Boston Celtics are in the NBA Finals, they rarely lose. And it’s virtually impossible to close out the Finals in Boston.
The Celtics are 17-4 when they advance to the Finals. That’s pretty impressive. What’s more impressive is that the 1985 Los Angeles Lakers are the only visiting team to win the title on the Celtics’ home court.
Steve Kerr believes you can add the Golden State Warriors to that list.
After they beat the Celtics in Game 5 in San Francisco to take a 3-2 series lead, the Warriors’ coach told his team in the postgame locker room, “We’re going to get this in Boston. We’re going to finish this in Boston.”
So-called bulletin board material may be irrelevant in the Finals, but it did raise some eyebrows around the NBA punditry. How will the Celtics respond?
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The Boston Celtics came out on a mission. They started the game on a 12-2 run, thanks to a better start from stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who share eight of those points.
Brown knocked down a 3 to put the Celtics 9-2. The next possession, Tatum followed suit and knocked down his first shot beyond the arc to extend the Celtics’ lead to 12-2. Warriors coach Steve Kerr called a timeout soon after. Boston is shooting 66.7% (4-for-6) from the field and is 2-for-2 from 3-point range.
The Celtics have converted two Warriors turnovers into five points.
If the Golden State Warriors win Game 6 or Game 7 — maybe even if they lose, too — Steph Curry is practically a lock to be named the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals.
This will happen mostly because he deserves it, despite playing a poor game by his standards in Game 5. It will also be a make-good gesture for Curry, who probably should have won Finals MVP in 2015 instead of Andre Igoudala, who got the award after scoring 25 points in the close-out game and getting a lot of credit for his defense on LeBron James. Reasonable minds can disagree on this stuff.
But one thing that would help lend some historical clarity and consistency to the voting process would be getting rid of the most *valuable* player nomenclature and changing it to most *outstanding* player in the series.
The value of a single player in a basketball game, or in any team sport, is often hard to gauge and highly debatable. Identifying the best player in a series is much easier — and more appropriate.
The word “valuable” is an incentive for voters to overthink it. For instance, it’s quite obvious that Curry has been the best player in the series. It’s not particularly close, and that would be true whether the Warriors were winning or losing. But it’s also fair to say that the Warriors would be in position to close this out if not for Andrew Wiggins, who has played an immense role on both sides of the floor and picked up the slack offensively with 26 points in Game 5 when Curry went 0-for-9 from the 3-point line.
In other words, the Warriors won the most pivotal game of the series thus far because Wiggins was the most important player. Based on the criteria of the word valuable, it would not be outlandish to give Wiggins a vote at this point.
— Dan Wolken
If the Warriors were down 3-2 and Boston had the chance to close things out tonight, we’d be potentially debating whether Steph Curry could win MVP if his team didn’t win. It’s not hard to find examples where the most valuable player of a series could be on the losing team, but it would be highly controversial to give that person the MVP award because the mere existence of that award suggests it should go to someone on the winning team.
How about just calling it the most outstanding player award, in which case we would all have a more consistent understanding of how it should be voted on? Identifying the best player — win or lose — is a worthy enough idea.
— Dan Wolken
Even with their backs against the wall, it’s business as usual for the Celtics.
When asked pregame whether the mood in the locker room was angry or nervous, Celtics coach Ime Udoka didn’t flinch. His guys have been in this position before.
The Celtics’ Game 5 loss Monday was the first time they had dropped consecutive games this postseason. They haven’t lost three straight games since December 25-29, 2021.
Boston is a changed unit since then. The Celtics were 16-19 after that December 29 defeat but found their stride in the new year to finish the regular season 51-31, proceeding to knock off the Nets, Bucks and Heat, respectively, in the playoffs. The Celtics also trailed 3-2 in their series against the Bucks.
Udoka said that early-season adversity gave the Celtics a “bounce-back ability” that helped them stay focused on details instead of getting caught up in the big picture.
“We do have a short memory and that’s worked well for us and put it behind us,” Udoka said. “And also being in these situations throughout the year where we had to battle back after a big hole early in the season, all of those things bode well for us.”
— Richard Morin
Steph Curry is looking to bounce back from a Game 5 shooting slump, where he turned in 16 points, his lowest point production of the NBA Finals. But that’s the exact position that Steve Kerr and Draymond Green want Curry in as the Warriors look to close out the Celtics on the road in Game 6 on Thursday.
“He was 0-for-9 from 3. He’s going to be livid going into Game 6,” Green said on Monday. “That’s exactly what we need.”
Curry shot 7-for-22 from the field and a shocking 0-for-9 from 3-point range, ending a streak of 233 postseason and regular-season games that he’s made a 3-pointer.
“Even for the best shooter in the world, you know, games like this happen,” Kerr said Monday. “And fortunately they don’t happen too often. I like Steph coming off of a game like this, too. I like his ability to bounce back.”
Klay Thompson said the Warriors never have to worry about Curry: “I just know he’ll respond. He’s one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever been around. And he’s a perfectionist, like myself. I know he’ll be thinking about the shots he missed. And that’s a good thing, because Thursday, hopefully, most of the time, he regresses to the mean, and it’s scary when he does.”
— Cydney Henderson
Jayson Tatum has turned in a shaky series so far, displaying moments of pure brilliance, while pulling a disappearing act in critical minutes.
During the fourth quarter of Game 5, Tatum had only five points on 1-for-5 shooting, in addition to a critical turnover. He also missed two free throws that could have cut the Warriors’ lead to eight with five minutes left.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka said the Celtics need Tatum to “be aggressive and make the right read” all game long. That starts with Tatum getting off to a better start and finishing strong. Fatigue could have been a factor, but Tatum is going to have to turn in a consistent performance if the Celtics are going to force a Game 7.
A lot has been made of the Warriors’ trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins at the trade deadline in 2020.
The Warriors acquired Wiggins and a 2021 first-round pick for for D’Angelo Russell, Jacob Evans III and Omari Spellman.
Earlier this season, Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob said it was “one of the greatest deals, certainly maybe the greatest deal we’ve ever done.” He has gotten plenty of agreement. And the deal looks better by the day.
Offered stability for the first time in his career, Wiggins, who played for four head coaches in Minnesota, is thriving to the point that he could get some Finals MVP votes if he has another monster game to carry the Warriors.
“When he (Wiggins) first came here, and I’ll never forget, it was when Thibs wasn’t with the Knicks, and Thibs was like, ‘You’re going to love him. He competes. He defends,’ ” Draymond Green said after Game 5. “And he was telling us Jimmy loved him. And we all know how Jimmy Butler is. If you have any softness to you, Jimmy don’t like you. That’s how Jimmy is cut.”
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