• Full coverage: 2022 NBA Finals.
BOSTON It’s not enough for the Golden State Warriors to just be on the verge of doing something special this 2022 NBA postseason.
Every time the Warriors got to this point – the deciding game – in the first three rounds, they fell into the bad habit of “playing with their food”, losing and needing to go home to do their job.
This came in the first round against Denver and they eluded victory as the Nuggets won Game 4. Golden State brought the Nuggets back to San Francisco before eliminating two-time Kia MVP Nikola Jokic and company.
It happened in the conference semi-finals against Memphis, when the higher-seeded Grizzlies — without star point guard Ja Morant — proudly crushed the Warriors at the FedEx Forum in Game 5. Golden State ended the streak back at the Chase Center ‘ two days later.
And it happened in the Western Conference Finals against Dallas, Golden State went up 3-0, outscoring the Mavericks by 43 points in the first three games, only to have its starters lose 86-58 in the game. 4. The Warriors were going home anyway. but he carried Mavericks with him. There, they swooped down on Dallas and led 69-52 to halftime, controlling the margin for the rest of their sixth Finals run in eight seasons.
“I just think it’s the NBA,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said ahead of Game 6 on Thursday (9 DV, ABC). “You have talented teams. You have talented players that you play against. You are in a different building. It’s just not that easy to close someone in the playoffs.
“There is no common theme. We just need to play really well to win. It is so simple”.
Different from previous episodes? There is very little margin for error. This time around, missing that clinch chance, the Warriors could get into Game 7, where anything can happen. This is when a single ankle injury, an early foul, an unforeseen cold throw (or a hot play by one or two Celtics), or a dozen other possible mishaps can affect momentum, tilt the scoreboard, and flip the championship.
History provides some lessons. Teams that led 3-2 in the final won the championship 81.3% of the time (39-9). So far, so good.
However, things get more complicated when the team misses the next game. Since the league’s merger with the ABA in 1976-77, 29 of the 45 finals have gone to at least six games. Teams leading 3-2 have lost 21 games in Game 6.
But of the eight who didn’t, six regretted it, losing both Game 6 and Game 7. Seattle in 1978, Detroit in 1988, New York in 1999, Boston in 2010, San Antonio in 2013 and Golden State in 2016. all failed in six games and lost the championship in seven.
Only Boston in 1984 and San Antonio in 2005 conceded a 3-2 series lead and then rallied to win the series anyway.
It’s something the Warriors would rather avoid. But just as the Nuggets, Grizzlies, and Mavericks have stubbornly refused to leave, the Celtics are taking their time in the offseason.
There is also history on Boston’s side. The Celtics have appeared in 21 Finals, winning 17. Of the four losses they have lost, only once—111–100 in Game 6 in 1985 against the Lakers—have they lost at home.
Permanent Celtics playoffs? inconsistency
Given that the Celtics can’t reliably say how they’ll play from one quarter to the next, you can probably expect them to know what to expect in Game 6, let alone Game 7.
Of course, that’s the only thing they don’t want to hear: “Not to mention the seventh game.” Moving Endgame back to San Francisco, keeping it alive no matter what happens, is their only priority.
Through most of the postseason and losing three of the first five games in the Finals, Boston has been repeating mistakes in key areas. Following Monday’s 104-94 loss, media outlets who covered the team throughout the season pointed to bad habits that the Celtics largely shed when they changed the season, which began in January.
It wasn’t until the fifth game that they got off to a bad start. They were distracted by refereeing several times. Finishing at the rim was not easy.
Boston’s two young stars, Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown, totaled 45 points but shot 15 of 38 with nine losses. Oh, these losses: the Celtics had 18 points, which brought Golden State 22 points. This put them at a 13 point disadvantage in that category in a game that was decided by 10.
In 23 games this postseason, Boston is 1-7 when they have 15 or more turnovers and 13-2 when they have 14 or fewer turnovers. Taking care of the ball is a must against the fast attacking Warriors.
When asked about two or three ways to reduce turnover, Boston coach Ime Udoka said, “Not getting too into it is one way. One or two extra dribbles can get you in trouble. … Spacing is a big part of that, knowing where your outlets are. …Physical qualities, like I said, being strong with the ball. That’s all we focus on.”
The abandonment of games 4 and 5 shattered one of the Celtics’ strength fields – the first time since January in the games that mattered that they lost two games in a row.
They were defeated by the Warriors when Steph Curry received only minimal offensive help and then lost to the Warriors, where Curry looked nothing like his usual marksman (7 of 22, 0 of 9 on threes). Curry essentially snapped his 132-game playoff streak with at least one 3-pointer. But he didn’t hurt his team.
Boston point guard Marcus Smart believes a season that has required the Celtics’ stamina for almost eight months has now created a reserve.
“You’re supposed to [be]Smart said. “As for us, we did it all season, just because we were really on that end to catch up with everyone else. We were sort of forced to play with our backs against the wall.”
Boston was down 3-2 in the Eastern semi-final series against the Bucks, went to Milwaukee to win Game 6, and then won at home in seven games. He lost the Game 6 decider at home in the Conference Finals, then traveled to Miami and still won Game 7 there.
“We’ve really gotten used to the fact that it’s now a part of us, in our nature,” Smart said. “This is nothing new for us. It’s another difficult game.”
“Game 6 Clay” is a thing
Repeatedly successful for the Warriors in this particular phase of the playoff series, defenseman Klay Thompson has earned the unofficial nickname “Game 6 Clay.”
So, Thursday night session?
“I realize I have a really good streak of 6 games right now. I don’t know how long this will last,” Thompson said. “I hope it’s obvious [Thursday]”.
Thompson appeared in a dozen sixth games of his career, averaging 20.7 points on 44.6% shooting and 49.5% on 3-pointers.
Many fans remember Thompson’s sixth game against Toronto in the 2019 Finals. He scored 30 points on 8-of-12 shooting that night, but suffered an ACL tear when the Raptors won that night in Oakland.
Thompson also took some time to breathe life into the scheme, averaging 10.2 points on 33.9% shooting in his first five games 6.
His breakthrough came in the 2016 West Finals, with Golden State already out of the hole 3-1 and trailing 3-2. Thompson then went on to score 41 with 11 trebles, scoring 19 points in the fourth quarter.
Since then, Thompson has averaged 28.1 points in seven games 6, shooting 46.8% overall and 65.8% from the arc. That includes his previous Game 6 this postseason when he hit 30 goals with eight 3-pointers in the playoff against Memphis.
Thompson said, “Obviously, that’s the nickname I’ve earned. I want to match it. At the same time, I don’t want to go out there and play heroball. I’m just going to be there and be myself and do what I’ve been doing for the last few games.”
Stars that eat together…
During the Golden State’s long flight to Boston on Tuesday, basketball president Bob Myers spotted Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green sitting at a table on a luxury jet sharing food.
“He’s like, ‘Dude, you’re all funny, you’re still sitting together,'” Green said. “You all don’t understand, it’s 10 years. This doesn’t happen. The guys are still sitting together at the same table. He’s like, “The guys aren’t even on the same team for 10 years, not to mention they’re still sitting at the same table and enjoying each other’s conversations and presence.”
The three have been teammates since 2012-13 when Green, as Michigan’s No. 35 in 2012, joined Curry and Thompson. With three rings and six trips to the championship streak in the past eight seasons, the trio won their 20th final match on Monday. This puts them two behind Showtime’s Lakers in the 1980s Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper.
It’s a testament to a contender whose core has been homegrown, drafted, designed, and chasing titles for the better part of a decade. However, not everyone has become so reflective.
“I owe Draymond some domino money, so I don’t want to see him. too much many times,” Thompson teased. “I was half asleep. Draymond and Bob chatted with each other for six hours on the plane. I was just trying to get some sleep. Good times.”
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Steve Ashburner has been writing about the NBA since 1980. You can email him here, find his archive here and Follow him on Twitter.
The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of the NBA, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.