BOSTON — Steph Curry was brilliant, spectacular, and transcendent throughout Game 4 of the NBA Finals, but particularly so in the fourth quarter.
He’s the main reason that the Warriors are heading back to San Francisco tied 2-2.
But don’t forget that it takes two to tango, and Boston’s concurrent lackluster performance raises serious questions about their readiness to re-take the lead in these Finals.
In a series that has provided so many twists and turns I’m getting motion sick, Game 4’s swing might tilt the series back into the Warriors’ favor irrevocably.
After all, they know what to do when it’s all on the line.
And the Celtics — for all their incredible qualities — don’t.
With this now being a three-game series, there’s now no place for Boston to hide.
The Celtics had one hand on the Larry O’Brien Trophy Friday. The Warriors only had one guy doing much of anything good. An insurmountable 3-1 Finals lead (sorry, the 2016 Cavs these Warriors are not) looked well in the cards for Boston as the Warriors were swapping Jordan Poole and Draymond Green for offensive and defensive purposes late in the contest.
Yes, there was no question who the better team was on Friday night, or in this series.
But Boston couldn’t close.
It’s a trend that has haunted them throughout this postseason. In 12 playoff games, they have an abysmal offensive rating of 89 in “clutch” situations, which is within five points with less than five minutes to play.
That’s far and away the worst mark of any team that advanced out of the first round.
Yes, they’re in the Finals now, but when the clock strikes “winning time” Boston clenches.
For all the Warriors’ struggles in the fourth quarter in this series, they do actually know what to do in a truly tight game that’s going down to the wire. Game 4 was the first time this series that a “clutch” situation occurred for more than a possession or two. And the Warriors — who have a “clutch” offense that scores 1.24 points per possession this postseason — took full advantage of Boston’s struggles in Game 4.
I can’t imagine this is the last time Boston’s puckering is a factor.
We saw Boston’s inability to finish the job in the Eastern Conference Finals, when the Celtics choked away a 97-94 lead with less than 5 minutes to play at home in an elimination Game 6. The Heat outscored them 17-9 to close the contest.
The Celtics won Game 7 of that series, but not before allowing Miami to attempt a game-winning shot with 16 seconds remaining after the Celtics held an 11-point lead into the final 160 seconds of the game and a nine-point lead with less than 90 seconds in the game.
Boston didn’t make a field goal in the final 4:28 of that contest.
In Game 4, Friday, the Warriors went on a 10-0 run between 5:18 and 1:32 remaining in the game.
Boston missed all six of their field goals during that stretch (obviously), but five were 3-pointers — two coming from Marcus Smart.
The Warriors loved it.
The irony is that Boston is physically equipped to close — they have two wings that can put it on the floor and score from all three levels in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The Warriors only have one guy like that — Andrew Wiggins — and taking over a contest like that is hardly his game.
But if the Celtics continue to play the kind of hero-ball with Tatum and Brown that produces unnecessarily difficult shots and ugly misses late in games, the Warriors will feast on the rebounds and the transition opportunities.
Game 4 provided everything the Warriors could have wanted.
“I think it was very stagnant. For whatever reason, we just weren’t executing like we needed to offensively,” Celtics forward Al Horford said of the Celtics’ fourth-quarter offense. “Winning is hard. We do it, and there are moments where we’re growing as a team, as a group still, even now. This is another challenge, another opportunity for us to embrace this and be better.”
That’s not exactly something you want to be figuring out in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, but, hey, we all are on our own journeys.
And maybe they do figure it out.
Or maybe the Warriors — having been in crazier situations against tougher teams — use the two clear advantages they have in this series — Curry and experience — and claim the title.
And if it all comes down to the final minutes of a Game 7, I know who I am taking to win.
Contributed by local news sources