The Golden State Warriors are inching towards a fourth NBA crown in the last eight years thanks to a 21-0 first-half run against the reeling Celtics in Game 6 of the Finals at Boston’s TD Garden.
With the Warriors coming off of two consecutive series wins, the Celtics jumped out to a 12-2 lead before Golden State coach Steve Kerr called a timeout and regathered his team. And, as has been the case throughout this seesawing series, the Western Conference champions responded with 11 straight points to end the first quarter with a 27-22 lead.
Things didn’t get any better for Boston at the start of the second quarter, as the Warriors extended the lead to 15 before Celtics forward Jaylen Brown hit a 3-pointer to end Golden State’s 21-0 run.
Ultimately the Warriors took a 54-39 lead into halftime, thanks largely to a dozen first-half turnovers for the Celtics and a combined 24 points from Golden State’s Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry.
The Warriors pushed their lead to 22 points in the third quarter on a 30-foot 3-pointer from Stephen Curry, but the Celtics weren’t finished and managed to trim Golden State’s edge back down to single digits with a 15-2 run of their own.
Much of the first half resembled Games 4 and 5, where Boston suffered consecutive fourth-quarter collapses, and groans from the crowd became increasingly audibly throughout the first 24 minutes of play.
Roughly 3,000 miles away in San Francisco, Warriors fans packed the team’s Chase Center to watch on the scoreboard for $25 per ticket. A sellout crowd of 15,907 was expected.
Stephen Curry drives against Celtics teammates Derrick White and Al Horford (right) during Game 6 of the NBA Finals
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart fires a pass over the Warriors’ Kevon Looney in the first quarter of Game 6
Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors dribbles the ball against the Boston Celtics during Game 6
Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors talks to fans before Game 6
Boston Celtics fans prepare to welcome Golden State’s Draymond Green at Game 6 of the NBA Finals
A detailed photo of the Larry O’Brien Trophy before Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics on Thursday. The Celtics are tied with their biggest rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, for the most titles in NBA history with 17. The Warriors have six titles, including two championships from Philadelphia before the team moved west
As is often the case before postseason NBA games, free t-shirts are being provided to the home fans before Game 6
Celtics fans enter the stadium before the start of Game 6 at TD Garden in Boston
For Golden State, a win on Thursday would mark the franchise’s fourth NBA title since Kerr took the helm in 2014-15, but just the first since the Warriors were abandoned by former MVP Kevin Durant in free agency after the 2019 NBA Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors.
Since then, Klay Thompson has worked back from not one, but two career-threatening injuries, while Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and the rest of the Warriors have missed the playoffs for the last two consecutive years.
All of that seems like a distant memory now that the Warriors are once again on the verge of winning an NBA title.
And the Warriors aren’t simply relying on the Splash Brothers, Thompson and Curry.
In Monday’s Game 5 win in San Francisco, it was Andrew Wiggins’s strong defensive performance and 26-point effort on offense that proved to be the difference, even as Curry failed to make a single 3-pointer for the first time in his playoff career.
The Celtics weren’t that lucky in the first half on Thursday.
‘Obviously, track record says I shoot the ball better the next game,’ said Curry, whose record streak of 132 consecutive playoff games with a 3-pointer came to an end. ‘Looking forward to that bounce back.’
A determined mindset won’t be exclusive to the Warriors, of course. Boston heads home keen on extending the series to a Game 7 back on the West Coast.
forward Draymond Green (23) and Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) go for the opening tip
Heading into the game, the Celtics were 3.5-points favorites at BetMGM, where they have been backed by 59 percent of the spread bets and 69 percent of the handle. However, the same line at PointsBet had the Warriors draw 59 and 71 percent of the action, respectively.
The action had been split on Boston as a 4.0-point favorite at DraftKings. The Warriors have been supported by 52 percent of the spread bets while the Celtics have drawn 55 percent of the handle.
A championship would give Boston an 18th banner to hang in the rafters, which would be the most all-time. They are tied with the Los Angeles Lakers at 17 championships apiece, but they have not won one since 2008.
While the Warriors tilt heavily toward Curry, the Celtics lean on Jayson Tatum, who had 27 points and 10 rebounds in the Game 5 defeat.
Behind Tatum’s 26.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game average in the playoffs, the Celtics have been on a wild ride. Since a sweep over the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, they haven’t won consecutive home games over the next three rounds and are 2-3 at home since the start of the conference finals.
Boston did protect its home court to win Game 7 of the conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks but lost at home with a chance to eliminate the Miami Heat in the conference finals. They advanced by winning Game 7 on the road.
‘You know, I’ve said it before: 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. That’s all we got to worry about right now.’
A Boston Celtics fan gestures outside before the start of Game 6
Daniel Theis #27 of the Boston Celtics high fives Grant Williams #12 prior to the game against the Golden State Warriors during Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals on June 16, 2022 at TD Garden in Boston
Jaylen Brown warms up before Thursday’s Game 6 in Boston. On Monday, in Game 5, Brown made only 5 of 18 field goals
Brave Golden State Warriors fans pose for photos outside TD Garden in Boston before Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday
ESPN’s (from left) Zach Lowe, Malika Andrews, Richard Jefferson, and Kendrick Perkins talk on set prior to Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals on Thursday in Boston. Jefferson won a title with the Warriors (2016), while Perkins did so with the Celtics (2008)
The Celtics were 20-21 at the midway point of the season under first-year coach Ime Udoka, but caught fire in March
The Celtics switched up their coverage on Curry out of Warriors pick-and-rolls, but now they’ve lost that element of defensive surprise going into Game 6.
While it kept Curry in check, Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins had a team-high 26 points to go with 13 rebounds. Klay Thompson had 21 points for the Warriors and was 5 of 11 from 3-point range.
‘Yeah, better job on him; a little more physical there,’ Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said of the defense on Curry. ‘Overall, it’s a solid job on him, but again, I don’t know if it was our defense as much as offensive struggles that hurt us (in Game 5).’
The 210.0-point Over/Under at DraftKings has drawn 57 percent of the bets and handle to the Over. The market opened at 211.5 points at BetMGM but has moved to 209.5 with the Under backed by 52 and 60 percent of the action, respectively.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver missed Thursday night’s Game 6 as he remains in the league’s health and safety protocol.
The NBA hasn’t disclosed whether Silver tested positive for COVID-19.
Silver’s absence would be notable if the Warriors win the title. According to reports, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum would present the Larry O’Brien Trophy should Golden State win Thursday.
If Boston wins to tie the series, a decisive Game 7 will be held Sunday night in San Francisco.
Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics, his son, Deuce Tatum, Juwan Morgan #16 and Sam Hauser #30 observe the playing of the national anthem prior to Game Six of the 2022 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green answers questions during the Golden State Warriors’ media availability on Wednesday
THE KERR DYNASTY: PLAYER OR COACH, HE JUST WINS
He hit a championship-winning shot with Michael Jordan. He calls the shots for Stephen Curry.
From clutch to coach, Steve Kerr has done it all for some of basketball’s biggest winners. Any team that can claim to be a dynasty across the last 30 years of the NBA has some link to Golden State’s coach.
Now back in Boston, the winning Warrior is a victory away from a ninth NBA championship. It used to be that to win that much, you had to be a Celtic.
Kerr just has to beat them.
If the Warriors win Game 6 on Thursday night, forget about another banner being hung in Boston. Instead, Kerr will be celebrating underneath them.
If so, he will credit Curry and Klay Thompson, just as he did as a player with Jordan and Scottie Pippen, or Tim Duncan and David Robinson, when trying to explain his success.
‘Just hanging around the right people,’ he said with a smile. ‘You hang around superstars long enough, you’re going to get some residual success falling your way.’
There’s more to it than that, of course. Talent may take a team to the top, but staying there – and then getting back again after being knocked down – demands more than that. It requires understanding the personnel on the court and the personalities in the locker room.
It means thinking the game as well as playing it, and Kerr does that with the best of them.
‘The man’s knowledge for the game is second to none,’ Thompson said.
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, center, talks with players during a time out during the third quarter of Game 3 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Boston
Kerr hasn’t won quite like Bill Russell, the Celtics Hall of Fame center who pocketed 11 rings as a player. Nor as much as Phil Jackson, who won 11 of his own as a coach.
Yet, when it comes to combining winning as a player and a coach, few have done it better than Kerr.
He won five titles in uniform with Chicago and San Antonio. Add in three as Golden State’s boss on the bench, and he is the first person in NBA history to win at least three championships as a player and a coach.
Throw in a couple stints as an analyst for TNT around his time as general manager of the Phoenix Suns, and Kerr has seen NBA basketball from almost every angle.
Bulls player Michael Jordan (L) congratulates teammate Steve Kerr after Kerr’s last-second basket against the Utah Jazz in game six of the 1997 NBA Finals at the United Center in Chicago, IL. The Bulls captured the NBA championship by defeating the Jazz 90-86
‘I mean, Steve has had such an incredible, unique career, from player to coach, GM. He just knows how to jell talent together,’ Thompson said. ‘Then he draws from his playing days, which is really cool to hear and talk about, playing with Mike and Scottie, the Twin Towers in San Antonio.’
Kerr wasn’t a player like those Hall of Fame talents. A second-round pick in the 1988 draft, he started only 30 games in his career. He never averaged double figures in any of his 15 seasons, sticking around that long by being a good teammate and a better shooter.
Most players aren’t superstars, and because he wasn’t, Kerr makes it a point of reaching out to players like himself.
Celtics guard Derrick White remembers Kerr helping make him comfortable when he was promoted to the U.S. roster for the 2019 Basketball World Cup after originally only being a player on the team practicing against the Americans.
‘Any time I needed a question or anything during that whole USA experience, he was there for me,’ White said.
Said Kerr: ‘I definitely identify with role players more than I can identify with a star player, just because I have the experience of coming off the bench and trying to figure out a role and all that stuff.’
Being a role player doesn’t mean Kerr didn’t have a big role.
Curry may be considered the greatest outside shooter ever, but it’s Kerr whose 45.4% career mark from 3-point range is tops in NBA history. He knocked down the jumper to secure the Bulls’ 1997 championship, joking during the victory celebration in Chicago that he stepped up to take the shot because Jordan didn’t feel comfortable doing so.
The confidence Kerr showed on the floor then is the same he demonstrates in the huddle now, a resolve that Draymond Green says makes the Warriors feel ‘invincible.’
‘There are times where we get a little rattled as a team and he’s just right there, steady force, like ”Hey, man, just calm down, settle down,”’ Kerr said.
No surprise. He’s the same guy who once got in a fistfight with Jordan at practice.
These Warriors needed that steadiness more than during their run of three titles in four years from 2015-18. With Thompson still recovering from injuries well into the season and then Curry and Green going down after he returned, Golden State was hardly at full strength before the playoffs and certainly not the powerhouse of recent years.
‘We’ve had to figure some things out on the fly,’ their coach said.
Teams with Kerr usually do.
By The Associated Press
Steve Kerr and Stephen Curry share a laugh during Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night in San Francisco