Nah. This was Ali-Liston. Bowe-Holyfield. Fury-Wilder.
This wasn’t basketball. This was heavyweight boxing, minus the bloodshed.
Golden State 107, Boston 97.
Game 5, here we come.
This was Stephen Curry blasting back at the critics. This week Tracy McGrady became the latest to question Curry’s greatness. Speaking to NBC Sports Washington, McGrady, the recently inducted Hall of Famer, noted that Curry beat an injury-riddled Cavaliers team to win his first ring in 2015 and needed a Kevin Durant infusion to collect two more. “Steph wasn’t the best player on that team,” McGrady said.
He’s the best player on this one. Down 2–1, against a generational defense, a hostile crowd and with lingering pain from a foot injury—the same foot injury that cost Curry the final 12 games of the regular season—suffered in Game 3, Curry submitted arguably his finest playoff performance. He scored 43 points and collected 10 rebounds, becoming just the fifth guard to notch 40/10 in the Finals. He handed out four assists. He made 14 of his 21 shots, seven of his 14 threes and eight of his nine free throws. He scored more than Golden State’s other starters combined. He scored 10 points in the fourth quarter when the Warriors, down five with 7 1/2 minutes to play, pulled away for a 10-point win.
“Stunning,” said Steve Kerr.
Said Draymond Green, “He wasn’t going to let us lose.”
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Indeed. But he couldn’t do it alone. And in a game Golden State needed everyone to show up, many did. Andrew Wiggins gathered a career-best 16 rebounds, leading Golden State, which was outrebounded 47–31 in Game 3, to a 55–42 edge on the glass. Klay Thompson scored 17 points. Jordan Poole chipped in 14. Kevon Looney, benched to start the game, grabbed 11 rebounds, finishing a game-high plus-21.
Green had one of the worst games of his career in Game 3, coming under fire for his play (two points, 1-of-4 shooting) and his podcast. His shooting numbers were ugly in Game 4 (1-of-7) but he added nine rebounds and eight assists while showing what it means to stay ready. Midway through the fourth quarter, Kerr pulled Green, choosing to go offense-defense during stoppages. With three minutes to play, Green re-entered the game. With just over a minute to play and Golden State up three, Green rebounded a Thompson miss and found Looney for a layup, extending the lead to five.
“I had to keep my head in the game,” Green said. “And whenever I went back in, try to make some plays.
But this game was about Curry. There has been, in some circles, a debate about Curry’s place among the all-time best. He’s the NBA’s greatest shooter … but not one of its all-time great players, at least not when compared to them. In the aftermath of Game 4, Curry was saluted by his contemporaries. “Everyone keeps talking about what Steph ain’t,” tweeted Dwyane Wade. “Let’s talk about what he is.” Tweeted LeBron James, “THEY” will try to do anything in their powers to not acknowledge simply how “DIFFERENT he is! It’s Rare and rare is not liked & appreciated.”
“I think this is the strongest physically that he’s ever been in his career,” Kerr said. “And it’s allowing him to do what he’s doing.”
He will need to keep doing it. Boston didn’t go down quietly. This game had 11 lead changes. Ten times it was tied. Jayson Tatum had 23 points. Jaylen Brown had 21. Derrick White, a thorn in the Warriors’ side all series, scored 16 off the bench. The Celtics are better on the road (8–3) than at home (6–5) this postseason and have a defense that doesn’t care where they play. They are 7–0 after losses and if not for a third quarter meltdown might have taken two in San Francisco.
“It’s the Finals and in the art of competition,” Tatum said. “They came here with the feeling they had to win. It wasn’t easy, but that’s the beauty of it. That it’s not going to be easy and it shouldn’t be. We both want it and we got to take it.”
The Celtics will be ready on Monday. It may take another outburst like what Curry had in Game 4 to beat them again. If nothing else, Curry proved, yet again, that he was capable of it.
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