You know I’ve been complimentary of Steph in this series. I think I’ve been fair, though. I don’t think he’s had an all-time great series, but he did have an all-time great performance in Game 4.
I am not one of those people who say Steph isn’t clutch, or that he’s played like shit in the Finals in his career. I think he’s been good but not nearly as good as he can be in his 6 career Finals appearances.
So I am not a Steph hater by any stretch. I like Steph, I respect the hell out of him, and I think he’s either a top-10 all-time player or at the very worst top-12 to ever play the game of basketball. I want him to win Finals MVP (if the Warriors win this series) just so people can shut up about how he’s never won one before, and so we can just move past that hang-up and appreciate him for who he is and what he’s done. I feel like he kind of gets set off to the side in all-time great discussions because he’s the only guy in the top 10-15 range with 0 Finals MVPs.
But I do not want to hear shit about how “he has no help out there” or that this Finals series is just like LeBron in 2018 or LeBron in 2015.
Get out of here with that garbage.
First of all, the Warriors were favored to win this series before it started. They were favored to win it all before the Conference Finals even began, and they opened as -155 favorites to win the Championship before the Finals even began.
And yes, while it’s true that Curry through the first four games was far and away the Warriors’ best player, that he carried them to that Game 4 win, we are also witnessing tonight why people have their doubts about Steph Curry: because his supporting casts have generally been extremely good, to the point where they significantly lessen the load on him.
Curry had 16 points on 7-22 shooting, was 0-9 from three, and his team still won big. And even the 16 points are a bit misleading: he had 12 points until there was 4:46 left in the game and his team was up 12.
So Steph really struggled tonight. It was the first time since November 2018 he failed to hit a three in a game, a span of 233 games (regular and postseason combined).
He carried the Warriors in Game 4, but they carried him tonight. Andrew Wiggins especially: 26 points, 13 rebounds, 12-23 shooting. Wiggins was sensational.
Klay also quietly had a very good game: 21 points on 7-14 shooting, 5-11 from three.
The Warriors got great production from all over in this game: Gary Payton II had 15 on 6-8 shooting, Jordan Poole had 14 on 4-8 shooting.
And even Draymond Green finally had a good game–kind of. He had 8 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists. He dished out some excellent assists and really, for the first time in a long time, looked like he was having a major positive impact on his teammates.
We’ve known the Warriors could do this all playoffs long. The idea that Steph’s supporting cast is trash was an overreaction to the first few games of the series. But it should be clear right now that they were just playing poorly (and not all of them in every game; some of them played well in certain games, some of them played poorly in certain games, but this was the first game where they all played well at the same time. It was an across-the-board strong effort from everybody except Curry).
It was over when: Tatum air-balled that turnaround jumper around the midway point of the 4th quarter. And then, for good measure, he bricked a few free throws shortly after. When your superstar airballs in a crucial moment like that, it just deflates the rest of the team. It’s demoralizing.
Actually, check that: it felt like it was over when Jordan Poole banked in that long three to end the third quarter. It felt like all the momentum shifted to Golden State right there. Even though Boston finally outscored Golden State in a third quarter (35-24 tonight) and roared back into the game, it felt like Golden State won the quarter just because of that Poole three at the end. When that went in, it just made it seem like it was Golden State’s night and they weren’t losing.
So I guess I’d say I was like 75% certain Golden State would win after the Poole three went in, then I was about 90% certain after the Tatum airball later in the 4th.
Look, Boston’s offense just stagnated in the 4th quarter. It feels like they ran out of gas as a team. Similar situation to the end of Game 4: they stopped going to the rim, they started settling for bad jumpshots, and their offense just looked like it was stuck in neutral. Guys were standing around. It looked bad.
I don’t really know too much about the Xs and Os of basketball, but I know enough to understand that Boston’s offense completely stagnated in the 4th quarter of this game.
Tatum’s stat line will show he had a pretty good game: 27 points on 10-20 shooting, 10 rebounds, 4 assists. And he didn’t play poorly, but I would say he was only good in spurts. He was not consistently good. I’ll have to check the quarter-by-quarter breakdown once Basketball Reference puts it up tomorrow, but I feel like Tatum scored the brunt of his points in the third quarter, and wasn’t all that great outside of the third quarter.
Actually, NBA.com has quarter-by-quarter breakdowns up already so we can use those.
- Tatum was 1-5 from the floor in the 4th quarter (yeesh) for 5 total points
- He had 6 points in Q1 (3-3), 7 in Q2 (3-6), and 9 in Q3 (3-6).
So I guess he was having a pretty damn good game up until the 4th quarter. He was 9-15 from the floor, then went 1-5 in the 4th.
Tatum hit a late three with about 3:20 to play, but Boston was down 92-79 beforehand. The game was well out of hand before that point. He doesn’t get credit for that.
But you can’t pin it all on him: Boston as a team just wasn’t that great. There was nobody on Boston that really stood out to me as having played a great game. They were 41.3% from the floor as a team (31-75). They out-shot the Warriors from three 34.4% to 22.5%, but the Warriors didn’t need to hit threes–they were unstoppable on 2s.
Golden State shot 9-40 on threes and 41-88 from the floor overall. That’s pretty remarkable that they were able to shoot over 46% from the floor while shooting 9-40 on threes.
It means they went 32-48 on 2-pointers, or 66.7%. That’s incredible. More to the point, that’s something that should not happen against a defense as great as Boston’s. And that’s why I’m really starting to think Boston has run out of gas. They don’t have the energy to keep chasing these Warriors players around as they cut and circle and set each other up for easy buckets.
This off-ball movement is the bread and butter of the Warriors system, and it’s why I think Steve Kerr is the best coach in the NBA. The Celtics just had no answer for it.
I’ll give Boston some credit for roaring back in the third quarter (I expected them to get blown away) and even taking a lead for a while. But again, I think they ran out of gas.
Two things that stuck out to me killed Boston:
- The Celtics had 18 turnovers, Golden State only had 6. In terms of points off turnovers: Golden State advantage 22-9. That’s a huge difference in a game that was decided by 10 points.
- Boston had a massive edge in free throw attempts, but missed a lot of them. They shot 21-31 from the line, while the Warriors shot 13-15.
You leave 10 free points on the floor, and you get outscored by 13 in points off turnovers, you’re probably going to lose that game–even if the other team only shoots 9-40 from three.
Additionally, and just to underscore this “Boston was gassed by the 4th” narrative I’m pushing, if we exclude the two shot attempts in garbage time by scrub players for Boston (one made FG), the Celtics went 3-13 from the floor in the 4th. Tatum and Brown were a combined 2-9.
Those guys are better than that. And it’s not like they’ve choked in 4th quarters all Finals long–they played very well in the 4th quarters of Games 1 and 3. But tonight (and in Game 4), they didn’t have anything going in the 4th. I really think they were spent.
Game box scores don’t tell you everything about how a game went–for instance, you can’t really get a feel for how impactful certain moments and shots were from the box score, you have to be watching the game and following the energy of it live–but they can often tell you why a game went the way it did. I always liken box scores to almost putting together a puzzle. For example, I see the Warriors shot 9-40 from three. In a vacuum, if I didn’t watch the game and I didn’t know what the final score was or who won, if you’d just told me that the Warriors went 9-40 from three, I would’ve assumed they got blown out. But instead, they won by 10.
So you have to look at other parts of the box score to find out why. And we can see that Boston missed a lot of free throws, they turned the ball over a ton, and they were generally extremely inefficient from the floor as a team. They couldn’t keep the Warriors out of the paint (Warriors won points in the paint 50-36). And that’s why Golden State won despite shooting 9-40 from three.
Look, I’m not going to call this series over because I think Boston still has some fight in them for Game 6 back at home. But Golden State should be heavy favorites to win this thing. The Celtics look gassed. This was the first time they’d lost back-to-back games in the 2022 postseason. People were confident the Celtics would win tonight because they hadn’t lost consecutive games all playoffs. But they just broke that streak. I really think they’re gassed.
I’m not even going to harp on the whole “Boston is too immature, they’re not ready to be Champions, the moment is too big for them” thing that I’ve been pushing all series. I really do think the Boston Celtics have run out of gas.
I hope Boston wins Game 6 so we can get a Game 7, but I’m not optimistic they can. Plus, you know you’ve got Game Six Klay coming up.
It’s not looking good for the Boston Celtics right now.