The Golden State Warriors did it this time, not because of Stephen Curry, but in spite of him, as they defeated the Boston Celtics 104-94 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Andrew Wiggins was the star man on this occasion, impressing with his scoring, defense and rebounding in a magnificent all-round display. He dropped 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to secure a second consecutive NBA Finals double-double and was also a pest on defense all night to the Boston Celtics, who now fall behind in the best-of-seven series for the first time trailing 3-2.
Wiggins was far from alone though, Draymond Green set the tone with some huge energy plays at the start, including one where he chased a loose ball into the crowd and collided with an audience member. A huge cheer went up around Chase Center as he checked if the lady involved was alright. Soon after, he had the whole crowd on their feet as he sold a massive fake to the Boston defense allowing him to get to the rim for an easy bucket.
Klay Thompson hit some huge three-pointers, including a pair in the midst of Boston’s run in the third quarter after the Warriors had blown a 16-point lead. Thompson scored 21 points in the end, including going 5-of-11 from three.
Curry, for his part, failed to make a three-pointer in an NBA game for the first time since November 8, 2018. He did score 16 points but was out of sorts. He did not force anything though and allowed his team-mates to shine on an off-night for him.
Basketball is a game of runs and so it proved in this one. Golden State started off at a furious pace in the first and maintained a steady advantage to lead by a dozen points at the break, with Boston limited to just 39 in the first half.
Then in the third quarter, which has been the Warriors’ statement quarter all series (they were plus-49 coming into Game 5) and pretty much all season, it was Boston who responded with a huge comeback.
It took a ridiculous Jordan Poole bank shot at the end of the third for the Warriors to hold onto a single-point lead going into the fourth. He had 14 points on the night and renaissance man Gary Payton II, who fractured his elbow just a month before the NBA Finals started, was also a big contributor in Game 5 with 15 points and 5 rebounds.
Golden State, though, asserted their authority early on in the fourth, ensuring Boston were back down by double figures just three-and-a-half minutes into the third and they did not look back from there.
The Celtics on the other hand, imploded, and their inexperience showed at the start and end of the game.
They began Monday night’s clash with no rhythm to their offense and trying to force everything through Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. In the fourth, the younger team’s temperament completely went and the team’s 18 turnovers were just too many for a finals game on the road.
The topsy-turvy nature of the game was exemplified by Boston’s shooting from beyond the arc. They started 0-for-12 on threes before making their next eight in a row to give them the lead in the third quarter. Their positive stretches were powered primarily by Tatum, who finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds, and Smart who had 20 points. Brown, again started brightly but faded quickly – a theme during this series – and finished with 18 points and nine boards.
Tatum looked like he was on the cusp of his best performance of the finals for a spell in the third quarter but he undid that work with some poor decisions and on two separate occasions, the 24-year-old missed both free throws after being fouled. Boston overall was 21-of-31 from the line. That, along with the turnovers proved very costly for the road team.
The Warriors on the other hand, overcame a very poor three-point shooting display in the first half (just 17 per cent), playing with composure and at a more measured pace than they needed to in Game 4.
A key moment came in the third quarter when Thompson finally drilled a three after Warriors had missed 14 in a row and he then found his three-point shooting rhythm.
The Warriors’ strength in depth showed though and there were big plays from all of the role players, like Green’s bounce pass to Payton and Poole’s huge bank shot. As for Wiggins, who has been the Dubs’ second-best player in the series by a distance, he had multiple highlight plays.
The No 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft proved the star turn on a night when all of the Warriors stars, except the man who is usually their brightest, shone on the big stage.
Boston, on the other hand, looked daunted and suffered a second consecutive defeat for the first time in this postseason. They will need to avoid losing again if banner 18 is going to hang in the Boston rafters.
The Dubs though, are just one win away from a fourth title in eight seasons. They will have a chance to make that a reality on Thursday night, a game which you can watch live on Sky Sports.
The NBA Finals (TV listings here) continue on Sky Sports this week, subscribe to watch the live action.