What’s at Stake for the Celtics and Golden State in Game 6 of the N.B.A. Finals

 

The Boston Celtics are in dire straits after dropping to Golden State on Monday in Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals, leaving them in a 3-2 deficit as the sequence shifts to Boston on Thursday. Teams with 3-2 leads in best-of-seven N.B.A. finals have received the championship 39 of 48 occasions — 81.3 %. Some of the Celtics’ regular-season woes are reappearing in the finals: They haven’t been capable of maintain effort for whole video games and have watched fourth-quarter leads evaporate.

Golden State, in the meantime, is in the driver’s seat. On Monday, Stephen Curry had his first underwhelming sport of the sequence, and his staff nonetheless received — a nasty signal for the Celtics.

But there may be nonetheless at least one sport to be performed. The Celtics have made a behavior of coming again at surprising occasions, together with in Game 1, which featured an surprising fourth-quarter implosion by Golden State.

Here’s a glance at the place the sequence stands earlier than a possible elimination sport on the N.B.A.’s largest stage.

Jayson Tatum, 24, is the largest purpose the Celtics reached the finals. He is one of the greatest scorers in the league and is succesful of dropping 50 factors in a playoff sport, as he did final yr in opposition to the Nets in the first spherical. But in opposition to Golden State, he has had problem scoring close to the basket and has had hassle with turnovers. On Monday night time, he set a league file for turnovers in a postseason. Tatum is taking pictures 37.3 percent from the field in opposition to Golden State.

If the Celtics are going to stave off elimination, they’ll want extra from Tatum. But there may be hope for Boston: In Game 6 of this yr’s Eastern Conference semifinals in opposition to the Milwaukee Bucks, with the Celtics going through the similar deficit, Tatum pulled out a 46-point efficiency.

In Game 5, the Celtics had 18 turnovers, and Golden State had six. In Game 2, the Celtics had 18, and Golden State (*6*) This has been an issue for the Celtics all through the playoffs, notably with their stars, Tatum and Jaylen Brown — who usually have been stripped whereas dribbling into the paint. If Boston doesn’t take care of the ball, it doesn’t win. End of story.

Defensively, the Celtics have been high quality. Golden State has scored from 100 to 108 factors in every of the first 5 video games, which, contemplating its offensive expertise, is appropriate. It’s on the offensive finish the place Boston has struggled to generate constant appears to be like.

For most of the sequence, Curry has needed to shoulder an unlimited offensive burden. In the first 4 video games of the sequence, the Warriors shot solely 37.3 % on makes an attempt considered wide open. That’s totally on the relaxation of the Golden State gamers who haven’t been capable of make Boston pay for tight protection on Curry.

That is till Game 5, when Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole punished the Celtics from deep, making up for Curry’s 0-for-9 night time from 3. Even Draymond Green, who has had a dismal sequence, had 8 factors, serving as a vital launch valve for Curry.

If Golden State’s non-Curry gamers hit their pictures, Boston will discover it very troublesome to win.

Golden State confirmed that it might win regardless of a nasty sport from Curry. But it doesn’t need to take that probability once more. Curry’s 43-point efficiency in Game 4 was exceptional. If he can dig deep for one other comparable outing, he places himself in the dialog for one of the greatest finals performances in historical past.

The sequence will head to a winner-take-all Game 7. And if the Celtics win that, they may have accomplished an astonishing turnaround from January, after they had been 18-21. It will show {that a} staff can win a championship with two ball-dominant wings who play comparable video games, in this case Tatum and Brown. It can even validate the staff’s choice to not commerce its younger gamers for any of the established ones who’ve hit the market in current years.

Golden State must wonder if not buying and selling any of its younger gamers — the rookies Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga and the second-year middle James Wiseman — for speedy assist would have been the proper transfer to take benefit of Curry’s dwindling window.

For the first 5 years of Andrew Wiggins’s profession, he was recognized principally as a cautionary story. The Cleveland Cavaliers chosen him first general in the 2014 N.B.A. draft and then traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves weeks later to construct a title contender round LeBron James. He confirmed flashes of elite athleticism, sufficient for Minnesota to speculate a most contract extension in him. But the manufacturing by no means matched the contract. Since becoming a member of Golden State by means of a commerce in 2020, nevertheless, Wiggins has turned his profession round. This yr, he performed in his first All-Star Game. And in the finals, he has been, at occasions, the greatest participant on both staff. If Golden State wins the championship, Wiggins can have been an enormous purpose — and it’ll full a exceptional turnaround in his profession.

If Golden State wins Game 6, it’s a digital certainty that Curry will win the finals Most Valuable Player Award, which might fill the one remaining gap in his résumé. But a championship has bigger stakes for Curry. His earlier titles — in response to some N.B.A. observers — haven’t been legacy-burnishing championships in the manner they’ve been for different stars. In 2015, Golden State beat a James-led Cavaliers staff lacking two of its three greatest gamers. In 2017 and 2018, Golden State beat the Cavaliers once more, however Kevin Durant was arguably the greatest participant on these groups. This can be Curry’s first championship in which he was unambiguously the greatest participant on Golden State and the opposing staff was at full energy. This championship would vault Curry greater in the dialogue of N.B.A. greats.

Most of Boston’s key gamers are younger and nonetheless coming into their primes. Tatum and Brown are dynamic wings who can, in principle, be All-Stars for years to return. But in the event that they lose, questions will come up about whether or not they can do it collectively. The situation for Boston is that it doesn’t have a lot free-agency wiggle room. With a number of groups anticipated to make enhancements subsequent yr — together with the division-rival Nets and Toronto Raptors — the Celtics will face troublesome questions on whether or not making modifications at the edges is sufficient.

Green has provided insightful commentary on his podcast after each sport. With a championship, he’ll give you the chance to take action guilt-free and with out followers telling him to cease, in spite of his principally poor efficiency in the sequence.


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