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Stephen Curry shakes off injury, wills Warriors to Game 4 win to knot NBA Finals

June 10, 2022 Updated Fri., June 10, 2022 at 9:28 p.m.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry battles with Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown during Game 4 of the NBA Finals Friday.  (Nancy Lane/Tribune News Service)
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry battles with Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown during Game 4 of the NBA Finals Friday. (Nancy Lane/Tribune News Service)
By Ben Golliver Washington Post

BOSTON – Stephen Curry entered TD Garden on Friday unsure of how his ailing left foot would respond to the intensity of an NBA Finals game. Turns out, Curry with a bum wheel looked a lot like the healthy version: marvelous.

The two-time MVP has been the best player in these NBA Finals through four games, and he turned in his fiercest and most impressive performance yet to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 107-97 Game 4 victory over the Boston Celtics.

Curry, who injured his foot in Game 3 when it got caught under Celtics center Al Horford, danced all over the parquet court Friday, scoring a game-high 43 points and hitting 7 of his 14 3-pointers in a captivating performance that left an expectant Boston crowd speechless by night’s end.

By splitting in Boston, Golden State evened the series at two games apiece and reclaimed home-court advantage, with Game 5 set for San Francisco’s Chase Center on Monday.

In the tightest game of this series, Curry displayed what he often calls his “championship DNA.”

As Boston missed open looks from 3 down the stretch, Curry knocked in a one-legged runner, made a 3-pointer from the right angle with just under 2 minutes left and then ran a pick-and-roll with Draymond Green to set up a layup for Kevon Looney in the game’s final minute.

Curry finished off the win at the free-throw line, notching his second career 40-point in the Finals and the seventh 40-point showing of his playoff career.

“We’re focused on (Curry) and keeping others in check, but some of those of those were crazy shots that were highly contested,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “He came out bombing early.”

While the night eventually belonged to Curry, it began with the Warriors deploying a tried-and-true adjustment, pivoting to a smaller lineup by inserting forward Otto Porter Jr. in place of Looney, their typical starting center.

Seven years ago, a similar Game 4 swap of forward Andre Iguodala for center Andrew Bogut helped Golden State dig out of a 2-1 series deficit to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 Finals.

The lineup change, which gave Porter his first start since March 16, didn’t have the same transformative impact. While the Warriors were seeking to improve their offensive spacing by splitting up Green and Looney, their two nonshooting starters, they gave up an uncontested layup to Marcus Smart on the first possession and quickly fell into an 11-4 hole. Warriors coach Steve Kerr pulled the plug on the experiment shortly thereafter, swapping Looney back in for Porter, who finished with just two points in 14 minutes.

Of greater consequence than Golden State’s new lineup was Curry’s ability to play through a painful left foot injury sustained in Game 3. Curry’s optimism about the extent of his injury – he insisted it wasn’t as bad as a left foot sprain he suffered in March – proved well-founded, as he showed no ill effects. Curry smiled through an extensive pregame shooting routine and then came out firing in the first half. Sensing Golden State’s need for a lift, Curry drained back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first quarter and screamed toward the baseline crowd.

“I think (Curry) was really laboring out there,” Kerr quipped . “He really struggled. It never even looked like it was a factor.”

But Curry was only getting started, hitting an array of three-pointers to lead another Golden State push out of halftime. For the fourth time in the series, the Warriors outscored the Celtics in the third quarter, this time erasing a five-point halftime deficit to take a 79-78 lead into the fourth quarter. Curry’s fingerprints were all over that push, as he held his follow-through after drilling a three-pointer from the top of the key and sneaking into the left corner to hit another.

Boston’s halftime lead would have been more one-sided if not for a series of sloppy turnovers in the second quarter. Jayson Tatum epitomized the Celtics’ mix of hot outside shooting and poor decision-making, as he scored 16 points but committed four turnovers before halftime, including a giveaway under his hoop that led to a layup for Gary Payton II. By night’s end, the Celtics committed 16 turnovers and fell to 0-6 this postseason when turning the ball over more than 15 times.

“Every time we got a lead, we made some poor decisions,” Udoka said. “We got stalled out a little bit. Our offense wasn’t as good as it needed to be. We had our opportunities, especially in the first half.”

Four Celtics finished in double figures, led by Tatum with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists, but their offense faltered down the stretch. After running away from Golden State in the fourth quarters of Game 1 and Game 3, Boston was outscored 28-19 in the final period, in part because it struggled to limit Golden State on the offensive glass.

“Boston’s got the best defense in the league,” Kerr said. “They’re huge and powerful at every position. For Steph to take that kind of pressure all game long and still be able to defend on the other end [is big]. I think this is the strongest he’s ever been in his career, and it allows him to do what he’s been doing.”

When it came time for their first late-game shootout with Curry, the Celtics simply couldn’t keep up.

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