NBA Finals: Injured Steph Curry and ineffective Draymond Green key to Warriors' title hopes

·6 min read

BOSTON — Stephen Curry produced the most awkward sounds of the night, one during which TD Garden wanted and walked away with a critical pound of flesh in the NBA Finals.

First, the silence in the building when he became the Boston Celtics’ worst nightmare as he dragged his Golden State Warriors back from the brink with triple after triple in yet another third-quarter barrage.

Secondly, the yell when Al Horford dropped his weight and landed on Curry’s foot during a loose-ball situation — the Warriors’ worst nightmare.

Any limp wasn’t conspicuous in the direct aftermath of his team’s 116-100 Game 3 loss to the Celtics, but adrenaline can always smother what a night’s sleep cannot. And if Draymond Green — Curry’s partner-in-rings who picked up his sixth foul committing what he believed was a similar act — doesn’t turn his game around in short order, Curry will have plenty of time to rest a foot sprain because this promising season will conclude in a thud.

Green was the object of Celtics fans’ warped affection from the time he hit the floor, being treated as if he was Kyrie Irving, and Curry was the object of the NBA’s most versatile and arguably, most physical defense.

Curry chose not to wade into the waters of controversy, only pointing out the foot sprain that caused him to miss the last 12 regular-season games was the same foot that was tweaked this time around — and whether or not it’s happenstance, the injury occurred against the same team.

Marcus Smart the first time, Horford on Wednesday.

“I don’t really have any comments on the other play,” Curry said. “I haven’t really seen it yet. I just know how it felt.

“We’ll see how it responds. Not much other to say. I don’t feel like I’ll miss a game. Take advantage of these next 48 hours to get ready.”

The intention or recklessness is immaterial when the Warriors sit at the edge of extinction, dancing with peril once again. The glimpse of Curry’s crowd-quieting best had everyone who chanted expletives at Green shook up, when he single-handedly pulled the Warriors ahead after a 17-point deficit — erasing the Celtics’ dynamic debut at the Garden.

It was a typical third quarter, one the Warriors dominated through this series, but it was followed by a fourth quarter the Celtics lay claim to as this series is beginning to take full shape. The size advantage is pronounced, and the Celtics can see a path to a championship.

“I thought the offensive rebounds [15] were just a killer,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I think they had like 20-something second-chance points. That was really the difference in the game. We made several stops, especially in the second half where we had a chance to cut into the lead or make a little push, and they got offensive boards. Those were tough.”

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry looks on in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics during Game 3 of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden in Boston, on June 8, 2022. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry looks on in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics during Game 3 of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden in Boston, on June 8, 2022. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

When in doubt, the Celtics blitz Curry and dare the next man to beat them. Oftentimes, that’s Green, who has struggled in this series in the box score despite his ownership inside the Celtics’ heads in Game 2.

Actually, it turned out to be a rental because the tables were turned and Green called himself out following a two-point, four-rebound, three-assist performancemuch to the vulgar crowd’s delight.

“Classy. Very classy,” Kerr said of the crowd.

“We’ve played in front of rude people before,” Klay Thompson said. “Dropping F-bombs with children in the crowd. Real classy. Good job, Boston.”

The “Draymond sucks” chant was the most humane of the two dominant sounds coming from TD Garden, and he wasn’t kind in characterizing his own play.

“Like s***,” Green said.

“I was soft. That’s what was most disappointing to me, for us.”

The most force he exerted was a back-and-forth in the postgame about whether his podcast can become fodder for the Celtics to unearth strategic advantages — which, of course, he challenged.

The details during the exchange don’t matter, but the details concerning Boston discovering its own formula to beat the Warriors do. They outrebounded the Warriors 47-31, doubled them up on points in the paint — all of which points to Green’s aforementioned “force.”

The Celtics found gold early getting to the basket, compromising the Warriors’ game plan and making them go small, which plays right into the big boys’ hands.

“I think when you’re putting constant pressure on the rim, then the rebound patterns are messed up, you’re rotating, you’re coming in,” Green said. “So goes back to our point of attack defense and you know, that starts with me.”

Curry and Green aren’t the most analyzed and dissected duo in this series, but it feels like their fortunes are more tied together than Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Brown got going early, while Tatum fought through a shaky start to produce similarly, effectively and most importantly, doing so without getting in the other’s way.

Brown (27, nine rebounds, five assists), Tatum (26 points, nine assists, six rebounds) and Smart (24 points, seven rebounds, five assists) became the first trio to have a 20-5-5 game since some great Lakers did it in 1984 — before any of them were born.

Such feats used to be accomplished by Curry, Green and Thompson, who now find themselves in a position to recall history as a guide rather than their own strategic advantages, or even without being able to definitively say “we’re the better team.”

Thompson announced his arrival in the Finals (25 points), in addition to Curry’s 31. But Curry rightfully pointed out their third-quarter rush meant they’d have to essentially win the game twice — a task a squad of Warriors vintage could easily pull off, but not this bunch.

“We paid the price for that over the course of the game because we clawed our way back and had a one-point lead back in the third quarter,” Curry said. “And you do all that work to get back into it.”

Seven years ago, the Warriors found themselves down two games to one to LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers, who were without Irving and Kevin Love. The story ends with Kerr discovering what came to be the Death Lineup and essentially dominating the last three games to capture their first title together.

There’s no James here, but these Warriors are older. While they can summon the same energy to shut teams down for stretches, squeeze till they bleed, it’s a matter of how long they can do it, and if they can do it with Green being ineffective.

“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. You know what they do. They know what you do. They played with more force in the game tonight, and we have to come out and do that on Friday.”

Green plugged his podcast, “The Draymond Green Show,” during his postgame exchange.

Friday night, it better be.

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