Game 4 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics was essentially a heavyweight brawl for 48 minutes with both sides landing big blows throughout. However, in the end, it was Stephen Curry and the Warriors who made just enough plays to come away with a 107-97 victory to even this series at 2-2 and keep their championship aspirations alive.
Curry was fantastic for Golden State finishing with a game-high 43 points to go along with 10 rebounds but he was far from the only Warriors player to step up in a big way when the team needed it the most as Andrew Wiggins had a monster game of his own with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole also did their part combining for 32 points.
On the other end of the spectrum, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the charge for Boston but their respective efforts weren’t enough for the Celtics to match Curry’s massive night.
With the Warriors’ win, Game 5 on Monday night at Chase Center should be as intense as any game we’ve seen this postseason.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Curry has a special night
Steph Curry had been terrific through the first three games of this series, and he was even better on Friday night. He finished with 43 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, made seven 3-pointers and shot 14-of-26 from the field. This was a truly special performance from one of the game’s all-time greats.
For starters, this wasn’t like Game 1 or some stretches of Game 3 where the Celtics were having breakdowns on the defensive end and giving Curry too much space. They were locked into the assignment, chasing Curry all over the court and getting good contests on most of his shots. It just didn’t matter. He’s the best shooter of all time, and he proved it once again in Game 4.
What’s more, the Warriors needed every single one of Curry’s 43 points. They were on the road in a hostile environment, down 2-1 and trailing for large stretches of the game. No one else really had anything rolling — the rest of the team shot 40 percent from the field — and there were multiple points throughout the night where it looked like the Celtics might pull away. Curry never let it happen.
Klay Thompson, who has been with Curry for this entire ride, called it his best Finals performance ever:
“I think [it ranks] probably No. 1,” Thompson said. “I mean, this was nearly a must-win game, and to go out there and shoot as efficiently as he did, and grab 10 rebounds and they were attacking him on defense; I mean, his conditioning is second-to-none in this league. Steph played incredible.”
2. Celtics’ late-game offense burns them again
The Celtics closed the regular season on a 28-7 run, and in a strange way, they may have been a bit too good over the final few months. Twenty of those wins came by double-digits, including 15 by at least 20 points. They were absolutely destroying teams, which meant they didn’t have many opportunities to work on one of their major flaws: late-game offense.
Even in the playoffs, it’s been a bit of the same story. Eight of their 14 wins have been by double-double digits, and that number probably should be higher. Aside from Game 1 of the first round against the Brooklyn Nets, there haven’t been too many positive late-game moments from this team. They couldn’t hold on to a late lead in Game 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks, and completely collapsed in Game 5 of that series. In the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat, they couldn’t complete a comeback in Game 3, couldn’t hold on to a late lead in Game 6 and nearly blew Game 7 in a disastrous fashion.
Now, you can add Game 4 of the Finals to the list of late-game struggles. In the middle of the quarter, Jaylen Brown took over the game for a short stretch, scoring six straight points to put the Celtics in front. Marcus Smart then added a free throw to make it 91-86 Celtics with 7:32 remaining. They had a window there to pull away and potentially go up 3-1. Instead, they scored six points the remainder of the game, and gave up homecourt advantage.
“Got stalled out a little bit,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “When we did run off-ball actions and got some movement, we got some really good looks.”
“We wanted to get the ball up quick and get into an offense. If we don’t have anything, still make them work the clock. A lot of times it felt like we were standing around, unsure of who we were trying to go after, and it led to those stalled-down possessions.”
When a game is within five points with five minutes or less remaining, that’s defined as clutch time, and the Warriors outscored the Celtics 15-0 in those minutes in Game 4. That is the highest differential in a Finals game in the last 25 years, per ESPN Stats and Info.
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3. Wiggins hits the glass
After his starring role guarding Luka Doncic in the Western Conference finals, Andrew Wiggins has felt like a forgotten man at times in this series. Though he hadn’t been bad through the first three games, he wasn’t making much of an impact. That changed in Game 4, though not in the way you might expect.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr made a lineup change prior to this game, inserting Otto Porter Jr. into the starting lineup for Kevon Looney. Going small has its advantages, but rebounding is typically not one of them, and we saw the Warriors get crushed on the glass in Game 3. That was a danger again on Friday, but Wiggins didn’t let it happen.
“Wiggs was fantastic,” Kerr said. “To go against Boston, you’ve got to deal with Tatum and Brown, and they are just powerful, skilled players. Great size. They are coming downhill at you constantly, so we had to have Wiggs out there. I thought he was great defensively. Obviously 16 rebounds, career-high, and plus-20 on the night. So we needed every bit of Wiggs contributions.”
He was a machine on the glass, grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds to help the Warriors win the rebounding battle 55-42. While he did most of his work on the defensive glass, he also came up with a few clutch put-backs in the fourth quarter to get the Warriors some big non-Curry points. The Warriors had 19 second-chance points compared to 12 for the Celtics in a game they won by 10.
Most of the coverage from this game is going to focus on Curry, and rightly so, but the Warriors don’t win without a herculean effort from Wiggins. This wasn’t the most spectacular or highest-scoring outing of his career, but it was by far his most important. He finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds in 43 minutes, and the Warriors were plus-20 with him on the floor.
“I want to win,” Wiggins said. “I know rebounding is a big part of that. I just want to win. And I feel like sometimes we play small. So I just try to go in there and rebound, help the team out.”