SAN FRANCISCO — At times in these NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors’ offense has felt like a one-man show, with Stephen Curry handling the vast majority of the scoring and playmaking duties. Never was that sensation more apparent than in Friday’s Game 4, when Curry delivered a 43-point masterpiece to lift Golden State to a road win over the Boston Celtics.
But the Warriors have always preached the importance of collective strength, and they seized control of the Finals for the first time Monday because Curry’s teammates combined to carry their franchise player through a rare quiet showing.
Golden State defeated Boston, 104-94, in Game 5 at Chase Center, taking advantage of the Celtics’ frigid first quarter and disjointed fourth quarter to grab a 3-2 series lead. With the victory, Golden State moved to the cusp of its fourth title in the past eight seasons. Game 6 is Thursday night in Boston.
For Curry, it was a stunning, history-making performance: For the first time in his 133-game postseason career, he failed to make a three-pointer. Indeed, the two-time MVP finished with just 16 points on 7-for-22 shooting, and he missed all nine of his three-point attempts.
“Steph was probably due for a game like this,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s been shooting the ball so well. But we’ve got a lot of talent and depth to make up for that. The key to the game was our defense. To hold that [Celtics] team to 94 points, that’s what it takes to win.”
Golden State triumphed anyway thanks to strong performances from forward Andrew Wiggins, who tallied 26 points and 13 rebounds, and its bench, which outscored Boston 31-10. Klay Thompson added 21 points, hitting five three-pointers to help boost the Warriors past the Celtics, who failed to conjure offensive rhythm for long stretches.
After sputtering down the stretch of its Game 4 loss Friday, Boston’s offense was even worse to open Game 5.
Jayson Tatum set an ominous tone by tossing the ball out of bounds on the Celtics’ first possession, setting up a dreadful quarter filled with careless turnovers and tentative shot attempts. Boston fell behind 24-8 and shot 8 for 23 from the field in the quarter as its perimeter attack ran cold. All told, the Celtics missed their first 12 three-point attempts in their flattest stretch of offense in these Finals.
“Our force, our pressure, our help was there all the time,” Kerr said. “We just didn’t allow a lot of openings. Our rotations were good, and we flew out to shooters. It was a great effort, but we’ve got to rev it back up and do it again.”
Boston did its best to make up for its slow start by briefly grasping control in the third quarter. The Celtics made five straight three-pointers to open the second half, riding a 19-4 start to the third quarter to take its first lead midway through the period. Tatum, who finished with a game-high 27 points to go with 10 rebounds and four assists, hit back-to-back three-pointers to key Boston’s best stretch of the night.
It wasn’t enough. Golden State reclaimed the lead by the end of the third period and pushed ahead to start the fourth. At several moments in the fourth, the Celtics appeared to crack under the pressure. With a little over nine minutes remaining, Marcus Smart was whistled for a technical foul and an offensive foul in quick succession. Later, Draymond Green and Tatum engaged in a jostling match in front of the Celtics bench. Remarkably, the Celtics had the same number of turnovers (four) as field goals in the final period.
By night’s end, there was little for the Celtics to talk about, other than their chronic turnover problems. Boston committed 18 turnovers and fell to 0-7 in this postseason when it turn the ball over at least 16 times. Jaylen Brown accounted for five of the giveaways during an uneven night in which he scored 18 points on 5-for-18 shooting.
While Curry brought home Game 4 with a splendid shooting display in the clutch, the Warriors turned to Wiggins finish off the Celtics this time. In the decisive sequence, Wiggins scored 10 fourth-quarter points and threw down a thunderous dunk that proved to be the dagger.
“That trust [in Wiggins] has been building for two-and-a-half years since he got here,” the Warriors’ Draymond Green said. “He competes. He defends. He’s taken on every challenge. It’s huge. We need him to do that for one more win.”
Boston now finds itself facing elimination in its third straight series after digging out of a 3-2 hole against the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round and winning a Game 7 over the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. Yet the Celtics also found themselves in unchartered water as they fell to 7-1 in these playoffs after a loss. Bouncing back after tough defeats had become their trademark, and now the Celtics must contend with the possibility that this series — and their first championship since 2008 — has slipped from their grasp.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.