Analysis: NBA Finals moment is not too big for the Celtics

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Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) shoots against Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Boston. (Kyle Terada/pool photo via AP)

AP

Stephen Curry tried one of his patented floats from the left side of the rim. Klay Thompson attempted a layup a few minutes later from almost the same spot.

Slightly different shots by the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, with the exact same result: they were shot out of bounds by the Boston Celtics.

Robert Williams III had the block on Curry, Jaylen Brown had the block on Thompson, and if there were any questions about whether this leg — the biggest the NBA has — is too big for the Celtics, they were answered at that stage. . sequences.

The thing is, the Celtics might be too big for the Warriors.

Boston got half the job done in this NBA Finals, now 2-1 over Golden State after taking a huge lead, wasting every bit of it, then closing strongly to win 116-100 on Wednesday night. The Celtics, trailing late in the third quarter, were under pressure and staring it down. The Warriors now have to do the same in Game 4 on Friday night, or else.

“I don’t think there is any fear among the players right now,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. “It is what it is. We’ve been battle tested in the play-offs, and this far in one series, it should move on to the next. I think we’ve seen what makes us successful.”

Everyone has it now.

Boston looks just like an NBA champion: The Celtics were bigger, stronger, faster, and tougher in Game 3, and if that wasn’t damn enough, the Warriors will be waiting to find out if Curry was just shaken up after getting hit by Al Horford of Boston in the final minutes while a bunch of players were diving for a loose ball, or when he sprained his left foot again – the same injury he sustained late in the regular season, ironically, incurred against the Celts.

“I’ll be fine,” Curry insisted.

The Warriors know what the alternative would mean.

“We need him,” said Thompson, “if we want to win this thing.”

It’s more than just needing curry. At this point, they may need him to be at his best.

All is not lost, to be sure. The Warriors have won six games in a row after losing. They’ve been here before. They have replied. The core of Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green trailed 2-1 in the 2015 final before rallying to win their first title together. They know how to turn things around.

They have to do it again Friday, or a Celtics team that played 25-25 this season after 50 games is about to hang an 18th championship flag.

“We’ll be better,” Green said after finishing with two points, four rebounds, three assists and six fouls, plus after hearing untold numbers of loud, profane chants from many in the Boston crowd. ‘I’ll be better. Get out, win Game 4. Go back 2-2.”

The trust is still there.

Nor is it shocked on the Boston side.

Celtic Pride was on full display in Game 3. An 18-point lead in the first half was completely erased in the third quarter, another disastrous third-place finish for Boston and the Warriors up 83-82. This is where a team with exactly zero players who had been in the NBA Finals before last week could have panicked and folded. Instead, the Celtics bounced right back and defeated Golden State the rest of the way 34-17.

“We found a way,” said Marcus Smart of the Celtics. “That’s what makes us such a great team because we’ve still found a way to counter that and come out with a win or put ourselves in a good position to win at the end of the game.”

Now it’s Golden State’s turn.

If Boston had let Game 3 slip, it would have been incredibly difficult for the Celtics to hoist the trophy. Along the same lines, the Warriors know what Game 4 means. It’s not an elimination game, and trailing 3-1 doesn’t guarantee defeat – they learned that the hard way in 2016 against Cleveland – but it is in fact a must to win.

“We let one slip,” Thompson said. “We have a great opportunity on Friday to even do a series and do what we needed to do, and that was get one on the road.”

Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write it at treynolds(at)ap.org

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