Celtics vs. Warriors factors, takeaways: Stephen Curry breaks out for 43 factors as Golden State Evens Sequence 2-2
Game 4 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics was essentially a 48-minute heavyweight brawl, with both sides consistently landing heavy punches. In the end, however, it was Stephen Curry and the Warriors who made just enough games to walk away with a 107-97 win to even that streak 2-2 and keep their championship aspirations alive.
Curry was fantastic for Golden State, finishing with a game-high 43 points along with 10 rebounds, but he wasn’t the only Warriors player to make a big step forward when the team needed it most, since Andrew Wiggins had a monster game alone with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole also played their part, scoring 32 points together.
At the other end of the spectrum, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the offense for Boston, but their respective efforts weren’t enough for the Celtics to match Curry’s massive night.
With the Warriors winning, Monday night’s Game 5 at the Chase Center should be as intense as any game we’ve seen this postseason.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Curry has a special night
Steph Curry was great in the first three games of this series and he was even better on Friday night. He finished with 43 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, made seven 3-pointers and shot 14 of 26 from the field. This was a truly special achievement from one of the game’s greats.
For starters, this wasn’t like Game 1 or some sections of Game 3 where the Celtics collapsed on the defensive end and gave Curry too much space. They engaged in the task, chasing Curry all over the course and getting good contests on most of his shots. It just didn’t matter. He’s the best shooter of all time and he proved it again in Game 4.
Also, the Warriors needed every single one of Curry’s 43 points. They were in a hostile environment, trailing 2-1 and falling behind for much of the game. Nobody else really had anything rolling – the rest of the team was shooting 40 percent from the field – and there were several points throughout the night where it looked like the Celtics could pull away. Curry never let it.
Klay Thompson, who has accompanied Curry throughout this ride, called it his best finals performance ever:
“I find [it ranks] probably #1,” Thompson said. “I mean, that was almost a must-play game, and going out there and shooting as efficiently as he did, and grabbing 10 rebounds and they attack him on defense; I mean his condition is unmatched in this league. Steph played amazing.”
2. The Celtics’ late-game offense burns them up again
The Celtics ended the regular season on a 28-7 run and, in a strange way, they may have been a little too good in recent months. Twenty of those wins were in double figures, including 15 with at least 20 points. They absolutely devastated teams, which meant they didn’t have many opportunities to work on one of their biggest mistakes: late-game offense.
Even in the playoffs, it was a bit the same story. Eight of their 14 wins have been in double digits, and that number should probably be higher. Aside from Game 1 of the first round against the Brooklyn Nets, there weren’t too many positive late-game moments from this team. They failed to hold a late Game 3 lead against the Milwaukee Bucks and collapsed completely in Game 5 of that series. In the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat, they failed to complete a comeback in Game 3, failed to hold a late lead in Game 6, and nearly messed up Game 7 in a disastrous manner.
Now you can add Game 4 of the Finals to the list of late game fights. Midway through the quarter, Jaylen Brown briefly took over and scored six straight points to give the Celtics the lead. Marcus Smart then added a free throw to make it 91-86 Celtics with a 7:32. They had a window there to pull away and potentially take a 3-1 lead. Instead, they scored six points for the remainder of the game and gave up home field advantage.
“I got stuck a bit,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. “When we did off-ball action and got some movement, we looked really good.”
“We wanted to get the ball up quickly and go on the offensive. If we don’t have anything, we still let them work on the clock. A lot of times it felt like we were standing around not sure who to reach out to afterward, and it led to these stalled possessions.”
When a game is within five points with five minutes or less remaining that is defined as clutch time and the Warriors outplayed the Celtics 15-0 in those minutes in Game 4. That’s the highest difference in a Finals game in the past 25 years, per ESPN Stats and Information.
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3. Wiggins hits the glass
After starring as Luka Doncic’s protector in the Western Conference Finals, Andrew Wiggins has at times felt like a forgotten man in this series. Although he wasn’t bad in the first three games, he didn’t make much of an impression. That changed in Game 4, although not in the way you might expect.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr made a roster change prior to this game, adding Otto Porter Jr. to the starting lineup for Kevon Looney. Going small has its perks, but rebounds aren’t usually one of them, and we saw the Warriors crush on the glass in Game 3. That was a threat again on Friday, but Wiggins wouldn’t let it happen.
“Wiggs was fantastic,” said Kerr. “To play Boston you have to deal with Tatum and Brown and they are just strong, experienced players. Great size. They keep coming at you, so we had to have Wiggs out there. I thought he would be great on defense. Obviously 16 rebounds, career high and up 20 on the night. So we needed every input from Wiggs.
He was a machine on the glass, nabbing a career-high 16 rebounds to help the Warriors win the rebound fight 55-42. While doing most of his work on defensive glass, he also came up with some clutch putbacks in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors some big non-curry points. The Warriors had 19 second chance points compared to 12 for the Celtics in a game they won by 10.
Most of the coverage of this game will focus on Curry, and rightly so, but the Warriors won’t win without a Herculean effort from Wiggins. It wasn’t the most spectacular or highest-scoring performance of his career, but it was by far his most important. He finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds in 43 minutes, and the Warriors were plus-20 with him on the floor.
“I want to win,” said Wiggins. “I know rebounds are a big part of it. I just want to win. And I feel like sometimes we play small. So I’m just trying to go in and do rebounds to help the team.”