Warriors winning bench battle again vs. Celtics big for NBA Finals Game 6

BOSTON — Steph Curry’s streak of making at least one 3-pointer in 233 straight games between the regular season and playoffs being snapped in the Warriors’ win against the Boston Celtics on Monday night in Game 5 of the NBA Finals should be seen as nothing more than a positive at this point.

Why? Draymond Green said it best after the win, sharing how livid he knows Curry is about to be. The numbers don’t hurt, too.

When Curry has failed to make a 3-pointer and plays in the next game, he has gone 93-for-177 from deep. That’s a not-too-shabby 52.5 percent clip. There’s just part of the good news.

The Warriors’ second-leading scorers, Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson, are also trending up. Wiggins is coming off a 26-point, 13-rebound double-double and has put together back-to-back double-doubles. His 26 points are the most he has scored in the finals and the second-most in the playoffs.

Thompson struggled to open the series. Through the first two games, he averaged 13 points and made only 26.7 percent of his 15 3-point attempts. In the last three games, however, he has turned it on. After scoring 21 points in the Warriors’ latest win, Klay now is averaging 21.3 points while shooting 42.4 percent from beyond the arc. His stock is rising right when the warriors need it to.

Oh yeah, Game 6 Klay is here again too.

Those three will be called upon Thursday night at TD Garden to carry the scoring load in Game 6 with a chance to be champions. They can’t be the only ones, though. Just like last game, the Warriors will need to win the bench battle once again to wrap this series up.

Golden State’s Strength In Numbers mantra shined bright while Curry struggled to find his shot last game. Two key contributors to getting it done were Jordan Poole and Gary Payton II. They combined for 29 points — 15 from Payton and 14 from Poole. The Celtics’ bench as a whole scored nine points.

“To be able to go out there and be aggressive, make plays,” Poole said after Game 5 when asked what the biggest key was to the Warriors’ second unit outscoring Boston by so much. “The coaching staff is kind of giving me the keys to go out there and be extremely aggressive and hunt my shot.”

Poole has looked much more comfortable playing this Celtics defense the longer the series has went on. In his last two games, he has scored 28 points while shooting 10-for-21 (47.6 percent) from the field and 5-for-13 (38.5 percent) on from long distance. It also doesn’t help to beat the buzzer again with immense confidence.

Then there’s Payton. Six weeks removed from fracturing his left shooting elbow in a brutal fall against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round of the playoffs, Payton continues to look indispensable to the Warriors’ success.

He made his return in Game 2 against the Celtics and scored 14 points through his first three games of the series. In Game 5, Payton exploded for 15 points, along with his five rebounds and three steals. The veteran journeyman was a game-high plus-16 in plus-minus.

His return has been inspiring to say the least.

Steve Kerr watched Payton put in work with his left arm in a sling, sprinting down the court and doing defensive slides. He literally was willing to do whatever it took to make his comeback, and the warriors are reaping the rewards.

“The guy’s a workhorse,” Kerr said after Game 5. “He’s incredible. Amazing athlete, great defensive player. He’s got really good instincts out there, and obviously super competitive. And for him to make it back, it’s obviously crucial for our team, but I’m really thrilled for him with his journey in this league.

“He’s come a long way, and now he’s getting a chance to shine in the Finals, so it’s awesome.”

When asked if he expected to make this kind of impact after sustaining such a grueling injury, Payton gave us all a look as if we were handed crazy pills at Chase Center.

There was no skepticism. A question mark never entered his mind.

“I had no doubt in my mind I was going to come back,” Payton said. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

The third piece to the puzzle is either center Kevon Looney or forward Otto Porter Jr. It all depends on who Kerr starts. If he sticks with Porter, like he has in the last two games, Looney’s presence will have to be felt off the bench. The reverse is true if Kerr brings Looney back into his starting lineup.

Porter has played 29 minutes in his last two games as a starter, scoring only four points. He was a plus-5 combined in those two games.

Looney was hit with three fouls in under three minutes when Kerr turned to him last game. But he ended up playing 17 minutes off the bench, scored two points, grabbed four rebounds and dished three assists. He was a plus-12. In his last two games off the bench, he scored eight points and came away with 15 rebounds.

The always reliable 26-year-old is a combined plus-33 in his last two games, both warriors wins.

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Celtics guard Derrick White always was going to be a huge X-factor depending on what version of him shows up for Boston. He’s supposed to be their ignitor off the bench, giving them a scoring spark when he comes in. Well, he scored one point and missed all four of his shot attempts in Game 5. White was a minus-13 in 21 minutes, and Grant Williams, the Celtics’ other key bench player, was a minus-18 in 16 minutes.

Those two are a minus-60 in the last two games, both resulting in Celtics losses.

Stars will have to shine for both teams on Thursday night. If the Warriors want to close this series and celebrate on the road, they can’t have down games from Curry, Thompson, Wiggins and Green. The Celtics of course will need their Big Three of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart to ride the home crowd and force a Game 7.

But if the Warriors’ bench steps up again, that could be the difference in the Finals extending or a fourth title coming back to The Bay.

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