I started this post in the fourth quarter as Boston was desperately trying to come back so I’ll just get all my thoughts out here as the game winds down:
- Boston just looks like they have dead legs. They can hit threes, but they literally cannot play defense at all. They’re not only giving up buckets, they’re giving up some of the easiest buckets I’ve ever seen in an NBA Finals. Steph Curry should not be able to get to the rim this easily.
- Another turnover-filled game for the Boston Celtics. Right now, they have 21 turnovers to Golden State’s 14. Yet another symptom of a team that has simply run out of gas, I think. They can’t play defense, they can’t take care of the ball, and on offense, their half court sets look like crap–they just settle for contested threes.
- Tatum, oh man. I want to believe in him. I really do. I like him, I like his game. But dude, you cannot be inviting all these comparisons to Kobe while playing like this. He just did not come up big when it mattered most in this series. We’ll talk more in-depth about his performance later, though.
- Jaylen Brown put forth a valiant effort. He, unlike Tatum, has no fear. If anybody on that Boston team has the Mamba Mindset, it’s Jaylen Brown, not Tatum. Jaylen Brown did everything he could to prolong this series–12-23 from the floor, 34 points, 7 rebounds, 5-11 from three–but he just didn’t get enough out of Jayson Tatum. The Celtics were only winning this game if both Tatum and Brown went crazy, but JB was the only one who showed up.
- Okay, is it just me, or is this one of the least interesting NBA Finals in recent memory? I really don’t care who wins or loses here, honestly. There just isn’t that gravitas, that aura. I mean, sure, the Finals logo is all over the place, but it honestly it feels like regular season games. Steph Curry is the only true superstar in this series. Jayson Tatum has the potential to be a superstar, but I don’t think he’s there yet. And I don’t think he has that superstar persona, either.
- Last year’s Finals felt more big time than this one. You had Giannis going up against CP3. There was more star power last year, even though it was a “non-traditional” matchup. You would think this year, with the Warriors and the Celtics, it would’ve felt like the biggest of stages. But no.
- When the game ended, and the Warriors started celebrating, it was kind of weird. Like, “That’s it? That’s the end of the NBA season?” It just feels weird. No LeBron, no KD, no Kawhi, no Kyrie, no Giannis, no Harden.
- I’m gonna say it: these may have been the best two teams left, but it just doesn’t feel like these two teams are the best the NBA has to offer. Or at least, they shouldn’t be. I don’t know. It’s tough to explain. But it feels like this whole season ended with a whimper.
- Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I just don’t feel like the Warriors are that good of a team. I mean, sure, they’re good in absolute terms, but it feels like they’re not on the same level as the past few NBA Champs–the Bucks, the Lakers, the Raptors. It’s like, “Really? This is the best team in the NBA? That can’t be right.” The 2022 Warriors just don’t feel like a great team.
- All that said, you can’t help but be happy for Steph. Seeing how emotional he was at the end of that game, that’s heartwarming stuff, man. He hasn’t been named the Finals MVP just yet, but there’s really no doubt he’ll get it. And that’s a good thing. He’s one of the true good guys in sports. He does everything the right way, he’s a great role model for kids–at least it seems that way. If it’s not true, I’d rather not know. But it certainly seems like he’s a good, All American Kid who represents the best of not only the NBA but the country at large.
- I’ve been saying it throughout the series, but I’m really glad Steph is finally getting a Finals MVP. He deserved it in 2015, but they gave it to Iggy instead. I’m not saying Iggy was undeserving, but the way I think of it is this: was there any chance at all of the Warriors winning that 2015 title without Iggy? Yeah, it’s conceivable. Was there any chance of the Warriors winning that 2015 title without Steph Curry? No, absolutely not. Not even a 1% chance. So Steph should’ve gotten it in 2015.
- But I’m glad he’s getting it now. It was the glaring omission from his career resume. I don’t think he needed it to validate his career, because his individual resume speaks for itself–2x MVP, only unanimous MVP in NBA history, greatest three point shooter in NBA history, greatest shooter period in NBA history. But the fact remains that, as a top 10-15 player in NBA history, he’s the only guy in that rarefied air that doesn’t have one. You look at all the all-time greats: LeBron, MJ, Kareem, Magic, Bird, Wilt, Hakeem, Duncan, Shaq, Kobe, KD, Moses–they all have Finals MVPs. Every single one of them. Steph undoubtedly belonged in that group with them even before getting this Finals MVP, but now nobody can deny it.
- We can now finally just appreciate Steph for who he is and what he’s done, instead of getting hung up on that, “Yeah, but he’s never won a Finals MVP…” sticking point. That is now ancient history. And honestly, I’m very glad about it. It just would not have felt right if Steph retired without a Finals MVP. I’m glad we no longer have to entertain that scenario.
- Brian Windhorst brought up a point the other night on ESPN, and people got EXTREMELY angry about it, but he was spitting facts: he said ‘Game 5 was a “checkbook win” for the Warriors.’ He pointed out that, when you factor in salaries and the luxury tax bill footed by Warriors owner Joe Lacob, the Warriors are a $340 million team. He pointed out that Andrew Wiggins makes $32 million a year as the 4th star on the team–now Wiggins may be the second or third scoring option, but in terms of star power, he’s 4th on the team behind Steph, Klay and Draymond. It’s really true: the Warriors owe a lot of their success to their ownership is willing to pay ungodly sums of money to keep this team intact. There are not many owners in the league who are willing to pay this much money to win. The Lakers’ Jeanie Buss certainly wouldn’t ever do this.
- However, I would be remiss if I didn’t give tons and tons of credit to Steve Kerr and the Warriors system. Andrew Wiggins was an afterthought before he went to Golden State, and now he’s a Champion. Honestly, I don’t think it’s crazy to say he was the Warriors’ second best player behind Steph in this series. In fact, I think that’s absolutely true. He was the Warriors’ second best player in this Finals series. I don’t think there are many other teams and systems in the league that position players for success the way the Warriors do.
- Maybe we should give the credit to Bob Myers for finding the right guys for the system, maybe it’s Steve Kerr being an elite head coach; maybe it’s Steph, Klay and Draymond being so unselfish and easy to play with–it’s probably a mixture of all of those things if we’re being honest. But the fact remains that this is the best system in the NBA. The Warriors are the new Spurs. They’re flashier, and they play a different brand of basketball (although towards the end of their dynasty run, you could argue that in a way the Spurs sort of pioneered this new style of three-centric NBA basketball), but in terms of being the best system in the league, with players who care more about winning than individual glory and stats, the Warriors are undoubtedly the new Spurs.
- “Holy canoli.” You’ve gotta love Klay Thompson. He’s been through so much. So, so much. The guy tore his ACL and then, after recovering from that, he tore his Achilles. He hadn’t played basketball since June 2019. It seems like a lifetime ago after all the NBA, the Warriors and the country have been through since that moment. Hats off to Klay.
- I’ve never really known what to think about Andrew Wiggins, but he acquitted himself very well in this series. He seems like a good dude, and, look: he definitely didn’t live up to the draft hype he had surrounding him. But he’s had a weird career since day one. He was drafted #1 overall by the Cavs in 2014, then, shortly afterward, LeBron went back to Cleveland, and Wiggins got traded to Minnesota, which was a tough place to develop as a young player back in those days. The big knock on Wiggins was that he was soft, he “didn’t have That Dawg In Him™,” etc. But he certainly looked like a killer in this series, and all throughout these playoffs.
Let’s get more into the stats from the game.
First and foremost, Jayson Tatum. He didn’t play well in Game 5, and tonight he finished with just 13 points on 6-18 shooting. He had 7 assists, but 5 turnovers. He played 40 minutes. It was a very uninspired performance if you ask me. That was a do or die game, and he laid an egg.
I think it’ll probably come out in the next few days that Tatum has been dealing with an injury to his shoulder, at least that’s the speculation going around, but the fact remains that it didn’t keep him off the floor at all and it hasn’t been mentioned officially. I just think the moment was too big for him more than anything. I don’t think he was mentally and emotionally ready to lead his team to an NBA Championship.
Through 5 games in this series he was averaging 23-7-7 on 37% field goal shooting, a marked drop-off from both his 2022 regular season numbers, and his playoff numbers. Hats off to Andrew Wiggins for doing a good job on him defensively, but I just didn’t see anywhere near the appropriate level of aggressiveness out of Tatum in this Finals series. He’d been having a very good playoffs up until the Finals–remember that 46 point explosion in Game 6 against Milwaukee down 3-2 in the series on the road? His 39 against the Nets in Game 3 to all but end the series?
Tatum slowed down a bit against Miami but he was still good.
The thing with him is, whenever you’re ready to proclaim him a superstar, he lets you down. He is still prone to having dud games. In these Finals, he had a 12 point game (Game 1) and in Game 6 he had a 13 point game. He had a 10 point game in the ECF. And he had a 10 point game in the Milwaukee series. He’s just prone to disappearing sometimes, and I think it’s a mental thing. I don’t think he’s quite there yet mentally in terms of being a superstar.
All that said, we should not close the book on him by any stretch. He’s still one of the league’s most promising young players, and he’s only 24 years old. We should not be too harsh on the guy. He’s still developing as a player, and learning how to be a superstar and a leader. I am still very bullish on him long-term, and I think eventually he’ll be a consensus top-10 player in the NBA. Just not yet.
As for the team stats in this game, we have yet another game in this series where the undersized Warriors outrebounded the Celtics. This time it was fairly close, 44-41 overall with the Warriors taking a 15-11 edge in offensive boards. Boston won points in the paint 38-32, but it wasn’t enough of an edge to make up for their -7 deficit in points off turnovers (27-20 GSW advantage).
Turnovers were again a big part of the reason Boston lost.
Next point, because I know this is going to be the conversation on social media: yes, Steph now has the same amount of rings as LeBron. But no, this does not mean Steph is better than LeBron. Steph and the Warriors had to recruit KD in order to beat LeBron. They could never beat him on a level playing field. (Don’t even bring up the “Steph was injured in the 2016 Finals” nonsense: Steph didn’t miss any time in that series. And nobody was talking about his injury when they were up 3-1.)
As far as I’m concerned, because of the fact that KD joined the Warriors, there is no chance that either Steph or KD can ever be in the same conversation as LeBron. LeBron is the GOAT. Steph is an all-time, Pantheon-level great player. But he’s not in the GOAT conversation.
That’s not to detract from Steph or anything, because it’s not even fair to compare him to LeBron. It’s not fair to compare anybody to LeBron, in my view. But this is what’s going to happen, inevitably, because the discourse around the NBA is so toxic and stupid.
The real conversation that’s actually worth having is this: is Steph now ahead of KD all-time? I think that’s a very interesting discussion, personally. Steph has two regular season MVPs to KD’s one, but KD has two Finals MVPs to Steph’s one. When they were on the same team, KD was definitely the #1 option, and won Finals MVP twice over Steph. But the Warriors also won two rings without KD. Sure, one was kind of bullshit, 2015, because the Cavs were decimated by injuries. But this ring has no real asterisk next to it.
Sure, you could say the Warriors had an easy path: the Nuggets without Murray and Porter, the Grizzlies without Ja for a good chunk of the series, and the overmatched Mavericks who had Luka and not much else in the Conference Finals. But this Boston team the Warriors just beat was legit. They were the best defense in the league. They swept the Nets–KD and Kyrie couldn’t do a thing against this Boston team. So for the Warriors to dismantle this Boston team like this, that’s a feat.
In the back of my mind, I’ll always be a bit underwhelmed by these playoffs because the Nets were deeply flawed, the Lakers ruined their roster by adding Russ (plus all the injuries in the regular season that doomed things), Kawhi was out for the year, and Middleton’s injury doomed the Bucks in the postseason. But the Warriors can’t be blamed for that. They could only play the team in front of them.
Anyway, the Steph vs. KD debate is really interesting. I really don’t know who I think is better all-time now after this Finals series. My initial thought is KD, but then I just look at all Steph’s success without KD, and how KD was not nearly as successful without Steph and the Warriors around.
I really don’t know.
Final point: Boston easily could’ve won this series. They were up 2-1, and had a lead in the 4th quarter of Game 4. They could’ve gone up 3-1 if they just closed out Game 4.
But instead, they let Golden State go on a 17-3 run to close that game out, and it changed the series. Boston was never the same after that. I wondered in my article on Game 4 if that game may have broken Boston mentally, and I think the answer was pretty clearly yes looking back on it.
Now, I certainly think physical exhaustion had a lot to do with Boston’s collapse in this series, but the Warriors were tired, too. Everybody’s tired in the Finals. Both teams have played a ton of basketball to get to that point. The teams that win in the Finals are the ones that have the mental toughness to fight through the fatigue and exhaustion. Boston clearly couldn’t do that.
We can go over all the turnovers and all the things Boston screwed up in the final three games of this series, but we’ll do that another day. It’s kind of a moot point right now.
But Boston absolutely could’ve won this series. It all turned in the 4th quarter of Game 4.