NBA Finals: Warriors’ supporting cast flip the script and carry Stephen Curry in the deciding Game 5 win over Celtics


NBA Finals: Warriors' supporting cast flip the script and carry Stephen Curry in the deciding Game 5 win over Celtics

SAN FRANCISCO — If a fortune teller told you that Stephen Curry would make history in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, you would probably guess that the Golden State Warriors would walk away with a win. After all, Curry pulled off a stunning performance of 43 points and 10 rebounds in Game 4 that put him in the respected point guard company of legends Magic Johnson and Jerry West. The possibilities, it seemed, were endless.

You would then curse the shady fortune teller from the bottom of your heart when you realized the story Curry wrote was of the nefarious variety. The greatest shooter of all time went 0-for-9 from 3-point range Monday night, marking the first time in 132 straight playoff games — 233 straight games including the regular season — that he didn’t have a single 3- scored Pointer. Curry finished the first four games of the finals with 16 points, nearly 20 below his average.

And yet this Warriors team, who had found virtually no offense outside of Curry in the Finals, worked, struggled, and pushed their way to a 104-94 win over the Boston Celtics to take a 3-2 lead and up coming close to a single win the franchise’s fourth NBA title in eight seasons.

Seeing the Warriors on Monday was like seeing the fresh Prince of Bel-Air after they replaced Aunt Viv with another actress. You know it’s the same show, but it’s just different than what you’re used to.

All the talk in Game 5 revolved around how hard Curry had carried the warriors. It was the subject of Talking Head shows, a topic in Sunday’s media availability, and the stuff of hilarity from NBA social media legend King Josiah.

In Game 5 on Monday, however, the rest of the Warriors did more than just carry their own weight. They also carried curry.

“I think we have a really great group, intelligent group of individuals. Very high IQ of the game and we’re just trying to make it easy for every single one of us, every teammate,” Warriors guard Gary Payton II said after the game win. “Really everyone is just themselves and selfless and trying to play for themselves but again they are playing for their teammates who are doing that.”

The supporting cast begins with Andrew Wiggins, who for the second straight game looked like the second-best player on the Golden State roster — possibly the second-best player on the show. He posted 26 points, 13 rebounds, two steals and a block in a monstrous 43 minutes and once again assumed responsibility for guarding Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Wiggins was floored all over, scoring 10 points in 5-for-6 shooting in the fourth quarter and capping matters with an emphatic dunk that ended any faint hope of a late Celtics comeback.

“We don’t get any more excited than when Wiggs dives in on someone and meanly mugs them,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said after the game. “And that really uplifts the entire team and the Bay Area.”

Wiggins wasn’t the only one working while Curry struggled. Thompson had 21 points on 5-for-11 shooting from 3-point range, another in a string of clutch performances that put the Warriors’ lives on the line after the season. Draymond Green, who has been much maligned over the past two weeks, amassed eight points – nearly half his total in the first four games of the series combined – and set the tone from the opening lead with eight rebounds and six assists with his energy and his Pressure at both ends of the floor.

With Kevon Looney limited to 17 minutes due to early foul problems, Warriors coach Steve Kerr switched to smaller lineups, which allowed Payton to thrive. He displayed his unique combination of elite perimeter defense and inside scoring en route to 15 points, five rebounds and three steals in 6-for-8 shooting.

“The guy’s a workaholic. He’s amazing,” Kerr said after beating Payton in Game 5. “Amazing athlete, great defensive player. He has really good instincts out there and is obviously super competitive. … He’s come a long way and now he’s getting a chance to shine in the final, so it’s great.”

In terms of momentum, perhaps no player was more important to the Warriors’ win than Jordan Poole. The 22-year-old weathered his ups and downs during his first playoff run, but came to the rescue at the end of a third quarter in which the Celtics had turned a 12-point halftime deficit to a five-point lead. When the buzzer was ready to sound at the end of the period, Poole launched a 38-foot pitcher that hit the glass and went into the bank. It was his second long buzzer beater of the series, and it gave the Warriors a head start they couldn’t have given up.

“It was a crucial part of the game for us to respond to that,” Kerr said. “Jordan took a couple of big hits at the end of third and then had a good stretch to start fourth as well. But the reaction to Boston’s run to me was key to the game.”

The fact that the Warriors’ supporting cast appear in a big moment is no coincidence. Kerr has always made it a point to give the last man on the bench a handful of minutes every few games, knowing from his own experience as a roleplaying player that not only does going too long without game action freeze you up, it also Feeling of connectedness leaves from the team. For the past three seasons since Kevin Durant left the Warriors, critics have consistently called for more straight-forward pick-and-roll from Curry. Even with a at times young, inexperienced and ill-fitting roster, Kerr has maintained that his fluid, ball-movement-focused offense creates the most cohesion and therefore produces the best results when it counts.

“Man, there’s just a lot of great people here. Great people here, challenging you. They hold you accountable,” Wiggins said after the game. “The support system, everyone on this team, this organization, they support you and they want to see you do good and they empower you to do good.”

Kerr always plays the long game, and it paid off in Game 5 amid his franchise player’s uncharacteristic struggles. That’s what the story says Curry will recover mightily in Game 6 on Thursdaybut the roleplayers have proven they can win even when he doesn’t, and it’s a worrying development for Boston.

“The fact that everyone’s gone up – Wiggs, JP, Klay hit some big shots, Draymond has found his life and his spirit and the way he’s affecting the game,” Curry said. “We could stand going 9-for-40 [on 3-pointers] as a team and I 0-for-9 and still get a win from it. Obviously the track record says I’ll shoot the ball better in the next game. I’m looking forward to this setback.”

You May Also Like