Celtics v Warriors: Boston may still be NBA champions, but he has to show us something

There may still be hope for the Boston Celtics. But their best chance of getting another banner is in the past.

Definitely, yes, of course – technically Boston could still win this series if they held home court in Game 6 on Thursday night and then returned to San Francisco and then put the W on the Warriors’ home court on Sunday night. in game 7.

However, they are on the verge of destruction because they have betrayed the burst of resilience and crushing defense that brought them here. Closing and repulsing Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler are impressive victories. Dealing with Steph Curry – and the real, brutal, rare, amazing effect of trying to win an NBA title – is another thing altogether.

Call it pressure. Call it fear. Call it the moment that separates talented people from winners, professionals from champions. Whatever it was, it beat the Celtics in the last two games no less than Curry & Co.

Especially in Game 4, when the Warriors offered the Celtics a win on a silver platter. Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown and their teammates just couldn’t take it.

As in Game 4, the Celtics entered the fourth quarter of Game 5 down by one point after a tight struggle. However, unlike Game 4, Curry was unable to defeat them on his own. They did it just fine for themselves.

In Game 4, Boston was leading the series 3-1, which probably meant it. Then Curry happened and on the other hand 17-3 the Warriors closed that game, we were down 2-2. Excellent. The series is still very relevant. Going up against GOAT means you will probably have to deal with those big performances; the key is how to weather the storm. But a failure in Game 5 was fatal for Curry: 16 points, 0-for-9 from the three-point line and no heroism in the fourth quarter.

Curry may have beaten them a few days earlier, but it was just the Celtics, again nervous, nervous and uncertain, beating themselves. They coughed four turns of the fourth quarter. They shot 27 percent from the field and a rotten 25 percent from beyond the arc. Tatum and Brown came out of the game together 2 of 9. They broke.

To win the next two games, they will need to do a lot more than just defeat the Warriors and their all-time great star. The Celtics will have to overcome what turned the best team in the NBA into their own shell in the fourth quarter of the last two games.

And their setbacks have been against another Warriors team compared to those that have fought and won NBA championships in the past – fewer.

No Kevin Durant to bail out the Warriors on Curry’s day off. Klay Thompson oscillated between mediocre and excellent, Draymond Green between terrible and so-so. Jordan Pool turned into a G-League player again for a long time. Andrew Wiggins was great, of course, but if you can’t beat a team in the NBA Finals on a night when Wiggins is their best player, you’re probably in big trouble.

Curry is Curry, except for the uncharacteristic day off for him on Monday. But historically, Curry has responded to bad playoff games with effective nights of dominant, great offense.

“Now it’s good for us,” Greene said after the game, having already read the story. “He was 0 out of 9 out of 3. He’s going to be furious before Game 6 and that’s exactly what we need.”

There are a lot of X’s and O’s that you can study, a lot of numbers that can tell you about the large sample sizes and statistical realities of both of these teams. There are game plans that Boston can and should make to replicate what they did well in the long run they should have won, and so on.

But, as two-time NBA champion Isaiah Thomas told me, all these things fly out the window when the pressure is maxed out. “The pressure is real,” he said. “Some players, some great players, can handle it. Some can’t.”

But the real answer to how Boston wins is simple and has two parts: don’t let Curry beat you and don’t beat yourself.

About the first: Good luck. Curry, as I wrote, is likely to end his career in the top five players of all time, an all-time talented player who is too often underestimated, earning his due much later than the fait accompli. But he is the best player on the court in this series, he showed that he can win a game on his own if he needs to, and in game 5 his teammates started offering help that he could use all this time. Curry, Greene said, would be furious on Thursday night and he would be dangerous.

But the second point is about why this streak seems over: no team can win a championship if the closer they get to it, the faster they disappear. And the Celtics were a bundle of nerves, anxiety, and bad play when the rim was at its close – flipping the ball, playing hot potatoes, not having a star ready to seize the moment.

Tatum did not star in most of this series. Brown had several lackluster second halves. Marcus Smart didn’t fill that void. And you can only ask Al Horford and Derrick White to save the day in the fourth quarter of the NBA Finals once—and once feels like too much.

The Celtics have a shot Thursday night, and as head coach Ime Udoka pointed out, they were in that position, down 3-2 and facing elimination earlier this postseason against last year’s champion Milwaukee Bucks.

But in playoff basketball, you have to adapt, and Boston has to do something we haven’t seen before: the ability to win a series with a strong sense of hope and fear when something is as rare as a championship. represents.

We’ve seen enough to know what Steph Curry can do. Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics are still trying to figure out how to match him when it matters most.

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