With things tied up at 2-2 between the Warriors, and the Celtics, the 2022 NBA Finals have been just about everything hoops fans hoped for out of this series. A back and forth affair with no team winning consecutive games (yet, at least) is always great from an entertainment perspective.
For the Warriors, they’re going to have to win back-to-back games if they want to come out on top, and Boston hasn’t dropped consecutive games once throughout the postseason. In fact, since January 23, the Celtics have only lost consecutive games once.
But winning a championship is never an easy feat, and the Warriors know this more than most. Once the opening tip goes up, none of those stats mean anything.
What are the keys to the Warriors winning two out of the next possibly three games?
Can Curry Keep it Up?
Stephen Curry has to be great. Curry’s heard all the noise and chatter and myths about how he doesn’t show up when it matters the most, and through the first four games of this series, he has been great. That hasn’t stopped the ridiculous chatter about his lack of “signature” NBA Finals performances, but how’s 43 points and 10 rebounds on shooting splits of 54/50/89 in what was essentially a must-win game in the TD Garden for a signature performance?
In these Finals’ Curry is averaging 34.3 points per game while shooting 50% from the field and 49% from deep; he’s having the performance of a lifetime but will it be enough?
The blueprint for the Warriors to beat the Celtics is there, but that doesn’t make it any easier to execute. But it all starts with Curry.
The Akron native is the straw that stirs the drink, so to speak. Curry is the one guy on Golden State that puts fear into the hearts of the Boston defense, and rightfully so. Besides Kevon Looney, Curry’s been the only consistent Warrior throughout the four games of this series thus far. I love me some Kevon Looney, and we’ll touch on him a little later, but nobody fears Looney. Nobody on the Celtics is fearing Andrew Wiggins or even Klay Thompson, right now at least.
Boston fears the guy who’s routinely hitting 30-foot shots like it’s normal. Curry makes it look effortless but what he’s doing in this series, and what he’s done over the last eight or nine years of his career is by no means anything in the vicinity of the norm.
Curry has to be phenomenal for the Warriorsto even have a chance but he’s given no reason to believe he can’t keep playing at this level for another two or three games. It’s only going to get more difficult but he’s one of the best to ever step between those lines for a reason.
The “Others” Need to Perform
In the Warriors’ two wins in this series, not only was Curry performing well but his teammates stepped up, too. Nobody has ever won a championship by themselves, and this year won’t be any different.
In game two’s 107-88 win, Looney had 12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and a block. In that same game, Jordan Poole stepped up with 17 points and 3 assists while knocking down five of his nine three-point attempts. Draymond Green also stepped up with what was his best game of the series with 9 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and a steal and a block each, not to mention he set the tone of that game from the very first possession.
In game four’s win, not only was Curry astronomical, but both Looney and Wiggins helped control the glass combining for 27 rebounds, and Wiggins even chipped in 17 points. Thompson chipped in 18 points on 4-10 from deep, including the shot to secure the lead late in the fourth quarter. And not so coincidentally, Jordan Poole had another good outing in which he contributed 14 points.
It doesn’t take just one player being great to win a championship. It takes an entire group of players to be great in their individual roles to be the last team standing. The production doesn’t have to come from the same players every night but it’s going to take a village to get past Boston.
Doing the Little Things
In the two games the Warriors have won, they’ve done the little things extremely well. You don’t get to this point in the season without doing those things, but in the NBA Finals, they get stressed a bit more. If you have a mental lapse as a team that lasts a few minutes or even a few possessions, it can be enough to put you in a hole that you can’t climb out of.
In game three, those lapses happened far too often for the Warriors on the defensive end. In their 116-100 loss, they gave up 15 offensive rebounds which led to 22 second-chance points for Boston, doubling that of the Warriors. They were often late in their rotations too, giving up 52 points in the paint.
The Warriors, who have the smaller margin for error, must be locked in on both ends for 48 minutes. Small things like setting good screens to free up Curry and the rest of Golden State’s scorers, not getting beat so easily off the dribble, being the right spots defensively and having the proper spacing offensively are all things the Warriors must do to get that fourth ring.
Curry and company are still waiting for a true offensive explosion as a team in these Finals and Jordan Poole suspects it may be coming.
To Poole’s point, the Warriors did seem to miss a healthy amount of open threes in their two games in Boston, but their attention to detail on the defensive end is what’s separated them in their wins and losses.
The Warriors are going to have Chase Center bumping in game five, and I’ve got the Warriors sending their fans home ecstatic, holding a 3-2 lead heading back to Boston for game six.
Main Image Credit: Stephen Curry/AP