In my Game Four analysis, I mentioned that my friend Tim had announced that “the series is over” after the Warriors went down 2-1 in the Finals. After Steve Kerr gave his “It’s not over until we say it’s over” speech, the Warriors won Game Four. Steph Curry was the story of that game, playing what was likely his best playoff game ever, all things considered.
In Game Five, all Warriors other than Stephen Curry played well, and Andrew Wiggins in particular led the Warriors to a win and a 3-2 lead in the Finals. However, the Warriors still need to win one more game, and the series is not over. This is a fact Al Horford apparently failed to recognize, just like my friend Tim did before Game Four. In his post-game interview, Horford apparently gave up on the season:
“Our backs are against the wall. This is the time that we look at each other in the eyes and we got to figure it out. We have an opportunity now. Got to figure it out. There’s no tomorrow for us.”
Al, there is a tomorrow for you. Indeed, you play Game Six tomorrow. I really hope somebody gets word to Horford before he books a flight to Cancun. If, and only if, the Celtics lose Game Six, tomorrow will in fact not exist for the Celtics.
Perhaps Horford was confused by Game Five. We all were. Mike Breen ruined the lead for all sportswriters when he asked if anyone could have expected the Warriors to win in a game in which Curry went 0-9 from three. Not that Curry seemed all that upset by the streak being over. This is exactly the look you want on your best player’s face after his team wins even though he did not play well:
I won’t go into all the amazing shooting streaks Curry’s “0-for” game broke because you can read those all over. What I haven’t seen elsewhere is that Curry was on pace — before Game Five — to break his own record for threes in the Finals: 32. Curry had 25 going into Game Five. He also had 25 after Game Five.
You may ask who had the second most three-pointers in a Finals. Spurs fans know the answer: DannyGreen!! In 2013, the precursor to the 2014 Redemption Finals, DG made 25 three-pointers, the Finals record at the time. My guess is that Curry will make at least one three in Game Six (and/or Game Seven, if necessary), so DG will drop to third. But DannyGreen!! is still on the podium, which may help him as he rehabs.
- Before the Finals started, I predicted that we would have less blow-outs than occurred in the playoffs leading up to the Finals. While every game has been decided by ten or more points, Game Five was certainly not a blow-out. The Warriors were down two points with .02 (that is .02, not two seconds) left on the clock in the third quarter, and only went up by one point entering the fourth quarter because of this:
While no one likes endless replays, the ability to determine whether a shot like Jordan Poole’s is good, or not, enhances the game. Especially when the officials can get it so clearly right based on irrefutable photographic evidence. It would have been great if the Warriors won by one or two points, and that tenth of a second was the difference. Side note: Poole started the fourth quarter by air-balling a three-pointer.
- Another Poole-related thought: Even though his minutes were memorable, Poole only played 14 minutes in the game. It seemed like he played more. Perhaps Kerr thinks Poole might be a bit redundant when Curry is on the floor. In any event, undrafted journeyman Gary Payton, Jr. played almost twice as much as Poole. Payton Jr. played 26 minutes and went 6 for 8 from the floor, including one more three-pointers than the best shooter ever. He also had three steals. When Curry came back into the game in the fourth quarter, Steve Kerr decided that he wanted to have Payton on the floor for the rest of the game. On his first play after subbing in, Payton had a perfect defensive possession. First he helped on a Marcus Smart penetration, quickly bounced back to Jaylen Brown to prevent a three after a kick-out pass, and then stripped Brown’s dribble as he penetrated. Coaches absolutely love making a substitution that immediately pays huge dividends, especially in the fourth quarter.
Gary Payton II is so damn good at defense.. This steal is HUGE, but notice the perfect rotations by him this whole possession too. He puts himself in good spots on defense #DubNation pic.twitter.com/QYEuVBUezq— Mavs / Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) June 14, 2022
- For the Celtics, Robert Williams has had a similar impact. He was the only player in the Celtics rotation with a positive plus-minus. R. Williams was plus-11 in his 30 minutes on the floor. In contrast, Grant Williams was minus-18 in his 16 minutes. Put another way, because Grant essentially played the non-Robert minutes, the difference between the two Williams was 29 points. Grant’s agent will likely not mention Game Five when negotiating his next contract.
- Has anyone else noticed this about Steve Kerr and Steph Curry? No, not just that they are two of the best shooters ever, and that Kerr coaches Curry. Their names are remarkably similar. “Kerr” even rhymes with the Curr in Curry. Their first names are Steve and Steph. Perhaps Steph Curry’s alter ego is mild-mannered Steve Kerr. Or vice versa.
- I don’t remember any game in which both teams went so hot and cold. The Celtics missed their first 12 threes and then made 8 (!) in a row. When the Celtics finally missed a three, they got the offensive rebound and kicked it out to Marcus Smart, who made another three. At one point, the Warriors missed 14 consecutive threes. The Warriors!
- And then, after their torrid third quarter, the Celtics went 1 for 12 from the floor on all of their shots in the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter. Spoiler alert: If you make only one basket in the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter of a hotly contested Game Five in the NBA Finals, you will likely lose that game, and it might just feel like there is no tomorrow. Just ask Al Horford.