The Golden State Warriors are one victory away from a championship. In a way, their Game 5 win was precisely the opposite of their Game 4 victory — after Stephen Curry lit up TD Garden for 43 points on 14-for-26 shooting on Friday, he scored just 16 points on 7-for-22 shooting at Chase Center in their 104-94 victory on Monday. In another way, it was extremely similar — the Warriors won by 10 points, shut down the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter and overcame an inefficient offensive performance.
Here are nine plays that explain Game 5:
1. Hey man, nice start
In the first four games of the NBA Finals, Golden State progressively tilted its attack toward Curry running high pick-and-rolls. It started Game 5, however, with classic Warriors movement. Curry hands the ball off to Otto Porter Jr., then cuts along the baseline, with Al Horford face guarding him. When Porter slips a screen, there’s no rim protection, as Robert Williams III is guarding the ball and Horford is preoccupied with Curry:
The Celtics have done a fantastic job defending Golden State’s off-ball actions, but that doesn’t mean coach Steve Kerr is going to default to static pick-and-rolls. The Warriors want to make Boston deal with multiple actions because every action requires defenders to think and communicate.
The first possession of the game provided a tidy microcosm of the battle taking place whenever Golden State has the ball. Defending the Warriors is exhausting, and they believe that, if they keep running their stuff, the opponent will eventually wear down. Scoring against the Celtics is exhausting, and they believe that, if they are locked in and limit their mistakes, the opponent will eventually wear down. Here, Golden State beat the switch with a slip, but Draymond Green had to place his pass perfectly and Porter had to hit the layup over Jayson Tatum’s outstretched arms.
This bucket was the beginning of a 14-4 Warriors run in which Curry accounted for only two points.
2. Simple game
In Boston’s series-opening win, Tatum had 13 assists and Horford made six 3s. In Game 3, the Celtics’ other win, Tatum had nine assists and they effectively targeted Curry. This late-second-quarter possession, which ended with a Horford kickout 3 from Tatum, illustrates what has worked for Boston offensively in this series:
Tatum got into the paint with good spacing around him, collapsed the defense, made Andre Iguodala think he was passing to Jaylen Brown in the corner and hit Horford for an open 3. Boston’s problem is that this didn’t happen nearly enough. This was only the Celtics’ second 3-pointer of the game — they missed their first 12 — and Tatum finished with four assists. It is not a coincidence that his other assists all came in the third quarter, the one that they dominated.