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Golden State Warriors gear up for ‘toughest game’ after failing to close previous three series on first try

BOSTON — The Golden State Warriors are in a position they’ve been in many times before: one win away from the NBA title.

Playing in the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight years, there is a dose of cautious optimism in the Warriors locker room as they lead the series 3-2 in Boston in Game 6 on Thursday night (9 PT on ABC). But the Warriors have also made it clear that no one is celebrating just yet.

“You’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re thinking about things that don’t even exist yet,” said Klay Thompson.

The Warriors struggled in the final games of this postseason, failing to end every series they played in at the first opportunity — all on the road.

The stakes waiting for them on the other side of their next game against the Boston Celtics only make things harder.

“The clinch is probably the hardest game you will play,” said Andre Iguodala.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he didn’t see anything in common with the games Golden State lost.

Perhaps it’s the survival instincts of their opponents. Before Game 4 of the first round, Denver’s Nikola Jokic said he didn’t think his team deserved to see her team lose 3-0 in the series. This led the Nuggets to a win in Game 5. In the second round, Memphis defeated the Warriors from the start. In the Conference Finals, the Mavericks, like the Nuggets, were looking to avoid defeat.

In each of the Warriors’ three failed shutdown attempts, they trailed by double figures at half. They managed to stay close in the first quarter, but the second quarter was a big problem, especially against Memphis and Dallas.

Golden State also had problems defending the perimeter. In those three losses, the Warriors’ rivals scored 53 of 115 (46.1%) from behind the three-point line. That could be a problem against the Celtics, as Boston has made 317 3-pointers this postseason, the most in a single playoff year.

In that series, games 4 and 5 marked the first set of consecutive losses the Celtics had combined since late March, when they lost to the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat. Prior to that, they had not missed consecutive games since January.

“We know [the Celtics are] We will play with a sense of desperation,” Thompson said. “So it will take the best effort we’ve put in all year to match or exceed that.”

When the Warriors ended the streak against Denver, Stephen Curry said that Golden State may have forgotten the toughness needed to end the streak, especially early in the game. This trend continued into the semi-finals and finals of the Western Conference. But now the Warriors rely heavily not only on their playoff experience, but also on title wins.

“You just understand what nerves are,” Curry said. “We understand the specifics of how we need to approach the game from a physical point of view, adjusting our game plan from game 5 to game 6, understanding what the building will look like, what kind of energy we are preparing for it.”

Curry said he would remind himself and his less experienced comrades of this early in the game. But after that, it’s about the mindset the Warriors have been preaching all season: stay locked into what’s going on in front of you.

“At the end of the day, once you get there, you just have to be in the moment,” Curry said. “You should be present as long as possible without worrying about the consequences of victory or defeat. The only opportunity you have is these 48 minutes. The best advice I can give to anyone in this situation is because this is going to be the hardest game you’ve probably ever played in your career because of what the stakes are.”

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