Celtics Look to Step Up to the Curry Challenge in Game 5
The Golden State Warriors have been able to keep pace with the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals because of one man: Stephen Curry.
The three-time NBA champ has had a legendary start to the title series, averaging 34.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.0 steals through the first four games, which have been split evenly between Boston and Golden State.
For the Celtics to take a 3-2 lead Monday night, they’ll have to find a way to slow Curry down.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, but Marcus Smart says that he and his teammates must step up and defend Curry with greater focus and tenacity.
“For him, he can affect the game at all levels – passing, play-making, shooting the ball, scoring the ball,” Smart said of his point-guard counterpart ahead of Sunday's practice in San Francisco. “He's got the whole package, and you have to be able to guard every last thing he has, and not many players can do that. Not a lot of people, especially on that defensive end, like to sit down and play defense. It's not fun. It's not glamorous at all. You're not going to get any or much of the credit. None of that. But you have to be willing to take that challenge and just go do it when you're guarding him.”
Smart is one player who deserves a ton of credit for the way in which he has guarded Curry. In 101 head-to-head possessions against Smart in this series, Curry has shot just 5-of-15 from the field, including 2-of-8 from 3-point range. He’s also committed five turnovers during those possessions while handing out only three assists.
As Grant Williams noted, however, it can’t just be Smart doing all the dirty work against Curry. In order to slow down this one-in-a-lifetime talent, “we each have to do a better group effort.”
Smart believes that it takes a special type of mindset to handle an assignment like Curry. You can’t take even a split second off while guarding him, or else he’ll take advantage from any spot on the floor.
Curry has already proven that to be the case by knocking down 25 3-pointers through the first four games of the series, which places him just seven shy of his own Finals record of 32.
“We all know what he can do outside of 20 feet, 30 to 35, 40 feet,” Smart said. “The dude is special in that regard. The way that he's able to affect the game by being able to run around and play off the ball and get himself open, it's just tough on a defender because you can't take a break. The instant you think that he's not doing anything, the play is over for him, and that's when you get beaten. That's when you get burnt. That's when this mentality comes in and you've got to stay ready, you can't give up, you've got to keep going.”
Curry delivered a masterful, 43-point effort in Game 4 at TD Garden, singlehandedly delivering a 107-97 series-tying win for the Warriors. However, the Celtics weren’t demoralized by performance, because they know that they can do much better come Game 5 Monday night.
“Always keep it in perspective and understanding that he had a great game, but also there were a lot of things that we could have done better as a group,” said Al Horford. “And the one thing about our group is we're learning through this whole process and we're learning how to win and we're learning how to be better, and we had a really good film session, and we're expecting to have a much better game tomorrow.”