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Saturday, June 11, 2022

Curry Shines as Warriors Tie Series, Regain Homecourt Advantage

Stephen Curry authored perhaps the best NBA Finals game of his storied career to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 107-97 win over the Boston Celtics. The Warriors not only tied the series at 2-2, but they also reclaimed the homecourt advantage that they lost after dropping game one. Curry scored 43 points on 14-26 field goal shooting while also grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing for four assists. He was one of only three Warriors with a double digit plus/minus number (+11). Curry was consistent throughout the game, scoring 12 first quarter points, seven second quarter points, 14 third quarter points, and 10 fourth quarter points. Curry's scoring outburst is unexpected not because he is incapable of scoring efficiently at a prolific rate, but simply because it is unusual for him to score efficiently at a prolific rate in the NBA Finals, particularly in game four or later. 

While Curry is without question this game's headliner and dominant performer, he received significant help from Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney. Wiggins scored 17 points while grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds. During this series, Wiggins has often been one of the few Warriors capable of matching up athletically and physically with the Celtics, and his +20 plus/minus number in game four indicates that the Warriors would have struggled to win this game without him. Looney only scored six points, but he had 11 rebounds in 28 minutes, and he led both teams with a +21 plus/minus number. Looney plays in the paint like a traditional big man, and the Warriors figured out that they do not have much chance of winning this series by going small with Draymond Green at center; in game four, Green was again outmatched physically, finishing with two points on 1-7 field goal shooting, though he did offset his anemic scoring to some extent with a very good floor game (nine rebounds, eight assists, four steals). Green's plus/minus number of +0 in 33 minutes reflects the reality that the Warriors did most of their damage in the 15 minutes that he did not ply.

Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole made solid contributions. Thompson scored 18 points on 7-17 field goal shooting, while Poole added 14 points on 6-13 field goal shooting. 

The Warriors outrebounded the Celtics 55-42, and they outshot the Celtics from the field, .440 to .400. Most significantly and unexpectedly, the Warriors outscored the Celtics in the paint 38-32 after losing that category 52-26 in game three. The Warriors set an NBA record by winning at least one road game for the 27th straight playoff series.

Jayson Tatum had solid boxscore totals (23 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, +1 plus/minus number), but he squandered too many possessions, shooting just 8-23 from the field while committing six turnovers; Tatum's missed layups and careless ballhandling proved to be very costly for the Celtics. Throughout this series, Tatum has been inefficient with his scoring opportunities at the rim, seeming at times to be more focused on trying to draw a foul than on converting the shot regardless of whether or not the referee will blow their whistles.

Jaylen Brown did his part, scoring 21 points on 9-19 field goal shooting and committing just two turnovers. Robert Williams III scored seven points on 3-3 field goal shooting, grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds, and blocked two shots in 31 minutes. He was the only Celtic other than Tatum with a positive plus/minus number (+6), but he did not get enough help inside from Al Horford (eight points, six rebounds, four assists) and Grant Williams (three points, one rebound in just 13 minutes).

Marcus Smart (18 points on 7-18 field goal shooting) and Derrick White (16 points on 4-12 field goal shooting) missed far too many shots, and they had the worst plus/minus numbers in this game (-17 and -19 respectively). 

Golden State's 10 point margin of victory obscures the fact that Boston controlled the action for most of the game. Boston jumped out to an 11-4 first quarter lead, and the Celtics were up 54-49 at halftime. The Celtics led for most of the third quarter--withstanding the Warriors' typical surge during that stanza--but the Warriors entered the fourth quarter with a slim 79-78 edge after Curry drained a three pointer to close out the third quarter scoring.

The Celtics have been the better fourth quarter team throughout this series, and they were up 94-90 after Smart's three pointer with 5:18 remaining, but their offense fell apart just short of the finish line as the Warriors went on a 10-0 run. During that key stretch, the Celtics--who enjoy advantages in size and athleticism--did not attempt a single shot from closer than 13 feet, and they missed five straight three pointers. Holding the Warriors to 107 points should be good enough to win, but the Celtics did not convert enough of their defensive stops into high percentage scoring opportunities. Curry's 43 point performance will deservedly receive headlines, but the Celtics would enjoy a 3-1 series lead now despite Curry's heroics if they had scored more efficiently in the paint.

Why should we believe that the Celtics will win this series after losing game four at home? The Warriors are not going to become bigger or more athletic, so their disadvantages in this series cannot be fixed. In contrast, the Celtics are capable of cutting down on their turnovers, improving their clutch time shot selection, and finishing more efficiently in the paint. If the Celtics do those things, they will win game five, and they will win game six as well.

Throughout the playoffs, I have noted that momentum is a myth and I have stated that I am not a commentator who changes his series prediction after every game. I picked the Celtics to win this series in six games and the Celtics are still in position to make that happen; during the 2022 playoffs,  the Celtics have not lost two consecutive games and they are 8-3 on the road.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:46 AM



At Saturday, June 11, 2022 2:08:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


David I agree that Boston will win next 2 games

But Jayson Tatum not a super star he a star

This is his sixth or seven bad game this playoff run

He 14-51 inside the paint

He not athletic and misses too many layups

When he drives he constantly turns ball over

And his court vision bad

He cost them this game.

Brown been they best player in finals and playoff run

Curry been great this final run

I still don't think he a one option cause he 6ft 3 and a below avg defender

Plus Boston going under screen which is dumb

They have success going over screen

Boston is better still tho they will win

At Saturday, June 11, 2022 5:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really don't know what to make of the Celtics defensive strategy on Steph that they've utilized all series, often going in drop coverage which gives him a ton of space but also helps to eliminate the 4vs3 scenarios that the Warriors often try to abuse

If they win the series it'll be looked at as a brilliant and unorthodox strategy but if they lose it'll be looked at as a very foolish strategy

At Saturday, June 11, 2022 12:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Seems like Jason Tatum's limitations on offense are being exposed, like he only knows how to shoot three-pointers or take iso-drives to the hoop looking for the foul call. Kobe Bryant's supposed to be his (posthumous) mentor. How about Tatum developing a mid-range game in emulation of Bryant or Jordan? Some drop-steps, some 10- to 15-foot fadeaways (maybe study Nowitzky too). At 6'8" Tatum's tall enough that he could also feasibly look to Kevin McHale or Hakeem Olajuwon in terms of back-to-the-basket footwork, work on some jump hooks, to break down his often mismatched opponents.

For all that talent, Tatum's offensive repertoire just seems more or less two-dimensional. He desperately needs a more complete floor game if he'd be a superstar on the level of some of the above-mentioned.

At Saturday, June 11, 2022 4:06:00 PM, Blogger DDC said...

Tatum has to quit taking it up so weak and looking for foul calls. He's not looking like a 1st team worthy player at all.

At Saturday, June 11, 2022 11:55:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Tatum earned All-NBA First Team recognition this season. He can legitimately be considered a top five player. Star and superstar are overused and poorly defined terms, but it can accurately be said that Tatum is an elite player who is young and still improving. Not many all-time great players were finished products by his age, so whether or not he is a "superstar" now he could very well become one eventually--and "eventually" could happen quite soon, depending on what he does in the next two (or three) games.

I agree with some of your specific critiques about Tatum, including that he does not finish at the rim as well as he should given his size and athletic ability. I disagree that his court vision is bad. He clearly sees the court quite well, and can make tough passes. Sometimes he struggles to find the ideal balance between shooting and passing, but that is not because his court vision is poor.

At Sunday, June 12, 2022 12:47:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The Celtics are giving Curry too many easy shots. If the screen is set such that Curry would be shooting from 28 feet, drop coverage might make sense--but dropping back and letting Curry shoot an uncontested three pointer from just behind the three point line is not a good idea.

The Celtics should force Curry to run around a lot without the ball to get open, they should force him to shoot from further out, and they should "hunt" him on defense even more than they have. The overall goal is to wear him down, so that even if he ends up with 30 points they are a "hard" 30 without much damage being done in the fourth quarter.

At Sunday, June 12, 2022 12:52:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Tatum's main issue in this series is that he is not finishing uncontested/lightly contested shots at the rim as efficiently as he should. Tatum has a midrange game, and in fact he can score from all areas of the court, but his ability to use his speed and size to get to the hoop has been largely negated in this series because he is "checking himself" at the rim by missing easy shots. Instead of contorting his body to try to draw fouls, Tatum should drive like Giannis drives: Giannis drives with force, and dares anyone to get in front of him to contest his shot or foul him. Tatum is not as physically imposing as Giannis, but if he drove as hard as Giannis drives then he would get better results than he has so far in this series. In general, I am not a fan of driving to the hoop and frequently falling down, because this too often results not only in a missed shot with no foul call but it also results in the falling player not getting back on defense in time. An occasional fall is part of the game, but when a player is tumbling to the court on almost every drive something is wrong.

At Sunday, June 12, 2022 1:01:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree that Tatum must finish more strongly at the hoop, as discussed above.

At Sunday, June 12, 2022 3:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pick-your-poison for Curry has always been the same: either concede long shots, which gets him going, or concede the short roll 4-on-3, which usually gets everyone else going.

Most teams, and especially the Cavs and Raptors in previous Finals, were willing to sell out to keep Steph from shooting the shots he's getting this series. It has a pretty dubious track record. It worked for Toronto because the Warriors' other weapons all got hurt, and it worked for Cleveland once out of four tries when they were able to dominate the glass, but other than that it's usually been a recipe for Klay Thompson and others to eat till their belies are full. Plus half the time Curry ends up getting his anyway. That's the trouble with superstars; nothing always works.

Zigging when others have zagged, Boston seems to be trying something more like other teams tried against Lebron and Kobe: play Curry mostly straight up with only some help, don't let anyone else beat you, and live with him getting his.

The third option would be just switching everything, but Curry has made it clear he'll just cook Horford and Williams if they do. When they have tried, it's also hurt them on the glass, pulling their best rebounders 30 feet out and letting Wiggins and Looney get easy second chances. So they're going mostly with option 2.

It's kind of working so far, honestly. Curry is bombarding them but they're holding the Warriors overall to beatable point totals.

The trouble is that they don't have the shot creation or rebounding of those Cavaliers and Raptors teams, so they're having a hard time scoring enough on the other end to make that strategy viable. Scorching shooting in Game 1 and an out-of-character offensive rebounding explosion in Game 3 helped them, but neither of those are factors they can consistently count on night to night.

I don't think switching to a more aggressive anti-Curry scheme will cure what ails them. If you give the Warriors the short roll, Draymond goes from offensive liability to All-Star, and they feast on high-percentage paint dump-offs and open corner threes.

The recipe for success is keep doing what they're doing, hope Klay and Poole don't heat up, and find a way to manufacture better offense, or at least turn the ball over less. Boston will happily live with Curry winning the Finals MVP so long as they win the title.

At Sunday, June 12, 2022 11:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kobe was definitely not guarded like that, that was always a terrible strategy on him and would be especially terrible to guard him like that in today's game. LeBron definitely has been guarded like that especially in the last decade (and the 09 Magic employed that strategy as well). Most stars in the modern game are rarely tightly guarded anymore even the ones that get doubled/trapped often, there's just too much space and it's so easy to find space in today's game

But regardless the Celtics could do a better job of preventing Steph from going off. At the least get him to shoot further out or try to keep RWIII with him as much as possible as he is athletic enough to neutralize a lot of what the Warriors like to run even on one leg basically

At Tuesday, June 14, 2022 1:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Tatum drives, I feel he is too straight up and stiff. This causes him too often to lose the ball, get it poked (which resets the play), and gives the defense time to cut him off. If he can lower his center mass ie. imagine 06 Dwyane Wade when driving as he gets himself somewhat horizontal when getting around the opponent. Tatum needs to do something similar... obviously not to the extent of Wade's driving skills, but at least have in mind "slashing" to the hoop. Maybe I am looking at it at wrong way, but maybe his frame and natural build does not allow him to play like that. If he could practice a true slashing skillset, I believe he could average at least 2-4 more points a game...like I said before, he SHOULD be able to get to the rim (and finish) in some specific opportunities, but they end up either him passing, ball poked, or a bad shot, or him falling to the ground. Like comments above, I agree with them that he needs to utilize his size more and get off midrange fadeaways especially when a smaller defender is on him. So far in this series, I've seen him pass up a single coverage when Curry was on him. He needs to back him down and shoot over him and not pass it. No way Curry can cover a fadeaway from Tatum.


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