Winning is the only thing
Steph Curry: "I don't rank my performances. Just win."— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) June 11, 2022
Game 4 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics was essentially a heavyweight brawl for 48 minutes with both sides landing big blows throughout. However, in the end, it was Stephen Curry and the Warriors who made just enough plays to come away with a 107-97 victory to even this series at 2-2 and keep their championship aspirations alive.
Curry was fantastic for Golden State finishing with a game-high 43 points to go along with 10 rebounds but he was far from the only Warriors player to step up in a big way when the team needed it the most as Andrew Wiggins had a monster game of his own with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole also did their part combining for 32 points.
On the other end of the spectrum, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the charge for Boston but their respective efforts weren't enough for the Celtics to match Curry's massive night.
With the Warriors' win, Game 5 on Monday night at Chase Center should be as intense as any game we've seen this postseason.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
Steph Curry had been terrific through the first three games of this series, and he was even better on Friday night. He finished with 43 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, made seven 3-pointers and shot 14-of-26 from the field. This was a truly special performance from one of the game's all-time greats.
For starters, this wasn't like Game 1 or some stretches of Game 3 where the Celtics were having breakdowns on the defensive end and giving Curry too much space. They were locked into the assignment, chasing Curry all over the court and getting good contests on most of his shots. It just didn't matter. He's the best shooter of all time, and he proved it once again in Game 4.
What's more, the Warriors needed every single one of Curry's 43 points. They were on the road in a hostile environment, down 2-1 and trailing for large stretches of the game. No one else really had anything rolling -- the rest of the team shot 40 percent from the field -- and there were multiple points throughout the night where it looked like the Celtics might pull away. Curry never let it happen.
Klay Thompson, who has been with Curry for this entire ride, called it his best Finals performance ever:
"I think [it ranks] probably No. 1," Thompson said. "I mean, this was nearly a must-win game, and to go out there and shoot as efficiently as he did, and grab 10 rebounds and they were attacking him on defense; I mean, his conditioning is second-to-none in this league. Steph played incredible."
The Celtics closed the regular season on a 28-7 run, and in a strange way, they may have been a bit too good over the final few months. Twenty of those wins came by double-digits, including 15 by at least 20 points. They were absolutely destroying teams, which meant they didn't have many opportunities to work on one of their major flaws: late-game offense.
Even in the playoffs, it's been a bit of the same story. Eight of their 14 wins have been by double-double digits, and that number probably should be higher. Aside from Game 1 of the first round against the Brooklyn Nets, there haven't been too many positive late-game moments from this team. They couldn't hold on to a late lead in Game 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks, and completely collapsed in Game 5 of that series. In the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat, they couldn't complete a comeback in Game 3, couldn't hold on to a late lead in Game 6 and nearly blew Game 7 in a disastrous fashion.
Now, you can add Game 4 of the Finals to the list of late-game struggles. In the middle of the quarter, Jaylen Brown took over the game for a short stretch, scoring six straight points to put the Celtics in front. Marcus Smart then added a free throw to make it 91-86 Celtics with 7:32 remaining. They had a window there to pull away and potentially go up 3-1. Instead, they scored six points the remainder of the game, and gave up homecourt advantage.
"Got stalled out a little bit," Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. "When we did run off-ball actions and got some movement, we got some really good looks."
"We wanted to get the ball up quick and get into an offense. If we don't have anything, still make them work the clock. A lot of times it felt like we were standing around, unsure of who we were trying to go after, and it led to those stalled-down possessions."
When a game is within five points with five minutes or less remaining, that's defined as clutch time, and the Warriors outscored the Celtics 15-0 in those minutes in Game 4. That is the highest differential in a Finals game in the last 25 years, per ESPN Stats and Info.
After his starring role guarding Luka Doncic in the Western Conference finals, Andrew Wiggins has felt like a forgotten man at times in this series. Though he hadn't been bad through the first three games, he wasn't making much of an impact. That changed in Game 4, though not in the way you might expect.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr made a lineup change prior to this game, inserting Otto Porter Jr. into the starting lineup for Kevon Looney. Going small has its advantages, but rebounding is typically not one of them, and we saw the Warriors get crushed on the glass in Game 3. That was a danger again on Friday, but Wiggins didn't let it happen.
"Wiggs was fantastic," Kerr said. "To go against Boston, you've got to deal with Tatum and Brown, and they are just powerful, skilled players. Great size. They are coming downhill at you constantly, so we had to have Wiggs out there. I thought he was great defensively. Obviously 16 rebounds, career-high, and plus-20 on the night. So we needed every bit of Wiggs contributions."
He was a machine on the glass, grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds to help the Warriors win the rebounding battle 55-42. While he did most of his work on the defensive glass, he also came up with a few clutch put-backs in the fourth quarter to get the Warriors some big non-Curry points. The Warriors had 19 second-chance points compared to 12 for the Celtics in a game they won by 10.
Most of the coverage from this game is going to focus on Curry, and rightly so, but the Warriors don't win without a herculean effort from Wiggins. This wasn't the most spectacular or highest-scoring outing of his career, but it was by far his most important. He finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds in 43 minutes, and the Warriors were plus-20 with him on the floor.
"I want to win," Wiggins said. "I know rebounding is a big part of that. I just want to win. And I feel like sometimes we play small. So I just try to go in there and rebound, help the team out."
Steph Curry: "I don't rank my performances. Just win."— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) June 11, 2022
Draymond wasn't thrilled to sit late in the game, but rolled with Steve Kerr's decision pic.twitter.com/uBHS48KEhM— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) June 11, 2022
“Whenever I’m done coaching, I’ll just look back and say thank you to Steph.” pic.twitter.com/c7zYzHzcQB— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) June 11, 2022
Marcus Smart on what the Celtics are telling Jayson Tatum: "We are all telling him 'We trust you and we believe in you.' Jayson has to figure it out...he will."— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) June 11, 2022
Jayson Tatum is shooting well below 40% from the field in the Finals, but the Celtics still believe in him. He may be dealing with shoulder pain, but the Celtics need him if they're going to win the championship.
Marcus Smart: "We HAVE to move. We cannot get stagnant, stand still and let them load up on us."— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) June 11, 2022
When the Celtics stop moving, they start turning the ball over. When they start turning the ball over, the other team starts getting easy shots. When the other team starts getting easy shots, Boston's incredible half-court defense is wasted.
Steve Kerr on Kevon Looney: "I didn't play him enough in Game 3. That was my mistake." Looney played 17 minutes in G3, played 28 minutes in G4.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) June 11, 2022
The Warriors tried to go small in Game 3. They started Otto Porter over Looney in Game 4. But small-ball isn't working for the Warriors in this series. They need Kevon Looney to win the title, and Steve Kerr admitted it after Golden State's victory.
Klay Thompson on Stephen Curry: "The heart on that man is incredible. The things he does we kind of take for granted from time to time. To go out there and put us on his back … It’s shocking he wasn’t a First Team All-NBA guy, but whatever."— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) June 11, 2022
Ime Udoka said the Celtics have adjusted their defensive coverages based on what the Warriors are running, but that they do want the bigs to be up "much more" against certain actions.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) June 11, 2022
The Celtics played some drop-coverage early in the series, and transitioning into more aggressive defense mid-series isn't easy. Robert Williams III is losing steam as games progress. Al Horford is still switchable, but at 36, he's only so mobile. Boston's defense is versatile, but Stephen Curry breaks defenses in ways no other scorer does.
Stephen Curry's Finals averages through four games:— Sam Quinn (@SamQuinnCBS) June 11, 2022
50% from the field
49% from 3
88% from the line
Against the No. 1 defense and the DPOY.
This is the best series Curry has ever played, bar none. There's nothing else to say.
Chef is INSANE!!! 😂😂😂😂😂— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 11, 2022
LeBron James played Stephen Curry in the Finals four times. Now he gets to enjoy it as a spectator, and it's safe to say he's having as much fun as the rest of us.
Steph Curry is the first player ever in NBA history with at least 40 points, 10 rebounds and 7 made three-pointers in a Finals game— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) June 11, 2022
When the story of the greatest Finals games ever played gets written, the one Stephen Curry just played will be on it.
Stephen Curry just got fouled driving to the basket up five. Boston is challenging the call, alleging that he pushed on the drive. This challenge is costing Boston its final timeout. If Curry goes to the line, this game is as good as over.
The Celtics have had some huge 3-point nights during the playoffs, but they're dying by the shot tonight, and especially down the stretch. Their last five shots have all been from behind the arc, and they haven't made any of them. All told they've missed six straight shots
Steph for 3! That's 38 points! Golden State leads 100-94 with 1:42 remaining in the game. Golden State will likely bring its defenders in now, but Boston still has a chance. They don't even need to play for 3's yet. There's plenty of time, but Curry might've just tied this series up.
With 3:41 left, the Celtics came out of a timeout with a White-Smart-Brown-Tatum-Horford lineup, sending Robert Williams III to the bench after he appeared to tweak his knee. That look should provide more spacing. Golden State's 5-man unit is going to be analyzed much more closely, but it's worth watching how Boston handles the final few minutes, too. In Game 3, it went double-big for a long stretch in the fourth quarter after splitting up Williams and Horford for most of the game.
The Warriors came back with Draymond Green on the bench. They're -5 with him in the game and +8 with him out of it. But the Warriors are living and dying with the guys that got them here. Green is part of their longtime core. Steve Kerr is giving him a chance to close the game.
Update: the Warriors are going offense-defense. Green came out for that last offensive play. Now we have a foul and he's coming back in.
The Celtics have not been able to sustain anything on the offensive end tonight, and they're going through another drought right now. Their only basket in the last three minutes was a desperation 3-pointer by Marcus Smart that they were probably lucky to get. Too many jumpers or shots going away from the basket
That's 14 rebounds for Andrew Wiggins, whose two putbacks in the past few minutes are keeping the Warriors in this thing. What a night for him as almost inarguably the second-best Warrior of Game 4.
We don't know how long this is going to last, but it's important to note that with six minutes left in a Finals game, Draymond Green is on the bench. He's been an offensive liability all night. Let's see if Steve Kerr sticks with his scorers or ever goes back to his ace defender.
Congrats to @StephenCurry30 of the @warriors for moving up to 12th on the All-Time #NBAFinals Scoring list! #NBA75 pic.twitter.com/J7qy7wL0W1— NBA (@NBA) June 11, 2022
Stephen Curry is now the 12th-highest scorer in Finals history. If this series goes long enough, he could potentially reach Kobe Bryant at No. 11. If this Golden State run lasts another few years? He'll have a shot at the top 10.
I said earlier the Celtics needed Tatum to step up and carry them home, but so far it's been Brown leading the way. He has the last six points for the Celtics to put them back in front by four, and just hit a tough layup in transition. He was huge in the fourth quarter of Game 1 as well.
Nemanja Bjelica has been in and out of the rotation all postseason. He's a minimum salary player because of his inconsistent defense, but he's been great on that end of the floor tonight and in the series. If anything, he's not doing part offensively, but at least he spaces the floor.
Curry gets 2:47 of rest. The Warriors trail by just two. It wasn't pretty, and it easily could've gone much worse, but the Warriors survived the minutes they had to play without Stephen Curry. Now he'll be fresh for the rest of the fourth quarter.
They just showed Eddie House on the jumbotron, and, after hyping up the crowd from his seat, he decided to walk out onto the court, yelling and screaming. TD Garden loved that. Like, really loved it. Like, "ED-DIE!" chant loved it. Just incredible stuff to witness in 2022.
Jayson Tatum is the Celtics' best player, and it's time for him to carry them home. He got off to a great start, but only had four points in the third quarter as the Warriors grabbed the lead. If the Celtics want to win this game, they're going to need Tatum to step up in the fourth.
Alright Steve Kerr: the season is on the line here, what are you going to do? Does Stephen Curry get a rest? Even a few seconds without him might be deadly, but he just played one of the best quarters of his season. What if he tires out? Here's my guess: Curry sits but is back after only one stoppage. Maybe two. Let him catch his breath, but this can't be an extended absence.
Update: Curry starts the fourth on the bench. Warriors fans everywhere collectively hold their breath.
It's not just that Stephen Curry is having the best Finals series of his career. It's not just that he has 30 points and it isn't even the fourth quarter yet. Remember... the Celtics had the No. 1 defense in the NBA this season. They have the Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Smart at Curry's position! Their defense looked completely impenetrable for three months and the three rounds that followed. And Curry is just roasting them. This is a historic series for Curry. Win or lose, it should erase any doubts about him as a Finals performer.
The Celtics have one made FG in the last three minutes. They were up 6 after a corner 3 from Derrick White off a great crosscourt pass from Marcus Smart, but the Warriors have tied it with 2:31 left. The last few possessions have basically been a bunch of deep 3-pointers -- the ones taken by Stephen Curry have gone in, the ones taken by Marcus Smart and Derrick White have not. Boston's offense has not been able to sustain the type of rhythm it had in Game 3, but we'll see if it finds a groove after this timeout.
Stephen Curry has 27 points but it feels like 57 considering how hard he's having to work to generate offense. Right now the Warriors are essentially playing 4-on-5 offensively and Curry is still keeping the Warriors alive. Just a masterpiece as he continues his stellar Finals series.
The third-quarter Warriors have demolished the Celtics in this series, but so far the Celtics are hanging in there tonight. Through the first six minutes, the two teams are even in the third -- in large part due to some poor shooting by the Warriors. If the Celtics can maintain the lead going into the fourth that would be huge for them