NBA Finals Game 6 Preview: What at Stake for Boston and Golden State

The Boston Celtics are in immediate distress after losing to Golden State on Monday in Game Five of the NBA Finals, leaving them with a 3-2 deficit as the series moves to Boston on Thursday. Teams that advance 3-2 in the NBA’s Best Finals by 3-2 have won the championship 39 out of 48 times — 81.3 percent. Some of the Celtics’ regular season problems resurfaced in the Finals: They couldn’t sustain the effort in entire matches and watched the fourth-quarter strings evaporate.

Golden State, from now on, is in the driver’s seat. On Monday, Stephen Curry played his first disappointing game in the series, and his team still won – a bad sign for the Celtics.

But there is still at least one game to play. The Celtics used to come back at unexpected times, including in Game 1, which was marked by an unexpected internal explosion in the last quarter by Golden State.

Here’s a look at where the series stands before a potential elimination game on the NBA’s biggest stage.

Jason Tatum, 24, is the biggest reason the Celtics made it to the finals. He’s one of the top scorers in the league, capable of losing 50 points in a playoff, as he did last year against the Nets in the first round. But against Golden State, he struggled to score near the basket and had trouble with turnovers. On Monday night, he set a league record for post-season turnovers. Tatum shoots 37.3 percent from the field against Golden State.

If the Celtics want to avoid elimination, they will need more Tatum. But there is hope for Boston: In Game Six of this year’s Eastern Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks, with the Celtics facing the same deficit, Tatum had a 46-point performance.

In Game 5, the Celtics had 18 spins, and Golden State had six. In Game 2, the Celtics had 18, and Golden State had 12. This was a problem for the Celtics throughout the playoffs, especially with their co-stars, Tatum and Jaylene Brown — who were often stripped while dodging in the paint. If Boston doesn’t care about the ball, they won’t win. end of story.

Defensively, the Celtics were fine. Golden State scored from 100 to 108 points in each of the first five games, which is acceptable given his attacking talent. It’s on the offensive end as Boston struggled to generate a consistent appearance.

For most of the series, Carrey had to bear an enormous offensive burden. In the first four games of the series, Warriors fired only 37.3 percent in attempts considered wide open. That’s mostly on the rest of the Golden State players who couldn’t get Boston to pay for Curry’s tight defense.

That was until Game 5, when Klay Thompson and Jordan Bull punished the Celtics from the depth, to make up for Curry’s night of 0 for 9 of 3. Even Draymond Green, who had a dismal streak, earned 8 points, and acted as Curry’s release valve.

If Golden State players outside of Curry shoot, Boston will have a hard time winning.

Golden State showed they could win despite a poor match from Curry. But she does not want to take this opportunity again. Curry’s 43-point performance in Game 4 was impressive. If he can dig deeper for another similar outing, he puts himself in the conversation for one of the best final shows in history.

The series will go into Game 7. The winner wins it all. And if the Celtics win it, they will have completed an amazing turnaround from January, when they were both 18-21 years old. It will prove that a team can win a championship with two dominant wingers playing similar games, in this case Tatum and Brown. It will also endorse the team’s decision not to trade its young players for any of the established players that have hit the market in recent years.

Golden State will have to wonder if not trading any of its young players – rising star Moses Moody, Jonathan Kominga and James Wiseman – for immediate help would have been the right move to cash in on Curry’s dwindling window.

For the first five years of Andrew Wiggins’ career, he was often known as a cautionary tale. The Cleveland Cavaliers picked him first overall in the 2014 NBA Draft and then traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves weeks later to build a title contender around LeBron James. He showed flashes of elite esports, enough for Minnesota to invest the maximum contract extension in him. But the production never matched the contract. Since joining Golden State through trade in 2020, Wiggins has changed his career. This year, he played in his first All-Star Game. And in the finals, he was sometimes the best player in either team. If Golden State wins the championship, Wiggins will be a big cause – and complete a remarkable turnaround in his career.

If Golden State wins Game 6, Curry will almost certainly win the MVP award in the Finals, which will fill the void left on his resume. But the tournament has bigger stakes for Curry. His previous titles—according to some NBA watchers—haven’t been the legacy-burning championships they have been for other superstars. In 2015, Golden State defeated the Cavaliers led by James and lost two of its top three players. In 2017 and 2018, Golden State beat the Cavaliers again, but Kevin Durant was arguably the better player in those two teams. This would be Curry’s first tournament as he was unequivocally the Golden State’s best player and the opposing team was at full strength. This tournament would jump Curry higher in the discussion of the NBA greats.

Most of Boston’s key players are youngsters and still enter the top picks. Tatum and Brown are two dynamic wingers who could, in theory, be an All-Star for years to come. But if they lose, questions will arise about whether they can do it together. The problem for Boston is that it doesn’t have much wiggle room between free agencies. With several teams expected to make improvements next year – including the division rival Nets and the Toronto Raptors – the Celtics will face tough questions about whether making the changes at the edges will suffice.

Green provided insightful commentary on his podcast after each match. Through starring, he’ll be able to do so without guilt and without fans asking him to stop, despite his mostly poor performance on the series.

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