The series is now deadlocked at 2-2 and neither team hasn’t won consecutively yet. After Game 5 in the Bay Area happens on Monday, either the Warriors or the Celtics will be on the edge of the Finals. Fans will be waiting to see if the Warriors will be able to pull off a successful home stand or if the Celtics will keep the suspense on a little while longer.
So what should we watch out for in Game 5? Keep an eye for these:
1. Can Steph Curry Do It All By Himself?
Curry has proven time and time again that he has such strong legs and back for a 6’2 guard and can rack up not just points, but also rebounds (he had 10 in Game 4), making plays, and last but not the least, presence. What he has done so far should be enough to shush his critics and cement his legacy – his gargantuan efforts did get the Warriors all tied up in the series even though some of his teammates were doing subpar play (Draymond Green, hi).
But Golden State may have to lean more on each other in the next few games in order to win this whole thing. Curry’s singular dominance can do wonders, sure, but he does need his teammates to step up and put in the points. This is a job for Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole, who are the ones who can pool together at least 25 points. The Celtics are going to be in so much trouble If either Thompson and Poole gets hot in Game 5. If both produce 20 points or more together with Curry, then Boston should be very nervous indeed.
This is also the perfect moment for Thompson to make a comeback – it’s going to be the three-year anniversary of his knee injury (which he got against the Raptors in the 2019 Finals). The Celtics’ defense remains a very real threat still, and the Warriors will certainly gain from a hot night from Thompson or Poole.
“Being able to kind of catch our rhythm and get a couple games under our belt this series, I definitely feel like we have an offensive explosion coming, for sure,” Poole said.
2. The Celtics Will Adjust Their Defense
Teams would rather avoid making adjustments while in the thick of the Finals, as much as the usual thinking might suggest otherwise. It’s usually too late to make adjustments in this stage and can incite or give the impression of worry, or even panic. A team would rather do what it is that they are already doing and just live or die with the outcome. It can become a little out of character if the strategies are tweaked and the lineup changes.
In this case, however, the Celtics may not have much choice but to adjust, thanks to Curry. The man has been untouchable so far. The Celtics have two choices: either continue to double-team Curry, even if it means leaving the others open, or guard him straight-up, and stop others from getting hot.
Speaking of which, it’s interesting to ask whether Marcus Smart, the Kia Defensive Player of the Year, is good enough to slow Curry down? Or is any level of defense pretty much helpless against legendary shot-making?
Smart said, “The way that he’s able to affect the game by being able to run around and play off the ball and get himself open, it’s just tough on a defender because you can’t take a break. The instant you think that he’s not doing anything, that the play is over for him, that’s when you get beaten.”
Getting physical with Curry seems to be the smarter option left for Boston, even if it means risking getting the referee’s whistle. Maybe all they can do is hope and pray that Curry misses.
3. Better Offense is the Celtics’ Best Defense
Celtics coach Ime Udoka suggested that it really doesn’t matter what Curry does if the Celtics are hitting the shots. A good point, it seems.
“Not playing our best offense overall, I think the narrative gets shifted to Curry and what he’s doing. But in our wins and losses, (he’s) scoring the same points. Any time you run some poor offense and turn the ball over, we know how quickly they can get back in the game,” he said.
The Celtics’ downfall during Game 2 was their sloppy decisions and poor shooting. It was the same thing that did in Game 4. Udoka believes that his team could be up 3-1 in the series if there’s better ball security and shot selection in pressure situations.
“They are scoring around 107 points. Scored 100 in a game. And when we’ve scored well, we’ve scored 120 and 116. So our balance has to be better on offense,” he added.
Boston is relying on their three best players to make their own shots, largely because Smart, even though a solid player, is not a pure point guard who can do the setting up. Mistakes can happen when the ball isn’t in the hands of a traditional ball handler.
This forces Jayson Tatum to make points by himself when he could just be getting easier hoops off passes as a finisher.
4. Jayson Tatum Is Having Trouble With Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins, who is the first line of defense, isn’t defending Tatum straight-up for an entire game. But Tatum is struggling with efficiency and coupled with facing a hostile arena on Monday,now is not really the best time for him to spring himself free of the funk, not while he has to stare at Wiggins again.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “He’s taken a leap in these playoffs in terms of his impact on the game defensively and on the glass. He’s a two-way player. You’ve got to have two-way players to make it this far. He has grown by leaps and bounds and it’s exciting to watch that growth.”
Given the stakes, defense is the most important thing that Wiggins has, especially when you add how frisky Tatum is feeling coming into the series. If Tatum continues to shoot 34% (he has yet to make 10 shots in any game), it’s hard to imagine the Celtics surviving.
Boston will likely look into using more favorable switches for Tatum, especially if said switches would get Curry instead of Wiggins on Tatum. Here, the size advantage would work for the Celtics.