But make no mistake, strong messages are still being sent from players to coaches about what needs to change to avoid another catastrophic late-game result.
The Celtics punched the Warriors in the mouth in the final stanza Thursday night. Boston trailed Golden State by 12 points entering the period before dropping 40 on the Dubs and running away with the contest by a score of 120-108.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and company approached Game 1 as they have most contests this regular season and postseason, affording Steph Curry significant rest at the beginning of both the second and fourth quarters, during which he sat a combined total of 10 minutes.Golden State lost those two periods by a total of 30 points — six and 24 points, respectively.
Curry played the entirety of both the first and third stanzas, which the Dubs won by a total of 18 points — four and 12 points, respectively.
While Kerr’s rotational strategy has made sense all season, taking time and stress off of Curry’s aging legs and leaning more heavily on the likes of Jordan Poole and later Klay Thompson, the moment to adjust has arrived. Curry said as much following the loss Thursday, when he sent a strong message to the franchise that it is time to pull out all the stops.
“At most, we got six games left,” Curry said. “Make the necessary adjustments.”
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Curry Says Warriors Must Win Series By ‘Any Means Necessary’
Marcus Thompson of The Athletic broke down Curry’s comments in a piece published Friday. To Thompson’s well-trained ear, the Dubs’ two-time MVP was telling his coaches one simple thing, even if it wasn’t specifically articulated: “You have to play me more.”
“That’s as close as he’ll come to saying he’s ready to play 40 minutes. Or 42. Or 45. Whatever it takes. Against this daunting matchup, he may have to,” Thompson wrote.
“It’s less about getting Curry on the court as it is about the need to apply constant pressure,” Thompson continued. “This is the best defense the Warriors have faced in these playoffs. The Celtics’ resistance is configured ideally against the Golden State’s attack.”
Curry played a total of 38 minutes in Game 1, during which he led the Warriors in scoring with 34 points on 12 of 25 shooting from the field, including 7 of 14 from behind the 3-point line.
“It’s about winning four games by any means necessary, and for 42 minutes, we did enough to win a game tonight, and that’s not how basketball works,” Curry continued during Thursday’s postgame press conference. “I think everything starts to come on the table when you look at trying to get ourselves back in the series on Sunday and taking it from there.”
If Curry is to play more, obviously some others will have to play less, and it is unclear from where the point guard’s extra floor time might come. Thompson led the team in minutes with 39 in Game 1, one minute more than Curry played. Poole was on the floor for a total of 25 minutes in the game.
Experienced Warriors Aren’t Sweating 4th Quarter Collapse
There are a couple of ways to look at how the game went down Thursday night, one of which allows for a good deal of optimism about Golden State’s chances going forward and another that creates the exact opposite.
The Celtics won a crucial series opener on the road at Chase Center, despite an awful night offensively from star wingman Jayson Tatum who scored just 12 points on an abysmal 3 of 17 shooting. However he plays moving forward, it’s all but a certainty that Tatum won’t perform that poorly on offense again. That notion lends itself to the idea that Golden State may already be in real trouble in these NBA Finals.
On the other hand, the Warriors were clearly the better team for the majority of the game. It took a blistering night from the 3-point arc by the entire Celtics team, a 21 for 41 effort, to knock the Dubs off their lead. That included 15 made 3-point shots between three Boston players not known for consistent prowess from deep, which Draymond Green pointed out during his postgame interview.
I think they stayed within striking distance, and they made shots late, so we’ll be fine. We’ll figure out the ways we can stop them from getting those threes and take them away.
We pretty much dominated the game for the first 41, 42 minutes. So we’ll be fine.
Curry also appeared un-phased both in his demeanor and in the comments he made following the loss.
“It’s not ideal, but I believe in who we are and how we deal with adversity, how we responded all year, how we respond in the playoffs after a loss,” Curry said. “So learn a lot from that fourth quarter, obviously they made a lot of shots. It seemed like they didn’t miss until deep into the fourth. When you have a team that just finds a little bit of momentum like they did and they keep making shots, it’s tough to kind of regain that momentum.”
The Warriors will look to recapture the momentum they lost and tie the series up at 1-1 when they take on the Celtics in Game 2 at Chase Center on Sunday at 5 p.m. Western Standard Time.