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    Stephen Curry Left His Critics With Nothing Else to Say

    Four N.B.A. championships. Two Most Valuable Player Awards. And yes, a finals M.V.P. Golden State’s Curry has nothing else to prove.BOSTON — A few seconds remained in Stephen Curry’s N.B.A. season when he spotted his father, Dell, sitting along one of the baselines. He went over to embrace him, then fell to the court in tears.“Surreal,” Curry said. “I just wanted to take in the moment because it was that special.”Over six games of the N.B.A. finals, Curry had supplied Golden State with a narrow range of feats that ranged from the extraordinary to the sublime. He squeezed past walls of defenders for up-and-under layups, and backpedaled for fadeaway jumpers. He enthralled some fans while demoralizing others. He sought the spotlight, then delivered.He effectively turned the court into his personal theater and the Celtics into his helpless foils, delivering performance after performance in a two-week run whose only flaw was that nearly everyone could begin to anticipate the ending — with Curry exiting the stage as a champion again.After Golden State defeated Boston, 103-90, on Thursday to clinch its fourth title in eight seasons, Curry, 34, reflected on the long journey back to the top: the injuries and the lopsided losses, the doubters and the uncertainty. He also recalled the exact moment he started preparing for the start of this season — 371 days ago.“These last two months of the playoffs, these last three years, these last 48 hours — every bit of it has been an emotional roller coaster on and off the floor,” Curry said, “and you’re carrying all of that on a daily basis to try to realize a dream and a goal like we did tonight.”“You imagine what the emotions are going to be like, but it hits different,” Curry said of winning his fourth championship. Two seasons ago, Golden State had the worst record in the N.B.A.Paul Rutherford/USA Today Sports, via ReutersThe numbers tell one story, and they are worth emphasizing. For the series, Curry averaged 31.2 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists while shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 43.7 percent from 3-point range. He was the unanimous selection as the finals’ most valuable player.“He carried us,” Golden State’s Draymond Green said, “and we’re here as champions.”But there was an artistry to Curry’s work in the series, too, and it was a profound reminder of everything he has done to reshape the way fans — and even fellow players — think about the game. The way he stretches the court with his interplanetary shooting. The way he uses post players to create space with pick-and-rolls. The way he has boosted the self-esteem of smaller players everywhere.“When I go back home to Milwaukee and watch my A.A.U. team play and practice, everybody wants to be Steph,” Golden State’s Kevon Looney said. “Everybody wants to shoot 3s, and I’m like: ‘Man, you got to work a little harder to shoot like him. I see him every day.’ ”For two seasons, of course, in the wake of the Golden State’s catastrophic, injury-marred trip to the 2019 finals, some of that joy was missing. The Warriors scuffled through a slow rebuild.“You imagine what the emotions are going to be like,” Curry said of winning his fourth championship, “but it hits different.”Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via ReutersThe team reassembled the pieces this season, but there were no guarantees. Curry missed the final 12 games of the regular season with a sprained left foot, then aggravated the injury in Game 3 of the finals. All he did in Game 4 was score 43 points to help Golden State even the series at two games apiece.He showed that he was mortal in Game 5, missing all nine of his 3-point attempts, but his supporting cast filled the void. Among them: Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole, who developed their games during Golden State’s playoff-free hiatus and were indispensable this postseason.“Our young guys carried the belief that we could get back to this stage and win,” Curry said. “And even if it didn’t make sense to anybody when we said it, all that stuff matters.”For Game 6 on Thursday, Curry broke out the full buffet. He used a pump fake to send the Celtics’ Al Horford flying toward an expensive row of seats. He baited defenders into traps and zipped passes to cutting teammates. And after a big flurry in the third quarter, he glared at the crowd and pointed at his ring finger. (Translation: He was ready for more jewelry.)Curry began to get emotional when Boston Coach Ime Udoka summoned his reserves from the bench with just over a minute remaining, conceding the series and the championship. Standing alone at midcourt, Curry seemed to be laughing and crying at the same time, a euphoric mix of feelings.“You imagine what the emotions are going to be like, but it hits different,” he said.After missing all nine of his 3-point attempts in the previous game, Curry was 6 of 11 from deep in Game 6. He scored 34 points.Elsa/Getty ImagesIn a sports world consumed by debate shows, uninformed opinions and hot takes on social media, two asterisks — unfair ones — seemed to trail Curry like fumes. The first was that he had neither helped his team win a title without Kevin Durant nor defeated a finals opponent who was at full strength. The second was that he had not been named a finals M.V.P.Whether he cared or not, Curry effectively quashed both of those narratives against the Celtics, a team that had all of its young stars in uniform and even had Marcus Smart, the league’s defensive player of the year, spending good portions of the series with his arms tucked inside Curry’s jersey.For his part, Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said there was only one achievement missing from Curry’s résumé: an Olympic gold medal. (It should be noted that Kerr coaches the U.S. men’s national team.)“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” Kerr said, deadpan. “Honestly, the whole finals M.V.P. thing? I guess his career has been so impeccable, and that’s the only thing we can actually find. So it’s great to check that box for him. But it’s really hard for me to think that’s actually been held against him.”After the game, as Golden State’s players and coaches began to gather on a stage for the trophy presentation, Curry hugged each of them, one by one.“Back on top, 30!” Looney said, referring to Curry’s uniform number.Afterward, as Curry made his way toward a courtside tunnel, lingering fans clamored to get closer to the court, closer to Curry, before he was disappeared from view. He chomped on a victory cigar as he held his finals M.V.P. trophy aloft, pushing it skyward once, twice, three times.No one could miss it. More

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    The Boston Celtics Have Faced Elimination, but Not Like This

    The Celtics have drawn confidence from previous season-saving wins. But watching a championship trophy drift away is another challenge altogether.SAN FRANCISCO — Jayson Tatum offered a resigned chuckle when he was asked about the Boston Celtics’ confidence level after losing Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals.If any nihilistic thoughts tormented him after a game in which he scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a losing effort against Golden State, he suppressed them.“You better be confident, right?” Tatum said. “We ain’t got to win two in one day. We just got to win one game on Thursday. We’ve been in this situation before. So it’s not over. Got to win on Thursday.”The idea that Boston knows what to do when cornered in a playoff series has been repeated by the Celtics many times this postseason. They did it again Monday night after falling to a 3-2 series deficit in the N.B.A. finals, and now they face elimination on Thursday in Boston. But the assuredness with which they spoke in previous series was missing.For many reasons, the situation they find themselves in now is new territory and has left the Celtics searching for answers for how to recover in time for Game 6.“Our faith got to be at an all-time high,” Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said. “Our faith got to continue to be there. We got to play as a team, as a unit. All season long it’s kind of been like us versus everybody. I look at it as no different now.”Center Robert Williams said: “We have to look each other in the eye now. Our backs are up against the wall.”What’s familiar is that the Celtics are in an elimination game.They have played in three during this season’s playoffs and advanced by winning all of them.They were down 3-2 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, then won the next two games to reach the conference finals. There, the Miami Heat forced a Game 7, which Boston won, 100-96.Often it seemed the Celtics were making their own path harder than it needed to be, giving into lulls when they played in games that were not must-wins. They had an opportunity to finish their series against the Heat at home in six games but couldn’t. They gave up 47 points to Miami’s Jimmy Butler that night. They have been blown out by the same teams they have beat convincingly, suggesting a lack of focus.Their disregard has manifested through missteps like careless turnovers — the Celtics have given up 16.8 turnovers per game in each of their losses during the playoffs and only 12.8 in wins this postseason. They gave up 18 turnovers on Monday night.Their offense has gone stale at times, but their defense has helped save them.Before Game 5, Boston Coach Ime Udoka said the Celtics would have been 3-1 in the series if their offense had simply played better. Then they started Game 5 by missing their first 12 3-pointers.What’s changed now is that Golden State seems to have decoded the Celtics. Boston’s physicality no longer scares them. Shut down Stephen Curry? Golden State still won.The Celtics spent a lot of time complaining about fouls, called and uncalled, during Game 5.Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesFor most of the playoffs, each time Boston lost a game, it recovered in the next. Game 5 was the first time this postseason that the Celtics had lost twice in a row — the result of a disparity in poise and adaptability, with the young Boston team on the lower end.As the series has progressed, Golden State has seemed more and more ready to pounce on the Celtics’ weaknesses.Celtics forward Al Horford said he felt that his team was “almost playing into their hands, some of the things they want us to do, which is taking contested midrange shots and probably play a little faster than we want at times. I feel like that’s part of the reason our offense hasn’t been clicking like it needs to be.”In Game 5, the Celtics also fell victim to their frustrations with the officiating, which compounded their offensive struggles. The team complained and argued for most of the night.“Probably something we shouldn’t do as much, and we all did too much,” Udoka said.What’s also unfamiliar for the Celtics as they face elimination this time is the pressure that comes with this stage of the season.After Boston took a 2-1 lead in the series, all the talk of Golden State’s advantage in championship experience seemed nonsensical. It seemed, at the time, that the Celtics lost that one game only because they lost focus, as they sometimes do. It seemed, at that time, that Boston was too big, strong, athletic and young for Golden State’s experience to make much of a difference.But now the series has reached a point that these Celtics have never seen before.“We understand what we need to do,” Curry said. “It’s just about going out and executing, trying to bottle up your emotions, knowing how hard a closeout game is.”As Boston searches for answers, Golden State smells blood.Said Klay Thompson: “I’ve never been so excited to go to Boston, I’ll tell you that.” More

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    The Celtics Broadcaster Mike Gorman Hopes He Cheered a Championship Run

    Mike Gorman, who has done local play-by-play in Boston for more than 40 years, considered retiring. Staying on may have made him the soundtrack to a title team.To generations of Celtics fans, Mike Gorman is just as revered as many of the beloved Hall of Fame players who have taken the floor in Boston.Gorman has been the play-by-play broadcaster for the team since 1981, a steady and reliable voice documenting some of the team’s most memorable moments, from the rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s to the team’s resurrection in the late-2000s. He was there for the lean times, such as the Rick Pitino era of the 1990s and the death of Reggie Lewis in 1993. For almost 40 years, right beside him was Tommy Heinsohn, the Hall of Fame player and coach.Heinsohn and Gorman could not have been more different as voices. Heinsohn, as the color commentator, was a gregarious personality known for his vociferous criticism of referees who dared to make calls against the Celtics. Gorman is more reserved, raising his voice only for big shots with his catchphrases “Takes it. Makes it!” or “Got it!”After Heinsohn died in 2020, Gorman, a former Navy pilot from Dorchester, Mass., considered stepping away without the other half of “Mike and Tommy.” But Gorman stayed, in large part to see if he could be a part of another championship run.He may have gotten his wish. The Celtics have made an improbable run to the N.B.A. finals, where they are facing Golden State. Boston is down in the series, 3-2, and faces elimination in Game 6 on Thursday.Gorman, alongside Heinsohn’s successor, Brian Scalabrine, called games through the first round of the playoffs. (Under the N.B.A.’s television deals, only national networks broadcast playoff games after the first round.)In an interview with The New York Times about his career, Gorman, 74, said he most likely has two years left as the voice of the Celtics.“I want to go see the world,” Gorman said. “I want to go and do a lot of things that my wife and I made sacrifices to not do because of a basketball game conflict.”This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.What was it like to call this season, which may result in a championship, without Tommy next to you?I want to say there was a real void, because there was a real void. Scal had nothing to do with that. Scal couldn’t change that. Nobody could change that. Nobody was going to fill Tommy’s shoes and be able to instantly get the chemistry that Tommy and I had.The Boston Celtics broadcasters Tommy Heinsohn, left, and Gorman in 2011 as they celebrated 30 years on air together.Elise Amendola/Associated PressCalling all of these games without Tommy, No. 1 was I thought a lot about once he had passed away that maybe I should just quit, too, and just let the legacy be the two of us and not be anything else. But I could see promise with this team, and I think this team is ahead of schedule right now. But they have a chance to win one or two titles if they can keep this group together for an extended period of time.Why did you stick around?I could see this team had potential. It’s great to do a good team because when you do a good team, everyone thinks you’re a good broadcaster. When you’re a bad team, everyone thinks you’re a terrible broadcaster.What was it like being around the team in the first half of the season compared with the second half?Very different to be around the team, period, because of all the restrictions with Covid. And that really hurt, because what we had is when Brad [Stevens] left, a majority of his assistants left with him.So all of a sudden, there were a lot of guys out there that I have no relationship with. I had no relationship with Ime [Udoka]. I had no relationship with any of his assistant coaches. So it was very hard to get any kind of relationship. I would say there wasn’t much of, really, necessarily trying hard to befriend the players, but over the period of years, you have some guys you become friendly with. But you become friendly with them in hotel lobbies. That’s where relationships are made. So when I stopped doing the away games, as I did this past year because of the virus more than anything else, I didn’t see players at all.The season gets off to a difficult start. Was there any part of you that said, “I don’t want to do this anymore?”I started to have those thoughts when we had such a terrible start.Last year, you did something I’ve never seen you do, which was you publicly criticized the Celtics in a radio interview, particularly Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for playing too much as individuals instead of as a team. You said the team was “really sad to watch.” Now that they’re in the finals, how do you reflect on those comments now?I did them a favor, to be honest with you. Because I took the pressure off some of the other people who felt the same way within the organization that weren’t going to say anything.And then Marcus Smart comes out, and he says the same thing I did. And then to somebody in the hierarchy — I’ll just say, of the Celtics — I said: “Why are you guys so mad at me for what I said? It’s true.” And he said: “Oh, we know it’s true. We just wish that you hadn’t said it right now.” I could understand that. But I love the Celtics. The Celtics have been my life. However, I don’t work for the Celtics. I work for NBC.Gorman said he had made a lot of sacrifices to be available to call basketball games. Now he wants to see the world.Allison Dinner for The New York TimesWhat’s been your favorite Celtics season to call?2008. The one with [Paul] Pierce, [Ray] Allen and [Kevin] Garnett.Least favorite?A decade. Probably the ’90s, where we didn’t make the playoffs a whole bunch of years.What do you think Tommy Heinsohn would say about this year’s Celtics team?I think he’d be very proud of what they have done and how they turned things around. I think he would have been yelling at them before I was about not moving the ball and not doing some of the things that would make them a better team.I would see a player bring the ball across halfcourt and stop, and then all of a sudden, nobody is moving at all. Put on any game in November or December and look at five minutes. Now, put on a game from last week, and all of a sudden, the same players are crossing halfcourt with the ball, and guys are cutting. Guys are moving. Guys are setting screens. Everybody is in motion all the time. It’s just a completely different game. It’s day and night. More

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    Golden State Beat Celtics in Game 5, Moving 1 Win From N.B.A. Title

    Andrew Wiggins powered Golden State’s victory on an off night for Stephen Curry, who went 0 for 9 from 3-point range.SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State had been mucking up its offense for nearly the entire third quarter on Monday night when Andrew Wiggins pushed the ball ahead to Jordan Poole, a young guard with enormous confidence. Just before time expired, Poole launched a 3-pointer from 33 feet that banked off the glass before rattling through the hoop.The heave was a buzzer-beating breath of life for Golden State in Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals — and for the team’s white-knuckled fans, who rode waves of highs and lows before the Warriors pulled away for a 104-94 victory that put them on the cusp of another championship.Golden State, which took a 3-2 lead in the series, can clinch its fourth title in eight seasons, and its first since 2018, when the team goes on the road to face Boston in Game 6 on Thursday night.Wiggins led Golden State with 26 points, and Klay Thompson added 21. Jayson Tatum had a game-high 27 points for the Celtics in the loss.After a solid start, Golden State was leading by 12, but four Jaylen Brown free throws and back-to-back 3-pointers by Tatum gave the Celtics the first 10 points of the second half, a surprising turn of events given Golden State’s famously torrid third quarters. The Celtics soon took the lead when Marcus Smart and Al Horford connected on consecutive 3-pointers of their own, part of a 19-4 run.Golden State missed its first eight 3-point attempts of the second half before Thompson finally made a couple, a much-needed boost for Golden State — and for Thompson, who had been having his share of struggles in the series.After Poole punctuated the third quarter with his deep 3-pointer, a shot that had the home crowd at Chase Center in a state of near-delirium, his teammates seemed to ride that crest of emotion. By the time Thompson shed Smart to make another 3-pointer, Golden State was back up by 8 points.After scoring 43 points in Golden State’s Game 4 win, Stephen Curry had a muted effort in Game 5, finishing with just 16 points and shooting 0 of 9 from 3-point range. But his teammates delivered. Golden State appeared locked in from the start, passing the ball from side to side, from corner to corner, in constant pursuit of the best possible shot. Not that the team was always able to connect, shooting 3 of 17 from 3-point range in the first half.Still, Golden State went ahead by as many as 16 late in the first quarter before Boston began to chip away with Curry resting on the bench. Smart sank a 10-foot jumper. Robert Williams forced his way inside for a layup.Golden State recalibrated as Curry secured a 51-39 lead at halftime with an up-and-under layup.Draymond Green fouled out in the fourth quarter, but his energy on offense and defense was significant in Golden State’s victory.Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports, via ReutersIn the first half, Golden State was buoyed by Wiggins, who had 16 points and 7 rebounds, and by Draymond Green, who assembled one of his more assertive stretches of the finals. In the first four games of the series, he scored a total of 17 points. By halftime of Game 5, he had 8 points and was flying around the court.Tatum, after laboring with his shot for much of the series, was doing what he could to keep the Celtics close, collecting 13 points and 8 rebounds in the first half.Before the game, Celtics Coach Ime Udoka expressed concern that Tatum had been preoccupied with hunting for fouls rather than taking good shots. Udoka wanted him to be “more physical” on his drives.“A lot of times he’s kind of floating, going off one leg, when he can plant and go off two, finish a little stronger,” Udoka said, adding: “We’re just telling him to be decisive. He’s done it all year, seen every coverage, and for the most part has kind of picked those apart.”For Golden State Coach Steve Kerr, Monday was the 25th anniversary of a poignant moment from his playing career. It was Kerr’s jump shot in Game 6 of the 1997 finals that clinched another championship for the Chicago Bulls — their fifth of the Michael Jordan era — against the Utah Jazz.“Something every young basketball player dreams of,” he said, adding: “The finals are the finals, whether you’re playing or coaching. It’s the ultimate competition in the world of basketball.” More

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    The Celtics Got Lucky By Not Getting What They Wanted

    Other teams’ superstars kept getting traded, and the Celtics wanted in on the action. Boston (mostly) missed out, and is probably better off for it.Moments after Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals ended last month, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown embraced each other.“They said we couldn’t play together,” Tatum said with a wide smile.That had been the most pressing issue facing the Boston Celtics since Tatum, 24, and Brown, 25, were handed the reins to the team before the 2019-20 season. That year — Tatum’s third and Brown’s fourth in the N.B.A. — they led the team to within two wins of reaching the finals. Since then, they have faced questions about whether Boston could be a championship-caliber team built around them.Those questions were at their loudest earlier this year — dominating TV panels and podcasts — when the Celtics were 18-21 and on pace to miss the playoffs. Instead, a remarkable turnaround propelled the Celtics into the finals, against Golden State, for the first time since 2010.“We definitely thought about and had conversations about trading for a number of the great players that were sort of thought to be available over the past 10 years,” Wyc Grousbeck, the owner of the Celtics, said in an interview. “It’d be wrong to say we never engaged in trade talks with player X, Y or Z.”But, he added, “we valued our guys more than, apparently, the market did.”The trend in the N.B.A. over the last 15 years — though it didn’t originate then — has been to chase the creation of so-called superteams at the expense of developing continuity and nurturing young players. The 2007-8 Celtics, who brought in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to complement Paul Pierce through blockbuster trades and won a championship, were a prominent example of this.Since then, several teams have emptied their cupboards of draft picks and young players to acquire big-name stars — as the Celtics did — in a leaguewide arms race to compete for mercenary championships. This has coincided with the player empowerment movement, where top players have tried, often successfully, to be traded to teams with other stars.This has left the players’ new teams on edge, wondering if giving up all the picks and young players will be worth it.The Celtics tried to get in on the trend — they traded for Kyrie Irving and signed Gordon Hayward to a big free-agent deal just after drafting Tatum in 2017 — but today’s team is the result of yearslong investment in young players. The Celtics are on the doorstep of a championship with a foundation that goes against what has become conventional wisdom about team-building in the N.B.A. Whether as a result of luck or shrewd front office work, or both, the Celtics’ approach is paying off.In recent years, the All-Stars Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Ben Simmons, James Harden, Anthony Davis and Paul George have been among those to engineer trades. Irving forced a trade out of Cleveland to land in Boston.Almost every time a star was rumored to want out of their situation, the Celtics would be linked to the trade talks. Few teams could offer young players as talented as Boston’s or as many draft picks, some of which Boston acquired in a heist of a deal with the Nets as they created their own superteam in 2013.Grousbeck declined to comment on what deals Boston came close to making. In at least one case, the star seemingly made the decision for the Celtics. Davis’s father, Anthony Davis Sr., publicly said that he didn’t want his son playing in Boston — a signal that even if Davis were traded to Boston, he wouldn’t re-sign once his contract expired, making it less worthwhile for the Celtics to part with their top players in a deal.Brown, left, and Tatum were drafted one year apart. Their growth over the past five years, especially this season, has made Boston a top contender in the Eastern Conference.Elsa/Getty Images“I think that what happens is you want to trade draft capital if you get the right deals and if you feel like you’re close enough to winning,” Danny Ainge, who was Boston’s president of basketball operations from 2003-21, told Sports Illustrated recently. “None of us know what would have happened in different circumstances.”In some cases, superteam gambles worked — at least in the short term. The Toronto Raptors won the championship in 2019, led by Leonard; the Lakers won a title in 2020 with Davis. But the Nets won just one playoff series with Harden before he forced a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers in February. To get Harden from Houston, the Nets had given up the 24-year-old center Jarrett Allen, who made his first All-Star team this year with Cleveland.The Nets’ one series win with Harden came against Boston in the first round of the 2021 playoffs, with Brown out injured. The Celtics, left behind in the superteam arms race, seemed adrift. Some of their recent first-round draft picks, like Romeo Langford (2019) and Aaron Nesmith (2020), looked like misses. Irving and Hayward were gone. Kemba Walker, a former All-Star whom the Celtics had signed to a maximum contract to replace Irving, had been injured and playing poorly. Suddenly, Boston looked like a team that had, unlike the Raptors and Lakers title teams, held on to its young players for too long.The day after the Celtics were eliminated from last year’s playoffs, Boston simultaneously announced that Ainge was stepping down as team president and that Brad Stevens would replace him. Stevens had been the team’s head coach for eight seasons, but he had no front office experience.Grousbeck said he pitched Stevens on replacing Ainge, citing Stevens’s tenure with the team and a “personal bond” that he had with ownership. At the news conference announcing the move last June, Stevens said he had discussed the possibility of taking over the position with both Ainge and Grousbeck, and that he told Grousbeck: “I love the Celtics. I want to do what’s best for the Celtics.”One of Stevens’s first moves was to hire Ime Udoka as coach, Udoka’s first leading role after nine years as an assistant. Grousbeck said he wasn’t worried about the inexperience of Stevens and Udoka in their new jobs.“I went to Ime and Brad before the season started and specifically said in person, ‘I’m not stressed about how this season starts,’” Grousbeck said.There are countless examples of professional sports owners preaching patience but not practicing it. As the season progressed, the Celtics mostly kept the faith that they could win with Tatum and Brown as their centerpieces.“Now, did I start worrying in the first half? Yes, I did. But I kept it to myself,” Grousbeck said.Marcus Smart, left, has been a vocal leader for the Celtics and critical as a defender. He was named the defensive player of the year this season, the first guard to win the award since Gary Payton in the 1990s.Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesAfter their 18-21 start, the Celtics went 33-10 and earned the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Most of the players in their finals rotation were drafted by the Celtics and are 25 and younger, including Tatum (24), Brown (25), Robert Williams III (24), Grant Williams (23) and Payton Pritchard (24). Marcus Smart, 28, was drafted by the Celtics in 2014 and named the defensive player of the year this season.This would appear to leave the Celtics in strong shape for years to come. They’re in the finals and many of their players haven’t hit their primes. But championship windows can be slim. After this year, the N.B.A. will have crowned at least five different teams as champion in seven years. The Celtics might end up regretting not trading for Davis or another big name if they don’t win a title this year. After all, just one year ago, when the Celtics looked to be locked into mediocrity, the Phoenix Suns came within two wins of a championship, only to slink out in the second round of this postseason despite being the West’s No. 1 seed.But if Boston wins, perhaps the next team will think twice before striking a deal when the next Harden or Simmons tries to force a trade. The Celtics aren’t quite the model of patience — a stroke of luck, it seems, felled their superstar trade negotiations — but what they have appears to be working just fine.Not that Grousbeck is interested in taking a victory lap.“I don’t think anybody needs any advice from us about building a team,” Grousbeck said. More

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    From Santo Domingo to the N.B.A. Finals, Al Horford Is at Home

    BOSTON — When Al Horford was 14 years old, he moved from the Dominican Republic, where he’d been raised by his mother in Santo Domingo, to Michigan, where his father and four of his half-siblings lived.“That was just so awesome,” said Anna Horford, 29, Al’s half sister. “He helped raise us.”He babysat his siblings, and they’d play baseball, volleyball or basketball in the backyard. Anna recalled Al skipping high school parties to stay with them.When they got old enough to go to parties themselves, he’d advise them, urging them to be safe and call him if they needed a ride.“He’s always kind of taken on more of a dad role,” Anna said. “He’s about six years older than the next oldest Horford kid. He’s always been older, and he’s always kind of led the path in a way. I think it’s the same thing with the Celtics.”She added: “I joke that he’s like the team dad of the Celtics. Because he’ll always kind of put the guys in line, or when he speaks they kind of really make sure to listen and pay attention and give him that respect.”Horford, at 36 years old, is the oldest player on the Celtics.Jed Jacobsohn/Associated PressAt the start of this season, Al Horford, 36, was the only Celtics player in his 30s. Boston’s core group includes three 20-somethings, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, who were just starting their N.B.A. journeys six years ago when Horford first became a Celtic.He left Boston briefly before returning this season, and has provided veteran leadership and stability to an otherwise young Celtics team. His presence and his play have helped Boston make a push for the franchise’s 18th championship.“They’re different, they’ve grown, they’re much better,” Horford said of Tatum, Brown and Smart. “This is kind of their team. This is kind of their time, you know? And I’m just happy to be a part of it now.”When Boston clinched the Eastern Conference championship with a Game 7 win over the Miami Heat, Horford became the first Dominican player to make it to the N.B.A. finals. Across tenures with Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia, he had played in 141 playoff games without making a finals appearance — more than any other player.The outpouring of emotion he displayed as the Celtics celebrated their conference title reflected how much it meant to him. But it meant a lot to his teammates, too.“Nobody deserves it more than this guy on my right, right here, man,” Brown said that night. “His energy, his demeanor, coming in every day, being a professional, taking care of his body, being a leader — I’m proud to be able to share this moment with a veteran, a mentor, a brother, a guy like Al Horford, man.”Horford was emotional after the Celtics beat the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, allowing him to make his first trip to the N.B.A. finals.Eric Espada/Getty ImagesThe Celtics drafted Brown in 2016, a few weeks before Horford signed a four-year deal with the team. The next summer, Boston selected Tatum No. 3 overall. Smart had been drafted sixth overall in 2014.Horford spent three years with Boston — two with Brown, Tatum and Smart — and the Celtics went to the conference finals twice and lost in the conference semifinals once. He opted out of the last year of his contract in 2019 and joined the 76ers as a free agent.In December 2020, the 76ers traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who hardly used him. In June 2021, Boston traded with the Thunder to get him back.“I do believe everything happens for a reason,” Horford said. “This was a time for them to grow and also for me to grow as well. Me getting a different perspective and now appreciating even more what I have here.”When Brad Stevens, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations and the team’s previous head coach, called to tell Horford about the trade, Horford was in a car with his family. They all started screaming with excitement.“I think it kind of feels like home to him,” Anna Horford said of Boston. “This is the first place he’s played where his kids were old enough to be aware of being at games. Ean was just a baby in Atlanta. Him going to school here, making friends here, his other kids as well. This was the first place that really felt like home as an entire family.”Home is a particularly meaningful concept to someone as transient as Horford has been.In Santo Domingo, his mother, Arelis Reynoso, was a sports journalist and occasionally took him on assignment.“I felt like I was really independent from a really young age over there,” Horford said. “It was just very special, that time with my mom.”He moved to Michigan for high school, then went to college at Florida, where he won two national championships with two other players who had notable N.B.A. careers: Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer.The Hawks drafted him third overall in 2007, and he made his first four of his five All-Star teams while playing in Atlanta.Horford said he grew in his two seasons away from the Celtics, when he left for Philadelphia in free agency and then was traded to Oklahoma City.Allison Dinner for The New York TimesThe seeds of his long career were planted there.“I saw his daily habits,” said Kenny Atkinson, who was an assistant coach with the Hawks while Horford played there. “Al is going to be like Nolan Ryan: He’s going to play until he’s 45. He’s so impeccable about it.”Atkinson helped Horford develop a 3-point shooting game, which has also helped lengthen his career in a league that has been phasing out big men who can’t shoot.Atkinson is now an assistant for Golden State. He spoke the day after Horford scored 26 points and made six 3-pointers in Boston’s Game 1 win over Golden State.What does he think about how Horford’s career has persisted?“I hate it,” Atkinson said, deadpan. “But I’m not surprised.”In his return to Boston, Horford tried to share with his younger teammates the habits he’d developed over time. They were more than happy to accept the counsel.“When I see them talk to Al it’s almost like a teacher and a student,” said Juwan Morgan, a third-year forward who signed with Boston just before the end of the regular season. “You can just see the respect factor. When Al talks everybody is just silent, listening because they know it’s for the good of the team.”Horford called it a mutual respect.“Trying to be a good example for them,” Horford said. “Trying to lead them and just help them. They know what I’m about — that I want to play the right way, do things the right way on the court. But also off the court do things the right way as well.”It’s the same language Horford uses when he talks about his younger siblings and the ways that he has mentored them.“To me that’s important to help them in any way so they can thrive in whatever they choose in life,” Horford said.Al Horford, left, with his son, Ean, center, and his father, Tito, who also played in the N.B.A.Allison Dinner for The New York TimesHe seems to be passing that caretaker mentality on to his son.Ean is a gregarious 7-year-old with a head full of curly black hair. He loves basketball and hanging out in the locker room with his father’s co-workers. After Games 1 and 3 of the N.B.A. finals, Al Horford held his hand and brought him to the podium so he could be part of the postgame interview. Ean winked at the camera after Game 1.“He’s a big influence on his sisters,” Al said. “My second, Alia, she’s also more interested now in basketball.”Unlike her brother, Alia, 5, wasn’t allowed to come to Game 3 because the start time, 9 p.m. Eastern, was too late. But she wanted to go so badly she drew a picture of Al, his wife Amelia Vega, and Ean at the game and left it on her father’s bed so he could see when he got home.“This morning I felt bad. I was like, ‘You’ll be at Game 4,’” Al said, laughing. “So that means my third, Ava, she’s going to be at the game too. There’s no way that she can stay back.”Horford sees a lot of himself in his son, particularly in his observational skills and competitive fire.In Ean, he also sees a child who loves the responsibility of being a big brother, loves protecting and teaching his younger siblings. That’s another thing he shares with his father. More

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    Steph Curry’s 43 Points Help Golden State Beat Celtics in NBA Finals

    Golden State desperately needed a win after losing two of the first three games in the N.B.A. finals. Curry’s 43 points on Friday got it done.BOSTON — For two days, Golden State forward Draymond Green saw it in his teammate Stephen Curry. The fire Curry plays with isn’t always apparent to outsiders, but Green sensed that it was simmering within.Their team was down in the N.B.A. finals, 2-1, and Curry was not going to let them lose Game 4.On Friday night everybody else saw that emotion, too.After one of his two first-quarter 3-pointers, Curry screamed into the crowd full of Boston Celtics fans who had showed up early to hound him and his teammates. There was a long way to go in the game, one of the finest of his illustrious career, but he shouted to send a message.“Felt like we just had to let everybody know that we were here tonight,” Curry said.He added: “You can want it so bad, you kind of get in your own way a little bit, and everybody feels a little bit of pressure, and it can go the opposite way. I wanted to try to leverage that in a positive direction for us to start the game.”On Friday night in front of a hostile crowd in Boston, Golden State evened its series with the Celtics, 2-2, and regained home-court advantage. Golden State won, 107-97.Curry scored 43 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, becoming only the third Warriors player to have at least 40 points and 10 rebounds in an N.B.A. finals game; Rick Barry did so in 1967, and Kevin Durant did in 2018. Curry, Michael Jordan and LeBron James are the only players 34 and older to score 40 or more points in an N.B.A. finals game.As Golden State stretched its lead in the final minutes of Game 4, Celtics fans began to leave. When Curry was at the free-throw line with 19.1 seconds left in the game, a chant of “M.V.P.” could be heard in the upper deck of the arena.The series will return to San Francisco for Game 5 on Monday, followed by Game 6 in Boston on Thursday.Curry did it all for Golden State in Game 4. He “put us on his back,” Klay Thompson said.Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesThe crowd heartily booed Golden State’s players, beginning in their pregame warm-ups.When Klay Thompson appeared on the court an hour before the game, a group of fans in the lower bowl booed him. He acknowledged them with his arms and encouraged them to get louder. Green emerged a few minutes later and drew an even louder explosion of boos. Two nights before, Thompson had criticized the crowd for chanting obscenities at Green.The Celtics entered the game with aspirations of handing Golden State its first back-to-back losses in this year’s playoffs. Before Friday’s game, Golden State had won all five games that followed losses this postseason.But Boston understood the fierce grip that a 3-1 lead can hold in a best-of-seven series.“We understand we have a chance to do something special, put some pressure on tonight,” Celtics Coach Ime Udoka said before the game.The Celtics gained confidence from the way they had played in the last game.“We have to replicate what we did in Game 3,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said on Thursday. “We reduced our turnovers. We reduced our second-chance points, offensive rebounds. We just controlled the game, the game that we wanted to play.”Golden State made a change to its starting lineup for the first time this series in Game 4, replacing Kevon Looney with Otto Porter Jr.The playoffs this season have been characterized by blowouts, and the Celtics have played in several of them, including all three that came during the finals. Boston won Game 1 by 12 points, lost Game 2 by 19 and won Game 3 by 16.But early on, Game 4 showed promise that it could be a tightly contested matchup that would stay interesting until the end.Curry and Boston’s Jayson Tatum each scored 12 points in the first quarter.“Everybody was emotional tonight,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said. “Down 2-1, we had to come out with some desperation and more physicality than we showed in Game 3. So it was a team-wide sense of aggression and emotion. That started right from the opening tip.“Steph obviously doesn’t normally show a lot of emotion, but a night like tonight warranted it.”The first quarter ended with Tatum passing the ball into the paint to Robert Williams III, who flicked it out to Grant Williams in the corner for a 3. Grant Williams’s 3 gave Boston a 28-27 lead heading into the second quarter.“Steph obviously doesn’t normally show a lot of emotion,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said, “but a night like tonight warranted it.”Elsa/Getty ImagesBy halftime, the lead had changed hands six times and the score had been tied five times.It was Celtics guard Jaylen Brown’s turn to shine in the second quarter. He scored 10 points and Boston outscored Golden State by nine points when he was on the court during that quarter.Boston had stretched its lead slightly by halftime, to 54-49.But Golden State would not go quietly, especially not with Curry available. He had 33 points heading into the fourth quarter, having scored 14 in the third.The game was tied at 86 with eight minutes left.Thompson picked up his fourth foul with 5:33 left in the game. The crowd chanted at him the same obscene chant they had directed at Green in Game 3, but replaced “Draymond” with “Klay.” About one minute later, Thompson’s 3-pointer gave Golden State a 95-94 lead.Boston scored only once in the game’s final five minutes.There was some doubt after Game 3 that Curry would be available for Game 4 because he hurt his foot in a pileup while fighting for a loose ball. Curry participated in Golden State’s shootaround on Friday morning and was cleared to play.After Curry’s performance Friday night, the second-highest scoring finals game of his career, the first question posed to Kerr in the postgame news conference was a cheeky one about how he thought Curry’s foot held up. Kerr laughed.“I think he was really laboring out there,” Kerr quipped. “He really struggled.”Thompson also was asked about Curry first when he took the postgame podium.“The heart on that man is incredible,” Thompson said. “You know, the things he does we kind of take for granted from time to time, but to go out there and put us on his back, I mean, we’ve got to help him out on Monday. Wow.” More

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    Boston Celtics Withstand Stephen Curry’s 3-pointers for Game 3 Win

    Golden State’s Curry had 31 points, including six 3-pointers, but Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum had big games of their own for Boston.BOSTON — It was only the second quarter, but the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum seemed determined to build on a theme as he eyed an opportunity on Wednesday night. He took a hard dribble at Stephen Curry, spun to his right and drove straight into the lane before depositing a layup over his smaller defender.The Celtics were eager to familiarize themselves with the basket in Game 3 of the N.B.A. finals. So they used their size to bully various members of the Golden State Warriors in the low post and off the dribble. They attempted layups. They dunked. They threw short jumpers off the glass.In the process, Boston even survived one of Golden State’s hallmark third-quarter runs to escape with a 116-100 win at TD Garden and take a 2-1 lead in the series. Game 4 is in Boston on Friday.The Celtics, who opened the fourth quarter by building a healthy cushion, were led by Jaylen Brown, who had 27 points and 9 rebounds. Tatum added 26 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds, and Marcus Smart finished with 24 points. Curry had 31 points in the loss, and Klay Thompson added 25. The Celtics did most of their damage in the paint, where they outscored Golden State, 52-26.After the first two games were in San Francisco, the series swung to Boston, a fitting site for the finals as the league celebrates the last few flickering embers of its 75th anniversary. The Celtics are chasing their 18th championship, while Golden State is making its sixth finals appearance in eight seasons.Two of the league’s original franchises, the Celtics and the Warriors now mirror each other in another important way: Both rosters were largely constructed through drafting. And while Boston is making its first finals appearance since 2010, Celtics Coach Ime Udoka said he hoped to emulate Golden State’s long-term success.“It’s a model for what we want to do here,” Udoka said.The Celtics, who lost Game 2 on Sunday, have not lost consecutive games this postseason. Before Wednesday’s game, Udoka cited his team’s resilience.“I think we put it behind us pretty quickly,” he said, “and kind of attacked the areas that we did poorly and tried to improve on those.”The Celtics’ Robert Williams III blocking Stephen Curry’s floater. Williams had 8 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 blocks.Paul Rutherford/USA Today Sports, via ReutersAbout an hour and a half before the start of Game 3, as some of Golden State’s players made their way onto the court for individual warm-up work, the reserve guard Gary Payton II noticed that one of the rims seemed a bit off. He was right: It was about two inches too high.“It happens every once in a while,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said before the game. “Players have a really sharp eye for that.”The rim was soon lowered to its proper 10-foot height, but it did not seem to help. Golden State got off to a brutal start, missing 11 of its first 15 field-goal attempts as Boston ran out to a 24-9 lead. Making matters worse, Curry picked up two early fouls.If there was concern for the Celtics, it came in the form of Tatum’s right shoulder, which he first injured in the Eastern Conference finals against Miami. On Wednesday, he was grimacing in pain after drawing a foul on an early drive.But his 3-pointer midway through the second quarter pushed the Celtics ahead by 18. Boston shot 57.4 percent from the field to take a 68-56 lead at halftime.All eyes, though, were on the start of the second half. In Games 1 and 2, Golden State had dominated both third quarters, outscoring Boston by a total of 35 points. The third quarter was particularly problematic for the Celtics in Game 2, when they shot 4 of 17 from the field, committed five turnovers and were outscored, 35-14. A close game quickly turned into a rout.On Wednesday, Golden State was trailing by 9 when the team summoned some more third-quarter magic. Curry made a 3-pointer and absorbed contact for good measure when the Celtics’ Al Horford slid underneath him. It was ruled a flagrant-1 foul, which meant Golden State would retain possession after a free throw.Curry sank the free throw, then Otto Porter Jr. buried another 3-pointer for a 7-point possession that trimmed Boston’s lead to 2.It was an anxious moment for the Celtics, who could have folded but instead revealed their toughness once more. Early in the fourth quarter, Smart banked in a 3-pointer. Moments later, Grant Williams corralled an offensive rebound for a put back, forcing Kerr to a call for a timeout as the home crowd roared. More