Great teams are born by the breakup, which meant Stephen Curry in front of the above, or answer, what these Boston Celtics are for the Warriors.
From so much opening the track and away from the hoop domain, the need arose to assemble defenses that covered more and more ground.
Players with longer perimeters, more mobile interiors, and the ability to exchange protection already elevated Steve Kerr’s team.
Designed as an ideal counterweight, the Celtics had denied the Warriors’ identity in these Finals. Ime Udoka’s team has annulled Draymond Green, the critical step that transforms Stephen Curry’s threat into Golden State’s offensive ballet. He was already notorious in the previous game but never more tangible than in the latter: losing with less than eight minutes left, Kerr sent Green to the bench.
But then, Stephen Curry. Without the umbilical cord that connects him to the rest of the team, forced to bear weight as he had never had to carry on his back, and against a defense that does not offer a weak link, Curry uncorked a memorable performance: 43 points (14/26 on shots, 7/14 on triples) to come back in Boston and keep the Warriors alive in these Finals (97-107).
For the man who has defined the NBA of the last decade, tonight, he will be among those who represent his career.
The Warriors’, on the Edge
The trade of Draymond Green, who has more personal fouls (18) than points (17) in these Finals, was not a capitulation of the Warriors, but it was the best example of the limit to which the Celtics have taken Golden State. Nullified in attack and outplayed in defense, they lacked any value to a critical piece.
The game of the Warriors, unable throughout the series to overcome Boston’s half-court defense, had been degraded until it trusted everything to the blocks for Curry. It’s a play they barely use.
It would be a waste of resources and an excessive burden on its star. But with that wrist, that ball-handling, and so little need for space to put together the shot, few players can be more damaging.
Curry re-hooked the Warriors into the game with 14 points in the third quarter, including two three-pointers that tied the game and a final one that allowed them to reach the last act in a 78-79 lead. It was a sign of life, a sign of the path he was hoping for when, the next Celtics rush, Kerr decided to remove Green.
In one of the critical moments of the final quarter, Curry found himself locked between the sidelines and two rivals: Marcus Smart, Defender of the Year, and Robert Williams III, chosen in the Second Defensive Quintet of the season.
And with the ball hooked to a string, he pulled Smart away, took him away to dance, left him in the block, faced Williams, disarmed him with a set of hands, and headed the paint to go a running bomb that came in clean.
The Golden State Warriors’ win would have been impossible without the improvement in defense, which only conceded one basket in the final five minutes;
Without Andrew Wiggins’ big game (quiet but steady. 17 points, 16 rebounds); or the contribution of Klay Thompson (excellent back, still apocalyptic but punctual in attack). But it would have been inexplicable without Stephen Curry.
The NBA Finals return to San Francisco tied and with the court factor back in the hands of the Warriors.