NBA Finals Game 4: Can other Warriors step up with Stephen Curry dinged?

·4 min read

TV: ABC, 9 p.m. ET

BetMGM Line: Celtics -3.5

The Golden State Warriors find themselves in an unusual position in the NBA Finals heading into Game 4: Trailing.

The Warriors have made the Finals six times since 2015. This is the third time the team has fallen behind in the last series of the season.

The team has a mixed record when falling behind in the championship round. The Warriors trailed the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015 before rallying to win a championship in six games. The Warriors also fell behind the Toronto Raptors in 2019 and were unable to complete the comeback. It didn't help that the team lost Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant to significant injuries during the series. It's true that the team lost the Finals to the Cavaliers in 2016, but the Warriors never trailed in that series until it was over.

Bouncing back against the Boston Celtics won't be easy, especially with Stephen Curry dealing with a foot injury.

Can other Warriors step up if Stephen Curry is limited?

Curry left the Warriors' Game 3 loss in the final minutes due to a foot injury. Curry downplayed the issue after the game, saying he does not expect to miss time. Curry has, unsurprisingly, been the team's best player in all three games against the Celtics. He led the Warriors in scoring all three contests, dropping 34 points in Game 1, 29 in Game 2 and 3 in Game 3.

Curry's teammates are still searching for consistency. Thompson finally broke out in Game 3 after a rough start to the series, and Andrew Wiggins has yet to match the 20 points he scored in Game 1.

The most concerning member of the Warriors is Draymond Green. He struggled in the first two games of the series, but things really bottomed out in Game 3. Green scored just two points and grabbed only four rebounds in the loss. Green is well aware he needs to pick things up, saying he played, "Like s***" in Game 3.

Draymond Green in the NBA Finals.
Draymond Green hasn't performed well against the Celtics in the NBA Finals. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Curry's injury puts more pressure on Green to produce. If Curry is limited in any way in Game 4, the Warriors will desperately need Green, Thompson and Wiggins to carry more of the offensive load. Thompson and Wiggins have already shown flashes in the series, but Green has yet to turn in a breakout performance.

Will Boston continue to dominate in the paint?

The Celtics' success in Game 3 was a result of the team dominating the paint. Boston outrebounded Golden State 47-31. The Celtics also gave themselves plenty of second chances on the offensive end, pulling down 15 offensive boards against the Warriors' six.

The Celtics also penetrated the lane and hit shots from up close in Game 3. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum each made four buckets in the paint and Marcus Smart managed five. Some of that success in the paint is a result of Green's struggles. Some of it is due to Boston's approach. When Brown, Smart and Tatum find exploitable matchups and drive the lane, the Celtics are tough to beat.

The Celtics did not dominate the glass in the first two games of the series. Coming into Game 3, the Celtics outrebounded the Warriors by one. Did Boston get lucky and catch Golden State on a bad day in Game 3 or was its aggressiveness on the boards — and in the paint — a strategic adjustment? If it's the latter, the Warriors need to find a way to punch back in Game 4. You aren't going to win many games getting beat that bad on the boards.

Does Steve Kerr have another adjustment up his sleeve?

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has been in this position before. With his back against the wall against the Cavaliers in 2015, Kerr made a crucial adjustment that helped the Warriors dominate the rest of the way. Kerr employed a smaller lineup, eventually called the Death Lineup, which allowed the Warriors to play faster. The team went on to win the next three games of the series to secure their first championship.

Does Kerr need to figure out a 2022 version of the Death Lineup? Going smaller against the Celtics is risky after the team dominated the boards in Game 3. If a new version of the Death Lineup is coming, it's going to have a much different look and feel.

Then again, maybe it all gets back to Green. If he can up his game and put up his usual numbers, maybe that's enough for the Warriors to take over the series. When asked about the adjustments the Warriors need to make in Game 4, Green put it on himself.

“I think it’s just my approach to the game,” Green said. “If I approach the game differently, there’s no big X’s and O’s adjustment in the NBA Finals."

It's up to Green to prove he can follow through on those words in Game 4.

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