There should still be hope for the Boston Celtics. But their best likelihood to say one other banner sits firmly prior to now.
Sure, yes, in fact — Boston can technically still win this series in the event that they hold homecourt in Game 6 Thursday night after which return to San Francisco after which post a W on the Warriors’ home floor Sunday night in Game 7.
Nonetheless they find themselves getting ready to elimination because they’ve betrayed the surge of resilience and star-squashing defense that got them here. Shutting down, and pushing past, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler are impressive victories. Coping with Steph Curry — and the actual, brutal, rare, surprising effect of attempting to win an NBA title — is something else entirely.
Call it pressure. Call it fear. Call it the moment that separates the talented from the winners, the professionals from the champions. Whatever it’s, it beat the Celtics the last two games as much as Curry & Co. did.
Especially in Game 4, when the Warriors offered a win to the Celtics on a silver platter. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and their teammates simply couldn’t take it.
Like in Game 4, the Celtics entered the fourth quarter of Game 5 down a single point after a back-and-forth, hard-fought contest. Unlike in Game 4, though, Curry didn’t stand up to single-handedly beat them. They did that to themselves just effective.
In Game 4, Boston was bearing down on a 3-1 series lead and all that likely meant. Then Curry happened, and on the opposite side of a 17-3 Warriors run to shut out that game we sat at 2-2. Positive. Series still very much on. The thing about going against GOATs means you are likely going to need to take care of those big performances; the secret’s tips on how to weather the storm. However the failure in Game 5 got here with Curry decidedly mortal: 16 points, an 0-for-9 night from the 3-point line, and no fourth quarter heroics.
Curry could have beat them a number of days earlier, but this was just the Celtics, again, nervous, jittery, and unsure, beating themselves. They coughed up 4 fourth-quarter turnovers. They shot 27 percent from the sector and a putrid 25 percent from behind the arc. Tatum and Brown combined to go 2-of-9 from the sector. They broke.
To win the following two games, they’ll need to do rather a lot greater than overcome the Warriors and its all-time great star. The Celtics may have to beat something in themselves that has turned the NBA’s best team right into a shell of themselves come the fourth quarter of their last two outings.
And their failings have come against a special sort of Warriors team in comparison with those which have competed for, and won, NBA championships prior to now — a lesser one.
There is no Kevin Durant to bail out the Warriors on a Curry off-night. Klay Thompson has vacillated between mediocre and effective, Draymond Green between awful and so-so. Jordan Poole has for long stretches turned back into what looks rather a lot like a G-leaguer. Andrew Wiggins has been excellent, sure, but should you cannot beat a team within the NBA Finals on an evening wherein Wiggins is its best player, you are probably in big trouble.
Curry is Curry, yes, except for uncharacteristically off night he had Monday. But Curry historically responds to bad games within the playoffs with efficient nights of dominant, glorious offense.
“Now, that is good for us,” Green said after the sport, having seen this story before. “He was 0-for-9 from 3. He will be livid going into Game 6, and that is exactly what we’d like.”
There are numerous Xs and Os you possibly can study, loads of numbers that may tell the story of huge sample sizes and statistical realities of each these teams. There are the sport plans Boston can, and may, draw up to copy what they’ve done well for long stretches of a series they must be winning, and so forth.
But as two-time NBA champion Isiah Thomas told me, all that stuff goes out the window when the pressure is turned all the best way as much as maximum. “The pressure is real,” he said. “Some players, some great players, can handle it. Some cannot.”
But the actual answer to how Boston wins this thing is straightforward and twofold: Don’t let Curry beat you, and do not beat yourself.
On the primary one: Good luck. Curry, as I’ve written, is probably going going to finish his profession as a Top-5 all-time player, an all-time talent too often underappreciated, earning the dues he deserves long after the very fact. But he’s the very best player on the ground on this series, he’s shown he can single-handedly win a game if he must, and in Game 5 his teammates began to offer the sort of help he could have used all along. Curry, as Green said, goes to be livid Thursday night, and he’ll be dangerous.
However the second point addresses why this series feels finished: No team can win a championship if the closer they get to it, the quicker they fade. And the Celtics have been a bundle of nerves and worry and poor play within the moments wherein a hoop has been at its closes — turning the ball over, playing hot potato, lacking a star willing to seize the moment.
Tatum has been off much of this series. Brown has had several lackluster second halves. Marcus Smart has not filled that void. And you possibly can only ask Al Horford and Derrick White to save lots of the day in a fourth quarter of an NBA Finals once — and once looks like one time too many.
The Celtics have a likelihood Thursday night, and as head coach Ime Udoka identified, they were on this exact position, down 3-2 and facing elimination, earlier this postseason against last yr’s champs, the Milwaukee Bucks.
But playoffs basketball is about adjustments, and the one Boston must make is the one we’ve not seen them make yet: The power to seize a series, under probably the most intense sensation of hope and fear, when something as rare as a championship presents itself.
We have seen enough to know that Steph Curry can. Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics are still trying to understand just tips on how to match him when it matters most.