Through Charlotte Wilder
FOX Sports columnist
BOSTON — If Stephen Curry‘s eyes had been lasers, they would have burned holes through the TD Garden’s Jumbotron in the third quarter Game 4 of the NBA Final.
The Golden State star stared at the giant screen, which featured former Celtics greats. As Eddie House pumped his fist and showed off his 2008 championship ring, shaking up Boston’s already extremely excited crowd, Curry looked away.
At that moment, his facial expression changed subtly.
I had my binoculars pointed at him from the press box high above the floor, and it was like watching the final act of an action movie, in which the superhero needs to tap into some extra energy – a pristine storehouse of ability and determination deep within their souls. – to defeat the enemy.
What Curry did. useful.
He racked up 43 points, his second-highest ever in a finals game (he scored 47 against Toronto to force a Game 6 in 2019), and 10 rebounds as the Warriors tied the series 2-2 with a win from 107-97.
“A lot of it is because of how hostile the environment was, the fans chanting, doing all their shenanigans and stuff,” Curry said after the game. †[And] Boston knows how big the game is for them – if they get the win, they can take over the series. So it’s all mixed with the experience of knowing how fickle the momentum is in the final.”
Celtics fans should have been concerned from Friday’s first quarter, when Curry established his dominance on the pitch and turned to roar at the crowd. The TD Garden was louder than I’ve ever heard, fueled by Klay Thompson’s comments about it not being “classy” after Game 3, and Curry seemed to thrive on it.
“Steph normally doesn’t show much emotion, but a night like tonight justified it,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said later.
Not only did Curry save the Warriors (they couldn’t have won without him), but he did after hurting his foot in Game 3. Kerr joked that the non-factor of injury made it seem like Curry was “really struggling out there.” Curry said he didn’t prefer the foot at all, and it didn’t take up too much brain space while he was playing.
Game 4 was arguably Curry’s best Finals appearance of all time. His splash brother certainly seemed to think so.
“I think number 1 probably,” Thompson said when asked where this game stands for Curry. “I mean, this was almost a game you have to win, and to go there and shoot as efficiently as he did and grab 10 rebounds, and they attacked him in defense. I mean, his conditioning is unmatched in this competition. Steph played unbelievably.”
Curry certainly put his team on his back and set the tone early on as he racked up 19 points by the end of the first half. It was clear that this wasn’t Game 3’s Warriors team, which let the Celtics rise 68-56 at halftime, then retake the lead only to ruin it and lose 116-100.
No, this was the Warriors team that won three championships with Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green as anchors.
And Thompson had 18 on Friday. But this is now also the team of Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole and Kevon Looney. Wiggins put in 16 rebounds and scored 17 points in Game 4. The 22-year-old Poole scored 14, and when Looney was on the floor, the Warriors beat the Celtics by 21 points.
Green wasn’t super effective in Game 4, although his teammates said he brought the same fire and intensity that he’s delivered on defense all season and year after year. He finished with nine rebounds and eight assists.
“Incredible,” said Green of Curry. “Put us on his back. Wanted us to win. The much needed win. Game we had to have. Came out and showed why he is one of the best players who has ever played this game, you know, and why, You know, this organization has been able to drive him to such success. It’s absolutely incredible.”
While Curry may have carried the team up the hill, the Warriors eventually delivered a statement win.
“It just felt like we had to let everyone know we were here tonight,” Curry said.
“Whether that’s their audience, our team, their team, whoever wants to see that energy, that fire – that’s what we feed on. And I think it’s helped us just get into the game. Because of course you can in our experience you want it so badly that you get in the way a little bit. And everybody feels a little bit pressured. And it can go the other way too.”
If Curry and the Warriors can keep that fire burning and continue to find ways to show up and stave off Boston’s stifling defenses, the Celtics will be in trouble. The biggest test of their season is about to come in Game 5. The Celtics have to dig deep, like Curry did, to make sure they don’t fall apart against a Warriors team that played a better version of Boston in Game 4. game.
Because in Game 4, Golden State did what Boston normally is so good at and what Boston couldn’t do on Friday. Under Curry’s leadership, the game ended as a true unit.
Throughout these playoffs, Boston has been successful because of team cohesion. With a young core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, it was a clean sheet for the Nets and superstar Kevin Durant.
Then the Celtics defeated Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in a grueling seven-game physical streak. Milwaukee couldn’t resist the brutality of Boston without Khris Middleton on the field.
Neither does Miami. The Heat, the No. 1 seed in the East, melted beneath Boston’s punishing physicality, which is why we find ourselves here, watching the most seasoned Finals team in the league take on a bunch of first-timers.
And now the Celtics face the ultimate giant in Curry, who reminded them of that in Game 4.
Pretending you’ve been there often counts for a lot, but the fact that you’ve been there is sometimes more important. The Celtics collapsed on Friday, making 16 turnovers and seemingly forgetting how to shoot a basketball. The team looked frightening on the January version of itself, who had a 23-24 record while Tatum missed 18 3s in a row over the course of four games.
However, it is important to remember that both teams were erratic in these playoffs. Remember when the Warriors lost to Memphis by 39 points?
The Celtics are leading 7-0 on a loss, which they will if they go to San Francisco. Game 5 is everyone’s game, and it will be a decisive one.
“We need to play with the same vigor in the fourth quarter that we did, bring that Monday,” said Thompson.
This is a series between two teams. But Game 4 was Steph Curry’s game. He’s one of those people who are built differently. Who have been put on this earth to do something so very grand, so gloriously transcendent, that everyone who looks at them feels privileged to do it.
Friday night was the basketball equivalent of watching a man lift a family car with his bare hands. It was – as Kerr said – stunning. And superhuman.
Perhaps Wiggins said it best.
“You can only watch,” he said. “If Steph has the ball sometimes, just watch what he does.”
Charlotte Wilder is a general columnist and cohost of “The Volkssport podcastfor FOX Sports. She is honored to represent the perpetually neglected Boston area in sports media, enjoys talking to sports fans about their feelings and prefers eating a hot dog in a baseball field or nachos in a stadium. Follow her on Twitter @TheWilderThings†
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