool you. Jayson Tatum did not step up when it mattered.
  • Al Horford was only 2-6 from the field for 8 points. A relatively quiet night.
  • Jaylen Brown: 9-19 for 21 points.
  • Marcus Smart: 7-18 for 18 points.
  • Derrick White: 4-12 for 16 points.
  • Once the Basketball Reference page for this game goes live tomorrow and has the quarter-by-quarter splits, I’ll add more to this section.
  • All I know is that Boston shot 40% from the field as a team in the game, and that is just not going to get it done in the NBA Finals in a deciding game.

But as I said earlier, I really don’t think any of these stats are that important. The reality is, this game was there for the taking and Boston choked. They failed to step up to the plate and make big time plays.

Whether you say Boston is afraid of greatness, or they don’t truly have That Killer Instinct™, or whatever–the reality is, Boston had it all there in front of them and they shit the bed. They couldn’t get it done.

Give Golden State credit for taking advantage of Boston’s chokejob, and especially Steph Curry.

But man this one has to hurt if you’re Boston. The Celtics had it all in their grasp, and they couldn’t seal the deal. Devastating.

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