Though the Warriors are not facing imminent elimination in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the fact of the matter is tonight’s game is a must-win.
The Dubs came into this series with home court advantage and were heavily favored to emerge victorious. But after four games—two of which have ended in the agony of defeat—the series is tied. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Jordan Poole aren’t turning in the kinds of performances that sent the Nuggets, Grizzlies and Mavericks packing in earlier rounds of the playoffs. And Stephen Curry has been trying to carry the entire team on his back… sometimes with just one shoe on.
So, yeah. If Golden State can’t put up a W tonight—the third game of this championship series to be played at Chase Center—we’re concerned that the Celtics could seal the deal when they return home to the TD Garden.
We aren’t the only ones biting our nails. Evidence of Warriors-worry is everywhere. In the past week alone, Draymond Green’s mother has openly speculated that her son might have been cloned; in an effort to give the slip to his yips, “Namaste” Klay Thompson took a dip in the Bay; and our friends over at The Examiner did a Q&A with Stephen Curry’s left foot.
But rather than put our foot in our mouth on Twitter, plunge feet-first into the frigid waters off of Belvedere, or strike up an imaginary conversation with “lefty,” we’re just going to pose a series of hypothetical questions before tonight’s 6 p.m. tipoff. Hopefully that will assuage our anxiety over the fate of our favorite hoops squad.
Anyone who doubts Curry’s skills on the court is clearly not a basketball fan, or at the very least an unbearable hater. Curry has been the best player on the court for either team during the Finals, and, to be honest, it hasn’t been all that close.
Great performances always lead to debates around legacy. Curry—nearly singlehandedly in the case of Game 4—put his team on his back and carried them over the finish line. Now the question goes to whether he can fill the remaining gap in his resume and win a Finals MVP—even if the team loses.
It’s only happened once: The very first time the Finals MVP was awarded, back in 1969 to Lakers legend Jerry West. But we’ve rarely seen a player impact the game like Curry. The point guard has been putting absolutely gaudy numbers up while facing the best defense in the league and has been clearly the most valuable player in the series. Hell, Shaq just said he’s a top 10 player all time, so take that for data. Whether he still deserves to hoist that trophy if his team falls short is another question, so have fun with that one.
It’s getting pretty bad when your own mom is calling you out for your performance on Twitter. Green has had an outright dismal series thusfar, failing to knock in a single three-pointer or score in double-digits even once in four games. Magic Johnson even aplauded Coach Kerr for benching Green during a critical strench in Game 4. His stats during the Finals have consisted of three “triple-singles” as defined by frequent sparring partner Charles Barkley. Even on his podcast, the normally feisty heart of the Warriors team has been sounding a bit dejected. Is this the swan song of a player who’s spent his entire career proving his critics wrong or the backdrop for a legendary comeback as the series comes to a head? Who knows, but it’ll be something to watch either way.
It’s not something fans would have predicted beforehand, but Andrew Wiggins has emerged as the Warriors’ most consistent player behind #30. The team has relied on his defensive court coverage, and the athletic forward has demonstrated a competitive fire many said was lacking while fighting for rebounds and loose balls. A former No. 1 pick, Wiggins has struggled throughout his professional career with meeting the expectations thrust upon him as a young player, but has developed into a vital piece on this Warriors team even while being the subject of myriad trade rumors. Turns out all you need to be a winner is a team with multiple Hall of Famers (including your coach) and a willingness to get vaccinated.
Perhaps a baptism in the frigid waters of the Bay are all the Warriors’ star shooting guard needs to get reenergized. Klay Thompson has made Game 6 heroics a hallmark of his playoff tenure on the team. He drained 11 shots from beyond the arc in 2016’s Game 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Then he put up 27 points without Kevin Durant during the Warriors’ ill-fated 2019 Finals appereance against the the Toronto Raptors. Most recently, there was his 30-point performance to close our the Memphis Grizzlies in May.
Then again, Thompson also tore his ACL in the aforementioned Game 6 against the Raptors. That injury kicked off a more than 30-month rehab process. Now that he’s back in the race for a championship—and with a number of his teammates underperforming under the bright lights—the Warriors may need him to don his Game 6 superhero cape yet again. We just hope he can turn up the heat without doing more damage to his body.
We couldn’t conclude our list without considering the team from Boston—especially given that their best player has a history of choking at the end of the game. Jayson Tatum, the Celtics’ purported “superstar” has played more like an asteroid falling back down to earth during the fourth quarter of the series. He has shot 25% and averaged fewer than 3 points in the fourth quarter during the finals. In a tweet surely meant to troll Celtics fans, StatMuse noted that Steph Curry is averaging more points per game (34.3) than Tatum’s overall field goal percentage (34.1) in the Finals. Honestly though, we’re more than happy to enjoy the rest of Tatum’s magic show, particularly if it continues to include a late-game disappearing act.
Kevin Truong can be reached at email@example.com