Two more games have come and gone in the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors. There have been more incredible moments since my last preview, so I’ll catch you up on what happened in Games 3 and 4, while also taking a look ahead to Game 5 in San Francisco with the series tied at 2-2.
In my preview, I said that in order for the Celtics to win, they would have to do a much better job in the third quarter to keep up with the Warriors. While they did do better here in game three, what really propelled them in this one was their excellent first half. It started right away in the first quarter, as at the 4:15 mark of the first quarter, the C’s had already built up a 24-9 lead, including an 8-0 run leading into it. The Warriors would make their way back into things a little bit, outscoring the Celtics just barely 13-9 to end the quarter as the Warriors were down 33-22 heading into the second quarter.
The Warriors offense would come to life in the second quarter, as they shot 66.7% from the field and scored 34 points. The only problem for the Dubs was that Boston was able to match that, with 35 points in the second quarter, led by Jayson Tatum who had eight points and five assists in the quarter. After falling behind by 18 points with 6:26 left in the frame, the Warriors would cut that deficit in half, 47-56 with 4:28 left, punctuated by a Steph Curry three on the right wing. The Celtics would weather the storm though, as they would end the quarter outscoring Golden State 12-9 to take a 68-56 lead heading into half-time.
The Warriors did their usual third quarter magic, turning a 12-point deficit into a one point lead, 83-82 with 3:16 left, coming off one of the four three pointers Steph Curry made in the frame. However, the Celtics would turn things around to finish the quarter, outscoring Golden State 11-6 to take a 93-89 lead heading into the final stanza.
Just like they had in game one, the Celtics defense came alive in the final quarter, holding the Warriors to just 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting while forcing eight turnovers. Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart would score 16 of the 23 points Boston scored in the fourth quarter, taking another double-digit win, 116-100. (My score prediction was Warriors 108, Celtics 104).
Anyone who ever said that Steph Curry never shows up in big moments can kindly shut up. With the Warriors down 2-1 in the series, a loss in game 4 in Boston would have likely ended the series for Golden State. However, Curry wouldn’t let that happen as he dropped the second most points in his NBA Finals career with 43 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
Things got going early in what was arguably the most entertaining game of the series. Curry and Tatum went blow for blow with each other as both stars put up 12 points in the opening frame. It was not a great start for the Warriors as they fell behind 12-6 with 6:04 left to play in the quarter. After that first blow from the Celtics, the Warriors countered with a 14-6 run over the next three minutes to take a 20-18 lead. However, in the final two minutes of the quarter, the Celtics would respond again with a 10-7 run. After the dust settled, the Celtics held a one-point lead after the first 12 minutes, 28-27, finished off by a Grant Williams corner three with just a tenth of a second left on the clock.
The second quarter stayed close, with neither side gaining a sizeable lead until the Celtics went on an 8-0 run in just under a minute. The final play of that incredible run by Boston was an and one layup by Derrick White to give the C’s a 49-42 lead with 2:58 left to play in the half. The Warriors would fight back to end the frame, but Boston still held the lead at 54-49 heading into the break.
While the Celtics held the advantage in the first half, the second half would belong to the Warriors and more specifically Steph Curry. Curry would play all 12 minutes of the third quarter, while dropping 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including hitting four of his five three-point shots. The Celtics would take a 66-60 lead with just over 7 minutes to play in the quarter, but that’s when Curry got cooking as he would hit three shots in a row from beyond the arc to eventually tie the game at 73-73 with 2:54 left to play in the frame. To finish off his masterpiece of a quarter, Curry would hit one more three pointer with just under a minute to play to give Golden State a one-point lead, 79-78 heading into the final frame.
After scoring just 10 points through the first three quarters, Klay Thompson arguably played one of his best quarters of the series, dropping eight points on just three shots. While Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole contributed, it was still all about Curry putting the team on his back. After Poole hit a layup to bring the game within two points, 92-94 with 4:58 to play, Curry would set up Thompson for a three at the top of the key to give the Warriors the lead, 95-94 with 4:32 left in regulation. After Curry hit a floater to give the Warriors a three-point lead, Curry would hit a three over White to give Golden State a six-point lead, 100-94 with 1:43 left to play. After forcing a turnover by Jaylen Brown, Curry would get fouled by Al Horford on a drive to the rim with 47 seconds left. Curry would hit both free throws to ice the game as the Warriors would go on to win 107-97.
Curry joined Jerry West and Magic Johnson as the only point guards in NBA Finals history to drop over 40 points and 10 rebounds in a Finals Game. Wiggins, Thompson and Poole would combine for 49 points to help support Curry’s 43 points.
Meanwhile for Boston, Tatum would lead them with 23 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and three blocks in the game. Brown would also pour in 21 points but the rest of the Celtics supporting cast struggled. Derrick White and Marcus Smart did contribute 16 and 18 points respectively but shot a combined 11-for-30 (36.7%) from the field.
Key for a Warriors win: Win the Turnover Battle
In both Warriors wins in this series, they have forced Boston to commit 18 turnovers in game two and 17 turnovers in game four, including six from Tatum in game four. Golden State needs to stay locked in on the defensive end of the court not only to limit Boston’s offense, but to generate fast break points to keep the Celtics out of their half court defense. If the Warriors can force Boston into more mistakes and capitalize on those mistakes, Golden State can leave the Chase Center with a 3-2 series lead.
Key for a Celtics win: Better Shot Selection
The Celtics really struggled with their shot selection in game four, especially down the stretch. With four minutes to go and the Celtics down by three, the Celtics would take four three pointers and missed all of them, two by Smart and one each by Tatum and Brown. In that situation you don’t need to hit a three right away and it wasn’t very “Smart,” to have Marcus Smart to take two of those shots. The Celtics need to look for the best possible shot on every possession for all 48 minutes. If they can do that and try to limit Steph Curry, they will have a chance to go back to Boston with a 3-2 series lead.
Prediction: Warriors 110, Celtics 104