August 13, 2022

It so often happens that way when NBA playoff teams are as evenly matched as the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics. A story is written, certain truths emerge, and the chapter that follows has nothing to do with what preceded. Throw away all your grand proclamations and expect the losing team to respond with a vengeance.

Perhaps the trend expired after the first four games of the Finals, and the Warriors will use that 2-2 stalemate as a stepping stone to glory — their fourth title in head coach Steve Kerr’s eight years tenure. You certainly wouldn’t put anything beyond a team led by Stephen Curry after his jaw-dropping work of art in Friday Night’s Game 4 in Boston.

It’s just that another trend has imposed itself in these playoffs, that of a luxury that has become a necessity. The Warriors realized they were only getting a half-baked product with their interior game and athleticism, and for a franchise that only sets the highest standards, that won’t be enough.

On the bright side, they seem to have an internal response. It’s just a shame it won’t be revealed for months when James Wiseman returns to the field – he will be go back there, right? – and Jonathan Kuminga becomes part of the system.

It could be dazzling, spectacular, a wonderful look into the future and a way to maintain the Warriors’ elite status in the league. Hope it is everything of that, because the current product is pockmarked by limitations.

Robert Williams III, the Boston Celtics’ 6-foot-9 center, is not one of the greats in his position. But he’s got a spring in his step and a lot of passion, and in those NBA Finals he brought to light a recurring problem of the Warriors’ season. Celtics head coach Ime Udoka calls Williams “a multidimensional defender” who can “keep on the perimeter, keep in the post, and obviously rim protection is what he’s always done naturally.”

In other words, he’s everything the Warriors don’t have on their front line. And he’s surpassing people with a surgically repaired left knee that’s been bothering him for three weeks.

That’s not to diminish the greatness of Draymond Green, one of the greatest defensive forwards in league history, but he can’t be expected to stop offensive threats. and protect the rim from someone it does not protect. Kevon Looney is a franchise treasure, but he really needs some help when the inside traffic gets really heavy.

Sometimes — those magical bouts where Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole are all in the lineup, scoring like crazy — the Green-Looney combination is all good enough. Then there are nights like Game 3 on Wednesday, when the Celtics outpointed Golden State 52-26 in the paint and held a 47-31 rebound advantage.

The residue was not merely revealing; it was downright embarrassing. Especially considering that in times of real crisis, when runs need to be scored, neither Green nor Looney are willing to shoot from outside 10 feet. Kerr benched Green for a long stretch in the fourth quarter Friday night, and he felt compelled to pull Green out on offensive possessions in the frantic final minutes, sending him straight to the floor for defense. It took a lot of courage on Kerr’s part, and he’d rather it not become a habit — on this show or any other time.

When it comes to young first-round draft picks, the Warriors only have snapshots. It’s Kuminga who looks like a great potential defender when he learns the nuances; shoot a nice 3-pointer without hesitation, or throw a huge dunk that electrifies the building and changes the immediate nature of the game.

With Wiseman, he dribbles as fast as any center in the NBA and switches hands effortlessly; become a go-to option for lob dunks in the Warriors ball movement offense, or emerge as a potentially formidable shot blocker. (He also has a free-flowing stroke on the outside, by the way.)

If the Warriors develop these two players as expected, they will feel much better against Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns, the Anthony Davis-LeBron James combination, Zion Williamson and Deandre Ayton in the Western Conference. . (Ayton is at a contractual and spiritual disagreement with the Suns and can leave as a free agent; Damian Lillard makes sure Portland gets involved.)