Here are the conclusions as the Warriors defeated the Celtics 103-90 in Game 6, ending an impressive run in the Finals.
1. Before we get to the Celtics (and I promise we will) we probably need to have a real conversation about where Steph Curry makes the top 10 (because he is unquestionably one of the top 10 players). He breaks the game in ways that no one has broken him before him and no one has broken him since, even as the 3-point shot takes over the game. He’s the greatest shooter we’ve ever seen, and no one is close, but he’s also an elite ball handler, an elite passer, an elite finisher, and an increasingly solid defender. He is an impeccable offensive basketball player who maintains his position on defense.
And in the end, Curry scored 34 points in the closing game against the Celtics on Thursday, including six 3-pointers. For six games, he kept doubling and doubling the best defense in the Celtics’ league until finally they fell apart.
This is what happens when you face off against a superstar who is still at the height of his powers, even at 34, because there’s no denying what Curry just did. He may not have had his best regular season, but he led the Warriors into the playoffs and decimated a formidable opponent in the Finals.
“We have four championships,” Curry marveled at his post-game press conference. “God is great, the ability to be on this stage and play with amazing teammates against a great Boston Celtics team that gave us everything to try to get to the finish line.
“This one beats different for sure.”
Give Steph Curry your credit – everything. He’s already won four titles, and while many people want to take credit for two of them, the team he’s had around him this year should more than make up for the difference.
2. Once again, turnovers and offensive rebounds were a big problem for the Celtics on Thursday. As a team, they finished with an impressive 22 turnovers, and the Warriors grabbed 15 offensive rebounds — several of which resulted in 3 points from Jordan Poole and Curry. After a late run in the third quarter reduced a large lead to 10, the Celtics started the fourth with yet another turnover.
As good as Curry has been in this series, there’s little denying the extent to which the Celtics threw the ball – and perhaps the series – away.
“Every possession has a purpose,” said Robert Williams. “Looks like the other locker room noticed this; we do not. They had meaning to everything they were doing.”
3. Jayson Tatum finished a disappointing performance in the Finals with 13 points on 6-of-18 shooting and five turnovers. The Warriors called him and seemed to push him out of his comfort zone.
Jaylen Brown played hard and kept the Celtics alive with 34 points on 12-of-23 shooting, but he also struggled with five turnovers as the Celtics offense collapsed.
Brown was asked about his message to Tatum after the game.
“I just gave him a hug, man,” Brown said. “I know it was a tough last game. I know, obviously, it was a game that we felt we could have won. It hurts that we kind of didn’t play to our potential. This game, the last game in our house.
“But it is what it is. You have to learn from it and move on. As hard as it is, it’s been a great year, a great journey. At the beginning of the season nobody thought we would be here. Two games away from doing something special. .
“Everybody thinks, ‘Man, we really could have done this, we really had the opportunity.’ Yes, we did. It just wasn’t our time.”
4. Udoka hopes Tatum will learn from his experience – Tatum shot well from 3 points at 45.5%, but he hit 36.7% overall as the Warriors smothered him inside the arc.
“You’re an All-Star, All-NBA First Team guy for a reason,” Udoka said. “This is just the beginning of how you’re going to be protected and the attention you’re going to attract. One thing he always did over the course of the season was see a lot of different coverage and find out. He did this during the early series. This was a rough one. Very consistent team that did some things to limit you and make others pay.
“For him, it’s about continuing to grow and understanding that you’re going to see this for the rest of his career. This is just the beginning.”
5. Robert Williams was asked what he needs to do to get back healthy next year and if he needs further procedures.
“Rest,” Williams said simply.
6. Al Horford made his first Finals appearance and tried to keep the Celtics alive in the second half – he scored 12 of his 19 points in the third quarter and went 4-5 on the field, 3-4 of three. But the Warriors have punished the Celtics greats with their fast, skilled guards throughout the series.
“It’s difficult,” admitted Horford. “Obviously for me, looking at this great opportunity ahead of us, it wasn’t for us this year. We fought a lot.
“I feel like we can keep our heads up. We gave everything we could. For me, I’m looking forward to next year. It’s a great summer for us as a team, individually, to improve, improve this and take this to another level.”
7. For the Celtics – and their fans – this loss is going to hurt… a lot. It should. Final races don’t happen often, and when they end in defeat, one can’t help but wonder if an opportunity has been lost permanently.
“Probably those things will never go away,” Udoka said. “I’ve lost one before. That was part of the message. That propel us forward, the experience. Growth and progress we’ve made this season. Obviously, reaching your end goal and losing a few games is going to hurt. There’s a lot of guys there, very emotional right now. …
“Just don’t come back as players, coaching staff. Let that fuel you through the entire offseason into next year.”
But as the summer progresses, fans (and, frankly, the Celtics themselves) should be reminded of what they have in this team — a largely likable group of players who have improved dramatically over the course of their careers. Tatum, Brown, Williams, Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard should be around for a while. Al Horford should be back next year. The Celtics are in a position to run a race again, and next year they can be judged by what happens to their core going forward.
For now, the Celtics were a steamroller who turned their season around and made a deep run. They were Eastern Conference champions who fell short (admittedly disappointingly) against one of the greatest players of all time, who put an exclamation point on a dynastic run.
Defeat might make celebration impossible, but this team has earned a lot of appreciation from those who paid attention all season.
“We know what it’s like to get to this point,” Tatum said. “Like Smart said, getting here and not making it is hard. You don’t want to feel like this again, but you want to come back here.
“So to answer your question, yes, this will feed us.”
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