BOSTON — If you were to caricature the Golden State Warriors at their worst, their weakest, their most vulnerable, their most unstable, it might look like this.
Like Stephen Curry, who kicked the ball three times in 82 seconds to open the fourth quarter.
Like Draymond Green, chewing up a referee for several minutes after committing a foul later in the period.
As a team that is easily intimidated on the boards (a 47-31 margin) and in the paint (a 52-26 point margin) and on second chance points (22-11).
Like a team that might lack the strength, athleticism and firepower to keep pace with the Boston Celtics, who controlled the field for most of Wednesday night, strutting to a 116-100 victory and a 2-1 NBA lead. Finals.
The Celtics led for almost 49 seconds and up to 18 points, leaving the Warriors in a perpetual state of despair, as they were throughout their Game 1 loss a week ago. But this one had more concerning consequences, namely the health of Curry’s left foot and, by implication, the Warriors’ chances of winning this series.
Celtics center Al Horford, all 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds from him, landed on Curry’s foot in a fight for a loose ball late in the game. Curry cried out in pain, then lay on the ground grimacing long after the scrum was over. He stayed in the game for another two minutes before coach Steve Kerr – with the game out of reach – withdrew all of his starters.
It’s the same foot that sprained the ligament in March – in this case, in a collision with the Celtics’ Marcus Smart – an injury that dogged Curry for three weeks. Curry said this injury is similar to the first, but less severe.
“That’s how I felt, and we’ll see how he reacts,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m missing a game. Take advantage of these next 48 hours to prepare.
Curry walked in and out of his press conference with no apparent limp. But there is little time to heal before Game 4 here on Friday. And the mere sight of their two-time MVP lying on their backs, grimacing in pain, must have sent shivers down the spine of the entire franchise.
“He’s our identity,” Klay Thompson said, “and without him it’s going to be very difficult.”
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There was no hyperbole in the first sentence. The second was a profound understatement.
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Sometimes the Warriors can hardly score without Curry, either his shot itself or the gravity he creates. He led the way again with 31 points on Wednesday – 15 in a sizzling third-quarter flurry that erased a double-digit deficit and very Briefly gave the Warriors an 83-82 lead but couldn’t keep up the momentum.
The Warriors turned the ball over on four of their first six possessions to open the fourth, with Curry counting for three of them as the Celtics pushed the lead back to double digits.
Boston made history along the way, as Jaylen Brown (27 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists), Jayson Tatum (26 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists) and Marcus Smart (24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) became the top line. teammates to register at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists each in a Finals game since 1984, when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper did it for the Lakers…against the Celtics.
And the Warriors? They got a resurgent shooting performance from Thompson (25 points, 5 for 13 of three), but nothing else from anyone. And Green, long the defensive awareness and tone of the Warriors, sputtered: 2 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists while being serenaded with repeated chants of “F— you, Draymond” by the Celtics faithful.
Green had another brief tussle with Grant Williams, continuing his series trend of causing at least one Celtic a game. He fouled for pushing Smart away from the scrum that engulfed Curry.
“I saw him dive and that was pretty much it,” Green said. “So I picked up my fault by pushing him away, because he’s screaming at the bottom of the pile.”
It was Green’s biggest impact all night. According to his own assessment, he played “soft” and “like s—“.
So the Warriors returned to the pit, reminding everyone that they had played worse and seen worse and been through worse. Thompson even went back to the beginning of this dynasty to draw a comforting comparison.
“Getting 2015 big vibes,” he said.
At the time, the Warriors also fell to a 2-1 hole in the Finals, against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They won the series in six games. Of course, this Cavs squad was missing stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, while this Celtics squad is in great shape and showing few signs of vulnerability.
“It helps to know that we’ve been through a bit of everything for the last eight years,” Curry said.
But all that muscle memory will be moot if Curry’s left foot ligaments can’t carry that dynasty through three more wins.
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