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    Golden State Beats Boston Celtics to Win NBA Championship

    BOSTON — It turns out the dynasty had just been paused.Golden State has won the N.B.A. championship again, four seasons after its last one. It is the franchise’s seventh title and the fourth for its three superstars: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who have spent the past decade growing up together, winning together and, over the past three years, learning how fragile success can be.On Thursday, they defeated the Boston Celtics, 103-90, in Game 6 of the N.B.A. finals. They won the series, 4-2, and celebrated their clinching victory on the parquet floor of TD Garden, below 17 championship banners, in front of a throng of disappointed partisans.With 24 seconds left in the game, Curry found his father near the baseline, hugged him and shook as he sobbed in his arms. Then Curry turned back toward the game. He put his hands on his head and squatted down, then fell onto the court.“I think I blacked out,” Curry said later.He thought about the past few months of the playoffs, about the past three years, about the people who didn’t think he could be here again.“You get goose bumps just thinking about all those snapshots and episodes that we went through to get back here,” Curry said.Curry, who scored 34 points in the clinching game, was named the most valuable player of the finals. It was the first time in his career he’s won the award.“Without him, none of this happens,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said. “To me, this is his crowning achievement.”Curry, center, had 34 points on 12 of 21 shooting and made six 3-pointers.Allison Dinner for The New York TimesBoston put up a fight.The Celtics took a 14-2 lead to open the game, playing better than they did in their lackluster start to Game 5, but Golden State’s firepower threatened to overwhelm them. For nearly six minutes of playing time from late in the first quarter until early in the second, Boston couldn’t score.Golden State built a 21-point lead in the second quarter, and kept that cushion early in the third.With 6 minutes 15 seconds left in the third, Curry hit his fifth 3 of the game, giving his team a 22-point lead. He held out his right hand and pointed at its ring finger, sure he was on his way to earning his fourth championship ring.The moment might have motivated the Celtics, who responded with a 12-2 run. Ultimately, though, they had too much ground to recover.Golden State celebrated after two seasons of subpar records, one which made it the worst team in the N.B.A. Its players and coaches spent those seasons waiting for Thompson’s injuries to heal, for Curry’s (fewer) injuries to heal and for new or young pieces of their roster to grow into taking on important roles.When they became whole again, the three-player core talked about cementing its legacy.They were so much younger when their journeys together began. Golden State drafted Curry in 2009, Thompson in 2011 and Green in 2012.Curry was 27 when they won their first championship together in 2015. Thompson and Green were both 25.That season was also Kerr’s first as the team’s coach.Golden State went 67-15 and breezed through the playoffs to the N.B.A. finals, having no idea how hard getting there could be. The next year the team set a league record with 73 regular-season wins but lost in a return trip to the finals. Kevin Durant joined the team in free agency that summer, and Golden State won the next two championships, becoming hailed as one of the greatest teams in N.B.A. history.The champions grew as people and as players during this stretch. Curry and Green added children to their families. They were rock stars on the road, with swarms of fans waiting for them at their hotels. Three championships in four seasons made Golden State seem invincible.Only injuries could stop them.The dynastic run ended in devastating fashion in 2019 during their fifth consecutive finals appearance. Durant had been struggling with a calf injury, then tore his right Achilles’ tendon in Game 5 of the finals against Toronto and left the team for the Nets in the off-season. Thompson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the next game. The Raptors won the championship that day.In 2019, the team left behind Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., and entered the season without Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.Jim Wilson/The New York Times“It was the end of an era at Oracle,” Curry said, referring to Golden State’s former arena in Oakland, Calif. The team moved to Chase Center in San Francisco in 2019. He added: “You’re getting ready for the summer, trying to regroup and figure out what’s going to happen next year.”The two seasons of futility that followed were difficult for all of them, but no more so than for Thompson, who also tore his right Achilles’ tendon during the fall of 2020, sidelining him for an additional year.During this year’s finals, he has often thought about that journey.“I wouldn’t change anything,” Thompson said. “I’m very grateful and everything I did to that point led to this.”Heading into this season, Golden State wasn’t expected to return to this stage so soon. This was particularly true because heading into the season, Thompson’s return date was unclear.But then, hope. Golden State opened the 2021-22 campaign by winning 18 of its first 20 games. The team had found a gem in Gary Payton II, who had been cast aside by other teams because of his size or because he wasn’t a standout 3-point shooter. Andrew Wiggins, acquired in a 2020 trade with Minnesota, Kevon Looney, who was drafted weeks after that 2015 championship, and Jordan Poole, a late-first-round pick in 2019, showed why the team valued them so much.Curry set a career record for 3-pointers and mentored the team’s younger players.Who could say how good this team might be once Thompson returned?That answer came in the playoffs.Golden State beat the Denver Nuggets in five games, and the Memphis Grizzlies in six. Then Dallas took only one game from Golden State in the Western Conference finals.Curry, Thompson and Green, the engine of five straight finals runs, came into this year’s championship series completely changed.“The things that I appreciate today, I didn’t necessarily appreciate those things then,” Green said. “In 2015, I hated taking pictures and, you know, I didn’t really put two and two together. Like, man, these memories are so important.”Draymond Green, left, had 12 points and 12 rebounds and finished two assists shy of a triple-double.Allison Dinner for The New York TimesThey vowed not to take for granted any part of the finals experience, even the negative parts.Throughout the series, Boston fans chanted at Green using an expletive. During the champagne celebration in the postgame locker room, his teammates mimicked them.“It’s beautiful,” Green said. “You embrace the tough times, and that’s what we do and that’s how we come out on top. For us, it was a beautiful thing. To hear my teammates chant that, it don’t get much better than that.”They faced a Boston Celtics team that was young, just like they were in 2015, led by the 20-somethings Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, shepherded by the elder statesman Al Horford. The Celtics did almost everything the hard way as they sought the storied franchise’s 18th championship.They swept the Nets in the first round but went to seven games against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat. They won when they had to, and committed too many careless turnovers when they didn’t.Boston was the younger, stronger and more athletic team in the finals. The Celtics did not fear Golden State, or the grand stage, and proved it by winning Game 1 on the road. Until Game 5, the Celtics had not lost back-to-back games in the playoffs.Curry had his way against Boston’s defense in Game 4, scoring 43 points. Then in Game 5, the Celtics stymied his efforts, only to have his teammates make up the ground he lost.At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Green recalled a moment during Golden State’s flight to Boston from San Francisco between Games 5 and 6. He, Thompson and Curry were sitting together when they were spotted by Bob Myers, the team’s general manager and president of basketball operations.“He’s like: ‘Man, y’all are funny. Y’all still sit together. Y’all don’t understand, it’s 10 years. Like, this does not happen. Guys still sitting together at the same table,’” Green recalled. “He’s like, ‘Guys are not even on the same team for 10 years, let alone still sitting there at the same table and enjoying each other’s conversation and presence.’”At a separate news conference a few minutes later, Thompson was asked about that moment and why the three of them still enjoy each other’s company. Curry stood against a wall, watching, waiting for his turn to speak.“Well, I don’t know about that,” Thompson said. “I owe Draymond some money in dominoes, so I don’t want to see him too many times.”Curry bent at the waist, doubled over with quiet laughter.“I was half asleep,” Thompson continued. “Draymond and Bob were chatting their hearts away for six hours on a plane ride. I was just trying to get some sleep.”Golden State fans celebrated another title, this time at a watch party at the Chase Center in San Francisco.Jim Wilson/The New York TimesCurry said later, “All the personalities are so different. Everybody comes from different backgrounds. But we’ve all jelled around a collective unit of how we do things, whether it’s in the locker room, on the plane, the hotels, like whatever it is. We know how to have fun and jell and keep things light but also understand what we’re trying to do and why it all matters in terms of winning games.”The next day they won their fourth championship together. They gathered in a crowd and jumped around together. When Curry won finals M.V.P., they chanted “M-V-P” along with everyone else onstage.Long after the celebration ended, Thompson and Curry remained up there together, sitting together at times, dancing together at times. Thompson looked down off the stage and said he didn’t want to leave.Curry descended before Thompson did, but first he stood on the top step. He held a cigar between his lips, and clutched the M.V.P. trophy in his left hand. More

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    NBA Finals Game 6 Preview: What’s at Stake for Boston and Golden State

    Stephen Curry is one win away from his fourth N.B.A. championship. Boston is trying to come back from its second 3-2 deficit this postseason.The Boston Celtics are in dire straits after losing to Golden State on Monday in Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals, leaving them in a 3-2 deficit as the series shifts to Boston on Thursday. Teams with 3-2 leads in best-of-seven N.B.A. finals have won the championship 39 of 48 times — 81.3 percent. Some of the Celtics’ regular-season woes are reappearing in the finals: They haven’t been able to sustain effort for entire games and have watched fourth-quarter leads evaporate.Golden State, meanwhile, is in the driver’s seat. On Monday, Stephen Curry had his first underwhelming game of the series, and his team still won — a bad sign for the Celtics.But there is still at least one game to be played. The Celtics have made a habit of coming back at unexpected times, including in Game 1, which featured an unexpected fourth-quarter implosion by Golden State.Here’s a look at where the series stands before a potential elimination game on the N.B.A.’s biggest stage.For Boston to Win:Can the Celtics locate Jayson Tatum?Jayson Tatum, 24, is the biggest reason the Celtics reached the finals. He is one of the best scorers in the league and is capable of dropping 50 points in a playoff game, as he did last year against the Nets in the first round. But against Golden State, he has had difficulty scoring near the basket and has had trouble with turnovers. On Monday night, he set a league record for turnovers in a postseason. Tatum is shooting 37.3 percent from the field against Golden State.If the Celtics are going to stave off elimination, they’ll need more from Tatum. But there is hope for Boston: In Game 6 of this year’s Eastern Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks, with the Celtics facing the same deficit, Tatum pulled out a 46-point performance.Turnovers have been a problem for the Celtics throughout the playoffs, particularly for Jayson Tatum, right, and Jaylen Brown.Elsa/Getty ImagesCan the Celtics stop turning the ball over?In Game 5, the Celtics had 18 turnovers, and Golden State had six. In Game 2, the Celtics had 18, and Golden State had 12. This has been a problem for the Celtics throughout the playoffs, particularly with their stars, Tatum and Jaylen Brown — who often have been stripped while dribbling into the paint. If Boston doesn’t take care of the ball, it doesn’t win. End of story.Defensively, the Celtics have been fine. Golden State has scored from 100 to 108 points in each of the first five games, which, considering its offensive talent, is acceptable. It’s on the offensive end where Boston has struggled to generate consistent looks.For Golden State to Win:Can the supporting cast show up again?For most of the series, Curry has had to shoulder an enormous offensive burden. In the first four games of the series, the Warriors shot only 37.3 percent on attempts considered wide open. That’s mostly on the rest of the Golden State players who haven’t been able to make Boston pay for tight defense on Curry.That is until Game 5, when Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole punished the Celtics from deep, making up for Curry’s 0-for-9 night from 3. Even Draymond Green, who has had a dismal series, had 8 points, serving as a crucial release valve for Curry.If Golden State’s non-Curry players hit their shots, Boston will find it very difficult to win.Does Curry have another pantheon performance in him?Golden State showed that it could win despite a bad game from Curry. But it doesn’t want to take that chance again. Curry’s 43-point performance in Game 4 was remarkable. If he can dig deep for another similar outing, he puts himself in the conversation for one of the best finals performances in history.The StakesIf Boston wins:The series will head to a winner-take-all Game 7. And if the Celtics win that, they will have completed an astonishing turnaround from January, when they were 18-21. It will prove that a team can win a championship with two ball-dominant wings who play similar games, in this case Tatum and Brown. It will also validate the team’s decision not to trade its young players for any of the established ones who have hit the market in recent years.Golden State will have to wonder whether not trading any of its young players — the rookies Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga and the second-year center James Wiseman — for immediate help would have been the right move to take advantage of Curry’s dwindling window.If Golden State wins:The ascension of Andrew Wiggins will reach new heights.For the first five years of Andrew Wiggins’s career, he was known mostly as a cautionary tale. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected him first overall in the 2014 N.B.A. draft and then traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves weeks later to build a title contender around LeBron James. He showed flashes of elite athleticism, enough for Minnesota to invest a maximum contract extension in him. But the production never matched the contract. Since joining Golden State through a trade in 2020, however, Wiggins has turned his career around. This year, he played in his first All-Star Game. And in the finals, he has been, at times, the best player on either team. If Golden State wins the championship, Wiggins will have been a huge reason — and it will complete a remarkable turnaround in his career.The Stephen Curry legacy grows.If Golden State wins Game 6, it is a virtual certainty that Curry will win the finals Most Valuable Player Award, which would fill the one remaining hole in his résumé. But a championship has larger stakes for Curry. His previous titles — according to some N.B.A. observers — have not been legacy-burnishing championships in the way they have been for other stars. In 2015, Golden State beat a James-led Cavaliers team missing two of its three best players. In 2017 and 2018, Golden State beat the Cavaliers again, but Kevin Durant was arguably the best player on those teams. This would be Curry’s first championship in which he was unambiguously the best player on Golden State and the opposing team was at full strength. This championship would vault Curry higher in the discussion of N.B.A. greats.Boston will consider tinkering.Most of Boston’s key players are young and still entering their primes. Tatum and Brown are dynamic wings who can, in theory, be All-Stars for years to come. But if they lose, questions will arise about whether they can do it together. The issue for Boston is that it doesn’t have much free-agency wiggle room. With several teams expected to make improvements next year — including the division-rival Nets and Toronto Raptors — the Celtics will face difficult questions about whether making changes at the edges is enough.Draymond Green will podcast to his heart’s desire.Green has offered insightful commentary on his podcast after every game. With a championship, he’ll be able to do so guilt-free and without fans telling him to stop, in spite of his mostly poor performance in the series. 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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    Stephen Curry Is More Human, and Brilliant, Than Ever

    Golden State was good. Then too good. Then very, very bad. The worst. Back among the N.B.A. elite, Curry’s team has been humbled by the journey.BOSTON — Stephen Curry was demoralizing the Celtics when he decided to improvise. After he dribbled to spin past Marcus Smart, who happens to be one of the N.B.A.’s most ferocious defenders, Curry found himself sizing up Robert Williams, a 6-foot-9 center whose sneakers might as well have been filled with concrete.Curry took a hard dribble, leaving Williams in his wake, before he rose from the court to sink a running 12-foot floater that extended Golden State’s lead in Game 4 of the N.B.A. finals Friday night.It was a scene that felt familiar but new, the same but somehow different. Curry has spent his career filling games with parabolic 3-pointers and dazzling drives to the hoop. But now, at age 34, having spent the past couple of seasons wandering through the basketball wilderness with his teammates, he has been busy staging a renaissance.And it was his performance — 43 points and 10 rebounds on a sore left foot — that had basketball fans buzzing ahead of Game 5 on Monday night in San Francisco. The series is tied, 2-2.“He wasn’t going to let us lose,” his teammate Draymond Green said.Aside from Curry’s relatively slight stature — at 6-foot-2, he is a shrub in the N.B.A.’s forest of redwoods — it might be difficult for ordinary humans to relate to him. He is a highly trained athlete and the greatest shooter who has ever lived. He has won two N.B.A. Most Valuable Player Awards. The architect of an expanding entertainment empire, he golfs with former President Barack Obama in his spare time.And for five seasons, from 2014to 2019, Curry sat atop the basketball world.Few people ever become the best at anything, and wins can feel elusive. You get stuck in the slowest checkout line. You deserved that job promotion. You want to be able to buy a house in that neighborhood, too. But Curry helped the ordinary masses feel like winners alongside him, even if they rooted for his team to lose.Curry draws crowds, no matter which city he is in.Noah Graham/NBAE, via Getty ImagesAs Curry led Golden State to five straight N.B.A. finals appearances, winning three championships, opposing fans would turn out early for games just so they could watch him warm up. At Madison Square Garden, where the lights are low and the court is a stage, the M.V.P. chants were for him. In Los Angeles, in Houston, in Philadelphia and in Miami, cities with All-Stars of their own, the roars and the crowds, the oohs and the aahs — they trumpeted his arrival.Along the way, he pushed his teammates to turn basketball into high art. They shot with precision. They moved with the grace of ballet dancers. And in a sport saturated by supersize egos and enormous paychecks, they relished passing to the open man.And then came Kevin Durant, all arms and legs and 25-foot jumpers. After losing to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 N.B.A. finals, Golden State had successfully recruited Durant to sign on as a free agent. Was it a cry for help, an acknowledgment that the team had room for improvement? Or were the rich just getting richer?“We were the evil empire for a while,” Rick Welts, the team’s former president, said in a recent interview.Durant, of course, was fearsome before he joined Golden State. After being named the league’s M.V.P. in 2014, he described his mother, Wanda, as the “real M.V.P.” in an emotional speech. The callousness of the current era eventually turned that expression of humility into a meme, one that would soon be turned against him: Between Durant and Curry in Golden State, who was the real M.V.P.?That question — from social media trolls, television personalities and needling sports fans — was a dig at Durant, but its sharp edge wounded Curry, too. Golden State had become too good.Draymond Green, left, and Klay Thompson, right, formed the core of Golden State’s five straight finals appearances and three championships alongside Curry.Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via ReutersSure enough, Durant was a force in back-to-back championships, the latter a four-game sweep of the Cavaliers. There was a sense of joyless inevitability about Golden State: Anything short of a championship was a failure.And then the dynasty crumbled. In the 2019 finals, Klay Thompson and Durant sustained serious injuries as the Toronto Raptors staged an upset to win their first title. Thompson sat out the next season after knee surgery. Durant left for the Nets in free agency. And Curry broke his left hand, missing all but five games as Golden State finished with the worst record in the N.B.A.In a matter of months, the league’s most dominant team had morphed into a renovation project. Making matters worse, Thompson ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in a workout before the start of last season, and Golden State fell short of making the playoffs again.This season, nothing was guaranteed. Golden State had gone from indomitable to vulnerable, a battered version of its younger self. But the team was not totally broken. Thompson’s return in January after a 941-day absence was celebrated as a triumph and no small medical marvel. He soared for a dunk in his first game.The finals have been a microcosm of Golden State’s long road back — a beautiful struggle. After splitting the first two games of the series in San Francisco, Golden State lost Game 3 in Boston, and Curry injured his left foot in the final minutes when the Celtics’ Al Horford landed on him in a scramble for a loose ball.Afterward, it was left to Thompson to offer some hope, saying he was “getting big 2015 vibes,” a reference to the 2015 finals, back when Golden State trailed the Cavaliers, 2-1, before engineering a comeback to win it all, the team’s first of the Curry era.Bruce Fraser, an assistant coach, estimated he tosses 200,000 passes a season to Curry during practices and workouts. “I get nervous when I’m passing because I don’t want to throw him off,” Fraser said.John Hefti/Associated PressMore broadly, Thompson cited Golden State’s postseason experience as a positive. When he was younger, he said, there were trapdoors everywhere. Prone to feeling anxious when trailing in a series, he was likely to be overconfident with a lead. Now, he was older but wiser.“You can’t really relax until the final buzzer of the closeout game,” he said. “That’s the hardest part about the playoffs — you have to deal with being uncomfortable until the mission is complete.”Curry slept well after Game 3, he said, and kept his left foot in a bucket of ice whenever possible. The emphasis was on recovery and mending his achy body. (Steph Curry: Just like us.) He knew only one thing for certain: He was going to play in Game 4.Precisely 75 minutes before Friday’s opening tip, Curry appeared for his pregame warm-up routine. Clad in black, with the notable exception of lavender-colored sneakers, he started off by making five layups. He then moved to the left elbow, where he hoisted a series of shots with his left hand, which is his off hand, and missed nine in a row to the delight of hundreds of early-arriving Celtics fans.But over the next 20 minutes, something strange but not entirely unexpected happened: The crowd began to murmur in admiration and appreciation as Curry sank 136 of 190 shots, including 46 of 72 3-pointers, a few of them from just inside halfcourt. Fans broke out their cellphones to record the moment for posterity. Children yelled for autographs.“People think his shot is like Ken Griffey Jr.’s swing — it’s so pretty that you think he never has to work on it,” Bob Myers, the team’s general manager, said in an interview during the regular season. “But that is anything but true. When you peek behind the curtain, you see the work.”Thompson said Curry had never played a better finals game than Game 4 on Friday.Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesOnce upon a time, Curry’s feats seemed magical — and they still are. But in recent seasons, as Golden State wandered through a wasteland of injury and uncertainty, Curry and his teammates revealed that success does not happen by accident, that it takes great effort and determination. Sure, they are still basketball savants, but they are savants who have shown the world their homework.“Win, lose, whatever it is, however you play, you have to keep coming back to the well to keep sharpening the tool kit and finding ways to evolve your game,” Curry said. “That is the hardest part of what we do.”After helping force the Celtics into a late turnover that essentially sealed Friday’s win, Curry and Thompson celebrated by swinging their arms in unison. Thompson, who knows Curry better than most, said his teammate had never played a finer game in the finals. Curry was asked whether he agreed with Thompson’s assessment.“I don’t rank my performances, though,” he said. “Just win the game.”At this stage, he knows what matters. More

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    Why Golden State Fans Travel Far to See Curry: It’s Worth It

    Some Golden State fans traveled thousands of miles to Boston to watch their team face the Celtics in the N.B.A. finals.BOSTON — As Stephen Curry emerged from an arena tunnel for his pregame warm-up routine, he was the center of gravity, drawing fans to him as he often does defenders on the court.The Golden State faithful in the stands — who appeared to be in the dozens — dangled sneakers and posters into the tunnel for Curry to sign, or otherwise leaned over each other to get a better look at him. Ian Rea, a 16-year-old who drove with his parents from Saint John, New Brunswick, held up a sign that said, “Steph, if you sign my jersey, I will cut all my hair.”The meticulous combination of Curry’s jumpers, floaters and trick shots with a dash of goofiness is the basketball equivalent of watching Louis Armstrong run scales on the trumpet.Curry did not end up signing Rea’s poster. But several rows away, watching Curry run his own scales, Matt Velasquez, 49, a flight attendant, was wistfully considering the concept of basketball mortality Friday night, with Golden State then down a game to the Celtics in the N.B.A. finals.“You may be coming to an end of an era,” said Velasquez, who is from Danville, Calif. He and his friend Dale Villasenor flew across the country just to watch Game 4 in Boston. They each spent $2,500 to sit in the loge section. Velasquez, a lifelong Golden State fan, said he tries never to miss a home game in person.Curry signed autographs before Game 4 of the N.B.A. finals on Friday night in Boston. Fans regularly come out early just to see him warm up.David Butler Ii/USA Today Sports, via ReutersThe fan base isn’t at a crossroads quite yet. Curry, 34, hasn’t said anything about retiring, and Golden State may end up winning this series. It is tied, 2-2, with Game 5 on Monday.The other two stars of the core, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, are just 32. But age creeps up on all of us — and in basketball years, the three of them are somewhere between middle-aged and eligible for Social Security. There likely aren’t many runs left with these players performing at an elite level.Villasenor, 49, a dentist from Walnut Creek, Calif., recalled what life as a Golden State fan was like before Curry was drafted with the seventh pick in 2009, back when the team played at Oracle Arena in Oakland instead of the Chase Center in San Francisco.“We used to watch games where we would just go hang out and just watch for All-Stars to come through,” Villasenor said.Now, Golden State is the draw. Usually, when Golden State plays road games, a significant contingent of its fans shows up. The team is among the N.B.A. leaders in road attendance. Sometimes, it’s a matter of having one of the world’s biggest stars on your team in Curry, a top jersey seller.In Boston, however, a city with a storied basketball history, road jerseys were harder to spot on Friday night. Trying to locate a Golden State fan was like playing Where’s Waldo? but for specks of gold and blue instead of Waldo’s red and white. Every seat in the arena was draped with a white-and-green shirt from the Celtics that said, “It’s All About 18,” a reference to Boston’s pursuit of an 18th championship.This N.B.A. finals is a contrast in legacies. Golden State has won six titles — three of them in the past seven years. Its dominance has mostly been in the 21st century, whereas the Celtics are steeped in nostalgia — wistful for the days of Bill Russell and Larry Bird, with only one championship since 1986.Looking for Golden State fans in Boston felt a little like playing Where’s Waldo?Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesThis has created different reputations for the supporters of each franchise. Recent success, as Chris Swartzentruber, 30, an insurance agent from Kalona, Iowa, put it, invites recent fans.“I don’t know any bandwagon Celtics fans,” he said. “I know a lot of bandwagon Warriors fans.”Not that Swartzentruber is the purest fan himself. He said he roots only for Thompson, not the team. He has followed the team to several finals games since 2015 to watch him play, and, as expected, he was donning a Thompson jersey to take in Game 4. For this trip, he traveled from Kalona by himself to sit courtside. His ticket cost $3,500. His fandom stems in part from being a strong shooter himself growing up.“I don’t spend that much money,” Swartzentruber said. “This is my vacation, and I haven’t had a vacation in, like, three years.”And because sport fandom is an irrational enterprise, it invites some amusing allegiances and profane behavior. This is especially the case in Boston, where fans are known to be — let’s call it, expressive. The Celtics’ fan behavior has become a story in this series because of Game 3, when fans chanted vulgarities at Green.N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver was asked for his response to fan chants by a local reporter in Boston.“I want fans to enjoy themselves,” Silver said. “Of course, as the league office, you want to see it done with respect for all the participants, but I get it. I love the energy that Boston fans bring.”If Silver’s wide smile could talk, it might have added: “Boston, please don’t be mad at me. Did I mention I love clam chowder?”Fans in Golden State jerseys before Game 4 of the N.B.A. finals in Boston. Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesNancy DeBlasio, 41, attended the game from Berlin, Conn., with her girlfriend, Ashley Cialfi, 33. Both of them wore blue-and-yellow Golden State T-shirts. DeBlasio is a teacher and a basketball coach rooting for Curry. DeBlasio said that being on the streets of Boston with her T-shirt had been “pretty brutal,” but that the two of them were “taking it because we understand.”“I think it’d be worse if we were guys,” Cialfi chimed in.“Oh, most definitely,” DeBlasio concurred.Really? But why?“Because they’re going to go easy on some chicks,” Cialfi said.But then came a pro-wrestling-style plot twist: DeBlasio said she is actually a Celtics fan, but simultaneously a Curry fan. She insisted that despite her shirt, she was actually rooting for a Boston win. (“No, you’re not,” Cialfi informed her.) No epithets were thrown in that exchange.Nor were they thrown near Andy and Ryan Malburg, a father and son who had driven almost seven hours from Buffalo for the game. Ryan, 15, who almost cried when he found out about the tickets, was a lifelong Golden State fan attending his first N.B.A. game.OK, fair point: What is “lifelong” when you’re 15?But this means Ryan’s generation of Golden State fans is spoiled: He has mostly known winning, which made his reference to the team as a “good, up-and-coming team right now” understandable. (Andy and Ryan are also Buffalo Bills fans, so it evens out.) Ryan’s father, meanwhile, made clear that the Malburgs would not be taking part in any profanity-related high jinks initiated by impolite Boston fans.“He knows to be respectful, and he will not say any of those things,” Andy Malburg, 43, sternly said. “I can guarantee you that.”After Game 4, Stephen Curry greeted perhaps his biggest fan of all: his mother, Sonya.Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesSure enough, Celtics fans chanted again at Green throughout the game and occasionally even cursed at Thompson. But ultimately, it was the Golden State fans who left the arena satisfied. Curry put on a vintage performance, scoring 43 points. Instead of mortality, Curry had backers of both teams awed by the latest campaign to enshrine himself in basketball immortality.“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Velasquez said after the game, “coming out to the East Coast to watch the Boston Celtics, historically one of the best franchises.”“The Boston Celtics,” Villasenor exuberantly interrupted.“I know!” Velasquez said, matching his jubilance. “To beat them at their home court!”As they spoke, a man who looked to be in his 20s and wearing a Celtics jersey approached and noticed their Golden State attire.“You guys are bums, you know that?” the man said, unprompted. It was one of several opinions related to the team he wanted to get off his chest.As he closed out his eloquent soliloquy, the man turned around and did a dance — with his own bum gyrating toward Velasquez and Villasenor.“Eh,” Villasenor said of Celtics fans, sarcastically. “Honestly, classy.” 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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    Celtics Gain NBA Finals Edge on Golden State With Physical Play

    The Celtics lead the N.B.A. finals, two games to one, in a series that has been defined by size and rebounds more than finesse and flash.BOSTON — After Game 3 of the N.B.A. finals, Boston Celtics center Robert Williams attended his postgame news conference dressed in a T-shirt with the face of the bruising, Hall of Fame player Dennis Rodman printed on it.It was fitting attire after a game in which the Celtics had banged into the Golden State Warriors and sent them skittering across the court, in which they wrested rebounds and loose balls away from them. At times, Golden State looked disheveled and tired when its players smacked into the bigger, more athletic, younger Celtics.“We want to try to impose our will and size in this series,” Celtics Coach Ime Udoka said.Game 3, on Wednesday night, was the first finals game in Boston since 2010, and the Celtics made a statement, playing with edge to earn a 2-1 series lead over Golden State with a 116-100 win. Boston will also host Game 4 on Friday night.It has been a series marked by toughness: The team able to exhibit more of it has been able to win each of the first three games.“If we were going to come out here and play, the last thing when we left that court we didn’t want to say we weren’t physical enough,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “It worked out for us.”Statistically, that physicality manifested itself in several ways Wednesday night.It showed in the rebounding — Boston grabbed 16 more rebounds than Golden State. Williams had 10, as well as four of the Celtics’ seven blocks.“There’s a play early in the fourth, I got by Grant Williams and thought I had daylight to get a shot up, and you underestimate how athletic he was and how much he could bother that shot,” Golden State guard Stephen Curry said.Williams has been inconsistent this series because of a knee injury that has bothered him throughout the playoffs. Williams had surgery on his left knee in March, but aggravated it during the Celtics’ Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Milwaukee Bucks. On Wednesday, he felt good enough to give Boston a lift.“They’ve been killing us on the glass this whole series,” Williams said. “Wanted to just put an emphasis on it.”Golden State guard Stephen Curry, left, was caught under the Celtics’ Al Horford in the fourth quarter of Game 3 of the N.B.A. finals on Wednesday night.Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle, via Associated PressThe Celtics’ physicality also showed in their ability to score inside. They outscored Golden State, 52-26, in the paint.“It was just us being us, just continuing to drive the ball and try to find a great shot for our teammates and ourselves,” Smart said. “This Warrior team does a very good job of helping each other out on their defensive end. They’re going to make you have to make the right play every single time, and if you don’t, they’re going to make you pay.”Although Golden State is known for an offense that can be mesmerizing to watch, it was impressive defensively during its dynastic run from 2015 to 2019. That returned this season — the only team with a better defensive rating than Golden State has been Boston.In the finals, the Celtics have used their size to widen the gap between the two teams.The Celtics won Game 1, 120-108, and showed Golden State’s players they would need to be more physical if they meant to compete.Golden State trailed early in Game 2 as well, and that was the crux of the halftime conversation. The players knew that the only way to match Boston was to match its intensity, despite being smaller at most positions. With that in mind, Golden State outscored Boston, 41-14, in that third quarter and won, 107-88.“There wasn’t a whole lot of strategic change,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said after Game 2. “You know, a couple tweaks here and there. The preparation was mostly about our intensity and physicality.”In Game 3, the Celtics reclaimed that edge.“We had to,” Smart said of the physicality with which Boston dominated Golden State. “Game 2, they brought the heat to us. For us, that left a bad taste in our mouth because what we hang our hat on is effort on the defensive end and being a physical team.”Golden State was not able to match it, not for long enough anyway.Golden State has outscored Boston by 43 points in the third quarter this series, and took a lead in Game 3, 83-82, on a 3-pointer by Curry. That basket had followed a quick stretch of 7 points without Boston gaining possession. Curry was fouled shooting a 3-pointer, and since the foul was flagrant, Golden State got the ball back and scored another 3.But as the quarter closed, Golden State’s grip on the game slipped.“Take the hits, keep fighting,” Williams said was the message in the huddle after the third quarter. “Obviously, they’re a great team that goes on runs, a lot of runs, but just withstanding the hit.”Golden State couldn’t get through the defense, nor could it stop the Celtics from grabbing second chances. Hustle plays typically went to Boston.At one point in the fourth quarter, several players tangled over a loose ball, and Smart came up with it before Draymond Green pushed him. It was Green’s sixth foul, and the crowd jeered at him after having spent the evening chanting curses at him.Golden State’s Klay Thompson complained about fans swearing with “children in the crowd.”“Real classy. Good job, Boston,” he said.Green said the chants didn’t bother him. What bothered him more, he said, was that he played “soft.” He was a catalyst for Golden State’s more physical play in Game 2, but he was ineffective in Game 3.He said his final foul came when he was trying to get players off Curry, whom he heard screaming at the bottom of a pile. Curry stayed in the game but said afterward that he had pain in one of his feet.It is among the many bruises Golden State will have to manage after a Game 3 loss that challenged its toughness. The Celtics shoved over Golden State’s beautiful brand of basketball, leaving Curry and his teammates searching for ways to get back up. More