BOSTON — For two days, Golden State forward Draymond Green saw it in teammate Stephen Curry. The fire Curry plays with isn’t always obvious to outsiders, but Green could feel it seething inside him.
Their team was 2-1 down in the NBA Finals and Curry didn’t want to let them lose Game 4.
On Friday evening, everyone else also saw this emotion.
After one of his two 3-pointers in the first quarter, Curry yelled at the packed crowd of Boston Celtics fans who showed up early to chase him and his teammates. It’s been a long road in that game, one of the finest of his illustrious career, but he called out to send a message.
“It felt like we just had to let everyone know we’re here tonight,” Curry said.
He added: “You can want it so badly, you get in your own way a little bit and everyone feels a little pressured and it can go the opposite way too. I wanted to try to take that in a positive direction so we can start the game.”
On Friday night in front of a hostile crowd in Boston, Golden State leveled their streak with the Celtics 2-2 and regained home field advantage. Golden State won, 107-97.
Curry scored 43 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, becoming the third Warriors player to score at least 40 points and 10 rebounds in an NBA Finals game. Rick Barry did so in 1967 and Kevin Durant did so in 2018. Curry, Michael Jordan and LeBron James are the only players 34 and older to score 40 or more points in an NBA Finals game.
As Golden State extended their lead in the final minutes of Game 4, the Celtics fans began to leave. As Curry got to the free-throw line with 19.1 seconds remaining, an “MVP” chant could be heard from the arena’s upper deck.
The series returns to San Francisco for Game 5 on Monday, followed by Game 6 in Boston on Thursday.
The crowd heartily booed the Golden State players, beginning with their pregame warm-ups.
When Klay Thompson appeared on the pitch an hour before the game, he was booed by a group of fans in the lower bowl. He greeted her with his arms and encouraged her to raise her voice. Green reappeared a few minutes later, triggering an even louder burst of boos. Two nights earlier, Thompson had criticized the crowd for singing profanity at the Green.
The Celtics went into the game with the goal of giving Golden State its first consecutive losses in this year’s playoffs. Prior to Friday’s game, Golden State had won all five games that followed losses this postseason.
But Boston understood the strong grip a 3-1 lead can hold in a best-of-seven series.
“We understand that we have the chance to do something special and put pressure on tonight,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka before the game.
The Celtics gained confidence from the way they played in the last game.
“We need to repeat what we did in Game 3,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said Thursday. “We have reduced our sales. We reduced our second chance points and offensive rebounds. We just controlled the game, the game we wanted to play.”
Golden State changed their starting lineup in Game 4 for the first time of the series, replacing Kevon Looney with Otto Porter Jr.
This season’s playoffs have been marked by blowouts, and the Celtics have featured in several of them, including all three that came during the finals. Boston won Game 1 by 12 points, lost Game 2 by 19 points, and won Game 3 by 16 points.
But early on, Game 4 promised it could be a hard-fought matchup that would remain interesting until the end.
Curry and Boston’s Jayson Tatum each scored 12 points in the first quarter.
“Everyone was emotional tonight,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr. “When we were down 2-1, we had to come out with some desperation and more physicality than we showed in Game 3. So it was a team-wide sense of aggression and emotion. It all started with the opening tip.
“Steph doesn’t usually show a lot of emotion but a night like tonight justified it.”
The first quarter ended with Tatum passing the ball in color to Robert Williams III, who flicked it out to Grant Williams in the corner for a 3. Grant Williams’ 3 gave Boston a 28-27 lead going into the second quarter.
By half-time, the lead had changed hands six times and it was a draw five times.
Celtic guard Jaylen Brown shone in the second quarter. He scored 10 points and Boston surpassed Golden State by nine points while he was on the court that quarter.
Boston had slightly extended their lead to 54-49 by halftime.
But Golden State wouldn’t go quiet, especially with curry available. He had 33 points going into the fourth quarter after scoring 14 in the third.
With eight minutes to go, the game was tied at 86.
Thompson picked up his fourth foul at 5:33 into the game. The crowd chanted at him the same obscene chant they gave Green in Game 3, but replaced “Draymond” with “Klay”. About a minute later, Thompson’s 3-pointer gave Golden State a 95-94 lead.
Boston scored just once in the last five minutes of the game.
After Game 3, there was some doubt that Curry would be available for Game 4 because he injured his foot on a pileup while struggling for a loose ball. Curry participated in Golden State’s shootaround Friday morning and was cleared to play.
After Curry’s performance on Friday night, the second-highest-scoring final of his career, the first question Kerr was asked in the post-game press conference was a cheeky question about how he thought Curry’s foot held up. Kerr laughed.
“I think he was really working out there,” Kerr quipped. “He really fought.”
Thompson was also first asked about Curry when he mounted the podium after the game.
“This man’s heart is amazing,” Thompson said. “You know, the things he does we take for granted from time to time, but to go out there and get on his back I think we have to help him on Monday. Wow.”