It’s hard to separate these Warriors from the iterations that immediately preceded them. The 15-win 2019-20 group was riddled with injuries, most notably to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Last year’s team again lacked Thompson, and again, ended short of a postseason berth.
It’s why leading into this year’s Finals, Curry expressed an appreciation for returning to the sport’s biggest stage. “You look up and all the work that you put in over the last two years has paid off,” he said. “All that stuff is just built into the context of what’s happened since Game 6 of the 2019 Finals. And we’re back here. So it’s pretty special.”
On Thursday night, a teary-eyed Curry was mobbed by teammates near Golden State’s bench as the final buzzer sounded to conclude this year’s Finals, with the Warriors winning Game 6 against the Celtics 103–90 and claiming the ’22 NBA title. The hard work had certainly paid off. While no confetti fell from the ceiling of Boston’s TD Garden onto the arena’s famous parquet floor, history was again made.
Behind 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting from its star guard, the Warriors took home their fourth title in the last eight years and the franchise’s seventh, moving it one ahead of the Bulls. Curry was fittingly named the series’ MVP, the first-time he’s received such an honor.
“This one hits different for sure,” he said after Game 6, “just knowing what the last three years have meant, what it’s been like from injuries to changing of the guard in the rosters, Wiggs coming through, our young guys carrying the belief that we could get back to this stage and win, even if it didn’t make sense to anybody when we said it, all that stuff matters.
“And now we got four championships.”
No, Golden State didn’t win Game 6 solely because of its past Finals experiences, but an early 14–2 road deficit failed to faze the Western Conference champions. Instead, having received what turned out to be Boston’s most forceful blow, the Warriors slowly found their rhythm. They trailed 22–18 with 2:28 to play in the first quarter, before exploding on a 21–0 run, the longest in Finals history in 50 years. Golden State led by five after the first quarter, and by 15 early in the second. That would be their advantage heading into the halftime locker room.
Prior to Game 6, Celtics coach Ime Udoka noted that periods of offensive stagnation plagued his team throughout the series. Such struggles had, in part, stemmed from issues handling the basketball. Entering Thursday, in its prior three losses to the Warriors, Boston averaged 17.7 turnovers. It notched 12 in the first-half of Game 6 and 23 for the game, the team’s most since Oct. 22. Star forward Jayson Tatum, who scored only 13 points in the losing effort, recorded three of those first-half giveaways and five overall.
The Celtics by no means folded coming out of the locker room. But with 6:12 to play in the third quarter, Curry sashayed back to his team’s bench, after having hit his fifth three of the contest, stretching his team’s lead to 22. As he did, he gestured to his right ring finger, as if to know then and there another piece of jewelry was on its way.
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An Al Horford old-fashioned three-point play cut Golden State’s lead to merely nine with 44.1 to go in the third. And while the Celtics wouldn’t cave to their opponent in the fourth, the battle-tested Warriors never buckled.
Celtics guard Jaylen Brown recorded three of his team-high 34 points with 5:41 to play in the final period, slashing the Warriors’ lead to eight, but the C’s would not draw any closer. As a result, Boston, having previously not lost three consecutive games since December, snapped such a streak.
Only four current Warriors were on the team that defeated the Cavaliers in the ‘15 Finals, the first in the team’s dynastic run: Curry, Thompson, forward Andre Iguodala and forward Draymond Green, who said he’s come to realize such deep postseason runs aren’t promised and to be taken for granted. The four-time All-Star forward struggled for most of this year’s series, but played his best game of the ‘22 Finals on Thursday night, recording 12 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
“He’s brash and he is who he is, but when you need him, he shows up,” said Iguodala. “And tonight, that triple-double alert was right there.”
So was forward Andrew Wiggins, who finished the team’s fourth win with 18 points, the latest in a string of stellar performances.
“I just wanted to prove everyone wrong,” Wiggins said. “Now I’m a world champion.”
Golden State has now clinched three of its four most recent titles on the road. But the setting did little to rattle the Warriors during the 48-minute contest or during the on-court celebration that followed. Curry said prior to the win he understood what the nerves of Thursday’s Game 6 would be like. Thompson, who finished with 12 points, confidently stated that it would require the most effort they had given all year.
“It doesn’t matter what any of us do individually,” he said prior to the win. “The main goal is just to win one game.“
They did just that. And with it, the Warriors, having claimed what coach Steve Kerr called perhaps their unlikeliest title yet, are champions once again.
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