Skip Warriors closeout conspiracies, beating Celtics in Game 6 won’t be easy

BOSTON — Conspiracy theorists believed that there was far more to the Golden State Warriors’ three closeout losses this postseason than missed box-outs or jumpers.

Golden State made about $7 million per home game in the first and second rounds of the playoffs, with that number spiking to roughly $10 million in the Western Conference finals. Some cynical NBA fans assumed that the Warriors’ closeout losses were part of an elaborate plot for majority owner Joe Lacob to pad his profits.

But for that to be true, Lacob would have to value money over winning — something his history of spending has proved false. The reality is that the Warriors have struggled in closeout games for a much less sinister reason: Eliminating playoff teams is difficult.

With their season hanging in the balance, NBA players tend to have maximum effort and focus. Few teams have been better at that than the Celtics. Throughout the season, they made their path harder than necessary, only to play their best when it mattered most.

This is a scary prospect for the Warriors, who must beat Boston one more time to win their fourth championship in eight seasons. A loss in Game 6 at TD Garden on Thursday night would force a Game 7 in San Francisco. And if the Celtics’ Game 7 win in Miami in the Eastern Conference finals proved anything, it’s that they can handle that kind of environment.

The good news for the Warriors is that they are well versed on the importance of Thursday’s Game 6. Five of their rotation players — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Kevon Looney — were part of Golden State’s collapse in the 2016 finals By squandering a 3-1 series lead to those Cavaliers, Curry, Thompson, Green, Iguodala and Looney realized that no fourth win in a playoff series can be assumed.

“Having been here six times, been in a lot of different closeout type of opportunities, you just understand what the nerves are like,” Curry said. “You can rely on that experience, for sure.”

It also helps the Warriors that they have shown they can beat the Celtics in a variety of ways.

In Golden State’s Game 2 and Game 4 victories, Boston insisted on defending Curry one-on-one. With his supporting cast struggling, Curry was content to dominate, working off pick-and-rolls to hit an array of scoop shots, 30-footers and midrange jumpers.

In Game 5, the Celtics sent more double-teams at Curry, only for him to find open teammates. Though he failed to make a 3-pointer for the first time in 145 career postseason games, he dished out a game-high eight assists as the warriors won by double digits.

Golden State had an offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 119 with Curry on the floor Monday. To put that in context, Utah’s 116.2 offensive rating was the league’s best over the regular season.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: