Celtics vs. Warriors: Boston may still be the NBA champion, but he will have to show us something

There may still be hope for the Boston Celtics. But his best chance of claiming another banner lies firmly in the past.

Of course, yes, of course, Boston can still win this series technically if on Thursday night it keeps the local court in Game 6 and then returns to San Francisco and then posts a W on the Warriors home floor Sunday night at game 7.

However, they are on the verge of elimination because they have betrayed the increased resistance and star defense that brought them here. Closing and passing, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler are impressive victories. Dealing with Steph Curry, and the real, brutal, weird, and amazing effect of trying to win an NBA title, is something else.

Say it pressure. Say it scary. Say it the moment that separates the talented from the winners, the professionals from the champions. Whatever it is, he beat the Celtics the last two games as much as Curry & Co. did.

Especially in Game 4, when the Warriors offered the Silver Celtics a win. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and his teammates simply couldn’t stand it.

As in Game 4, the Celtics entered the fourth quarter of Game 5 by a single point after a hard-fought round-robin game. Unlike Game 4, however, Curry did not get up to beat them alone. They did it themselves very well.

In Game 4, Boston had a 3-1 lead in the series and all that probably meant. Then Curry passed, and on the other side of a 17-3 run for the Warriors to close out that game we sat at 2-2. Well. The series is still well underway. Going against GOATs means you’ll probably have to deal with these big actions; the key is how to withstand the storm. But the failure of the 5th game came with Curry decidedly deadly: 16 points, a 0-9 night from the 3-point line and no heroism from the fourth quarter.

Curry may have beaten them a few days earlier, but it was only the Celtics, again, nervous, nervous and insecure, they had won. They coughed up four fourth-quarter business losses. They shot 27 percent from the field and a putrid 25 percent from behind the bow. Tatum and Brown combined to go 2 of 9 from the field. They broke.

To win the next two games, they will have to do much more than beat the Warriors and their all-time big star. The Celtics will have to overcome something for themselves that has turned the best team in the NBA into a shell of their own in the fourth quarter of their last two outings.

And their flaws have been against another type of Warriors team compared to those that have competed and won NBA championships in the past, a minor one.

There is no Kevin Durant to rescue the Warriors on a Curry night. Klay Thompson has oscillated between mediocre and fine, Draymond Green between horrible and such. For long periods of time, Jordan Poole has once again become very much like a G-league player. Andrew Wiggins has been great, of course, but if you can’t beat a team in the NBA Finals on a night when Wiggins is his best player, you’re probably in big trouble.

Curry is Curry, yes, apart from the unusually low night he had on Monday. But Curry has historically responded to bad playoff games with efficient nights of glorious and dominant attack.

“Now, that’s good for us,” Green said after the game, having seen that story before. “He was 0 out of 9 out of 3. He’ll be lively in the face of Game 6, and that’s exactly what we need.”

There are many X and Os you can study, many numbers that can tell the story of large sample sizes and statistical realities of these two teams. There are game plans that Boston can and should work out to replicate what they have done well over long stretches of a series that should be winning, and so on.

But, as two-time NBA champion Isiah Thomas told me, it all comes out the window when the pressure is on. “The pressure is real,” he said. “Some players, some great players, can handle it. Some can’t.”

But the real answer to how Boston wins this thing is simple and twofold: Don’t let Curry sin against you, and don’t sin against yourself.

In the first: good luck. Curry, as I wrote, is likely to end his career as an all-time player in the top 5, an all-too-often underrated talent, earning the odds he deserves long after the fact. But he is the best player on the court in this series, he has shown that he can win a game alone if necessary, and in the fifth game his teammates began to offer the kind of help he could have used all along. Curry, as Green said, will be lively Thursday night, and will be dangerous.

But the second point is why this series feels over: no team can win a championship if the closer it gets, the faster it fades. And the Celtics have been a lot of nerves, worries and bad play in the moments when a ring has been at the end: spinning the ball, playing the hot potato, without a star willing to seize the moment.

Tatum has been out of much of this series. Brown has had several dull second parts. Marcus Smart has not filled this gap. And you can only ask Al Horford and Derrick White to save the day in the quarterfinals of an NBA Finals once, and once you feel like too much.

The Celtics have a chance Thursday night, and as head coach Ime Udoka pointed out, they were in that exact position, 3-2 and facing elimination, early this postseason against the last year’s champions, the Milwaukee Bucks.

But playoff basketball is about adjustments, and what Boston has to do is what we haven’t seen them do before: the ability to take over a series, under the most intense sense of hope and fear, when something as weird as a championship. is presented.

We’ve seen enough to know that Steph Curry can. Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics are still trying to figure out how to match it when it matters most.

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