Warriors vs Celtics: Stephen Curry’s magic returns as he delivers final performance for the ages
I don’t know where Stephen Curry’s 43-point, 10-rebound performance in Golden State’s Game 4 heart attack victory ranks among Finals games of all time. I’m not old enough to have seen enough. But I’ve seen a lot of that, and what Curry just did to the Boston Celtics is somewhere pretty high on the list. It was breathtaking.
Let’s eliminate the basics: Warriors 107, Celtics 97. Series tied 2-2. Game 5 is scheduled for Monday in San Francisco. Get your fucking popcorn.
Now back to Curry, who rediscovered his old magic in no time, turning the worst shooting season of his career, and possibly his life, into a distant memory by hitting 43% of his 3-pointers in the Finals of conference. against Dallas before exploding at full speed against Boston.
In four games in those Finals, Curry is shooting 49 percent from 3. He had seven triples on Friday, and the Warriors desperately needed all of them.
Klay Thompson called it perhaps the greatest Finals performance he’s seen from Curry, and don’t let the ridiculous narrative that Curry hasn’t played well in the Finals in his career get into your head for a second. He had a historic career in the final, to be frank.
Curry scored 47 points in the Game 3 loss of 2019 to Toronto, which had a defense nearly as good as those Celtics. In that game, without active Thompson and Kevin Durant, the Warriors were forced to pitch Shaun Livingston and an all-but-washed-out DeMarcus Cousins while playing Quinn Cook and Alfonzo McKinnie for 44 minutes. Curry was being chased by Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry without a single other threat on the court to distract anyone and it was still raining fire.
Curry is averaging just under 27 points per game during his Finals career. It’s the 10th best ever, better than a few guys named Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, some guy named Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Dirk Nowitzki, Elgin Baylor, Dwyane Wade, Isiah Thomas , Tim Duncan and Paul Pierce, to name but a few coincidences.
So yeah, he’s been pretty good on the biggest stage. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But I will go further. It’s not just the best Finals performance of Curry’s career, it’s his best playoff performance streak. And again, that’s no knock on Curry’s playoff resume, which is littered with gems.
- I’ll never forget the 44 points he put up over San Antonio in 2013, his first playoff run.
- In the 2016 Finals, he had 38 and six assists in Game 4 against Cleveland to give Golden State a 3-1 lead.
- In the 2015 Finals, he carded 38 against the Cavs to break a 2-2 Series 5 tie.
- In the 2016 conference semifinals, he snagged 40, including a record 17 in overtime, for the Blazers in his first game after suffering a first-round MCL sprain.
- In the 2019 Conference Semifinals, he went 33 over the Rockets in Game 6… in the second half.
- He ended Durant’s OKC career with 38 and nine assists in Game 7 of the 2016 Conference Finals.
Given the stakes and the opponent, none of those match what Curry did on Friday with everything on the line. If the Warriors had lost 3-1, it would be over. Now you could say Golden State has the advantage again.
“I mean, it was almost a game to win, and going out there and shooting as effectively as he did, and grabbing 10 rebounds, and they were attacking him on defense; I mean, his conditioning is second to none in this league,” Thompson said of Curry. “Steph played unbelievably.
Golden State has nowhere to turn to attack right now. That’s what makes Curry’s dominance in Game 4 – and throughout this series for that matter – so incredible. This is an all-time great Boston defense that sends the sink to Curry. He had to switch almost entirely to pick-and-roll and DHO because of Boston’s ball switch, and he’s throwing one video game dagger after another with several elite defenders draped over him.
Honestly, look at some of these shots. The man went glass for a 22-foot wing jumper to open the second half just for fun. It’s crazy how hard this shot is in your backyard. But when every bucket looks like life or death in the NBA Finals? It’s laughable how easy he made this look.
“Simply stunning,” Steve Kerr said of Curry’s performance. “The physics there are, you know, pretty dramatic. I mean, Boston obviously has the best defense in the league. Huge and powerful in every position, and for Steph to take that – that kind of pressure all the way through the match and still being able to defend at the other end when they come at him shows you that, I think that’s the strongest physically he’s ever been in his career, and that allows him to do what he does.”
Curry’s strength and conditioning deserve their own story. But right now we’re talking about filming, and that’s old Curry. We haven’t seen much of this guy this season. He was still great by anyone else’s standards. Had a case for the All-NBA First Team. But at no time this season has he shot near that level for an extended period.
And again, it’s a necessity for the Warriors. The Celtics are a better team. They are bigger, stronger, faster, more athletic. They have a stable of shooters. They have two elite scorers who also pass like crazy. They have one of the best defenses of all time. Literally the only advantage the Warriors have in this series is Curry, who took on that burden and Friday lifted his team to a win that at various times seemed nigh on impossible.
“This man’s heart is amazing,” Thompson said of Curry. “You know, the things he does we take for granted sometimes, but to go out there and put us on his back, I mean, we have to help him on Monday.”
Thompson is right. Curry is from another world, but how long can he go on like this? He is already the only player in history to have made at least five 3-point shots in four consecutive Finals games. He has already become the third point guard in history to post 40 points and 10 rebounds in a Finals game, joining Magic Johnson and Jerry West. It’s hard to see the Warriors winning this series if Draymond Green, at the bare minimum, doesn’t start playing much better going forward.
Green is borderline unplayable right now. Kerr actually had the nerve to sit him down at various points in the fourth quarter on Friday. Klay, despite hitting a handful of CPR shots as the Warriors looked set to rest, just wasn’t able to find his shot consistently, and when he comes off the dribble, he holds his breath. .
God bless Kevon Looney and Andrew Wiggins. These guys play amazingly well. Jordan Poole and Gary Payton II both do foxhole work. Nemanja Bjelica gave huge minutes and his defense held up surprisingly well. But right now it’s all about Curry. Whether or not the Warriors win that title, this performance cements his all-time status. If the Warriors win it all, this stupid Finals MVP tale can go to the landfill where it belongs. No other warrior has a chance to shoot this material.
But it’s far. It’s now a three-game series, and those three games are going to be a war. Golden State, which has now won at least one game on the road in 27 straight playoffs — sort of a mind-boggling statistic — has regained home-court advantage, but Boston has been phenomenal on the road in those playoffs. I picked the Celtics to win in seven. I’m sticking with that because they’re the better team. But what Curry is doing just isn’t human, so really, all bets are off.