Basketball

NBA Finals: Warriors-Celtics Game 5 key stat, key moment, MVP watch


Game 5: Warriors 104, Celtics 94 | Warriors leads NBA Finals 3-2

Who was the guy? Andrew Wiggins. It’s incredible how much his story has changed during this season with the Golden State Warriors, and while they waited for Steph Curry to get going and for Klay Thompson to catch fire, Wiggins was there putting in all the work against the Boston Celtics in Game 5. He was spectacular in the first half of this game. He had 16 points in the first half and led everybody in scoring during the first 24 minutes. Eventually, guys like Jordan Poole, Thompson and Curry would get going to have nice final numbers, but Wiggins finished with 26 points on 12-of-23 shooting to go with 13 rebounds, two assists and two steals in 43 minutes of action.

It was a complete game from Wiggins, as he helped bother Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown throughout the night. The growth and maturation of Wiggins has been well documented. To produce like this in Game 5, when Curry and Klay aren’t performing right away, is exactly what kept the Warriors in this game and eventually helped them grab it.

What was the difference in this game? Once again, the Celtics fell apart in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors clamped down. Games 1 and 3 saw the Celtics outscore the Warriors a combined 63-27 in those two fourth quarters. They’ve stumbled down the stretch of the other games when they had a chance to make a run, and the fourth quarter went 29-20 in the Warriors’ favor. The Celtics fought so well in the third quarter to reverse their fortunes from previous third quarters in this series. But the Warriors jumped all over them to start the fourth and then clamped down in the middle of the quarter to keep themselves in the driver’s seat.

Wiggins made five baskets in the fourth. The Celtics, as a team, made four.

Key stat: 11. The turnover battle in this series has been huge. The Warriors and Celtics typically are pretty sloppy with the ball. But Golden State kept ball control in check in Game 5. They had six turnovers as a team, which is unbelievably low for them. Usually, they’re trying some pretty ambitious passes, and this Celtics team certainly can force some turnovers. Not in Game 5. The Warriors took care of the ball like it was a fragile egg. As for the Celtics, the 18 turnovers were just too many. It’s a positive that only half of them were live-ball turnovers, but they were plus-12 in turnovers committed and gave up 22 points off those turnovers.

The moment it was over: After Tatum knocked down two free throws to pull the Celtics within seven with 7:26 left in the game, Wiggins responded with two scores over the next two minutes, and the Celtics could not find the bottom of the net. The Celtics scored one point over nearly a four-minute span in the middle of the fourth quarter. The offense sputtered, and the Warriors kept them in that double-digit range the entire time to help the Celtics run out of time in trying to mount a comeback that never truly materialized.

What can the Warriors do to win Game 6 and secure the title? Taking care of the ball the way they did is the right start. They lost the rebounding battle in Game 5 by eight, but they competed on the boards. If they continue to do those things, they have to trust that Curry will be right, Draymond Green will continue to make good decisions after his Game 4 short-circuiting, Klay will knock down big shots, and Poole will be decisive off the bench like we saw in Game 5. Their defense has been spectacular, but they still need to limit the number of open 3-pointers they’re allowing. Being competent-to-good in all of those categories will give them a championship parade next week.

What can the Celtics do to win Game 6? In order to keep their season alive on Thursday, Tatum needs to play like the superstar he was in the first three rounds of the playoffs. Where did that Tatum go? This Tatum is turning the ball over in all the wrong ways. This Tatum is shrinking in the fourth quarter and reverting back to all of the big moments he was criticized for poorly navigating prior to the Celtics’ turnaround this year. It’s not to say he’s bad or he’s overrated. He’s 24 years old. He’s incredible. But this is a learning experience that could cost the Celtics a title. There are no grading-on-a-curve moments because you’re young and in the NBA Finals.

Other guys need to be better, too; it’s not only on Tatum. But when this game was in the balance in the fourth quarter, he didn’t carry his team. He made mistakes. It’s his job to lift up the teammates. That comes with the glory of being welcomed to the superstar club. Tatum has to bring it and set the table for everybody else. He can’t turn the ball over. He has to get his teammates good shots. He has to lead so the rest can follow. That’s the job.

Finals MVP Watch (averages through five games): 

  1. Steph Curry: 30.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.8 steals, 46.6 percent FG, 41.7 percent 3FG, 83.3 percent FT
  2. Andrew Wiggins: 18.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 blocks, 45.8 percent FG, 25.0 percent 3FG, 69.2 percent FT
  3. Jayson Tatum: 23.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 37.3 percent FG, 47.5 percent 3FG, 65.6 percent FT
  4. Jaylen Brown: 21.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 40.9 percent FG, 30.6 percent 3FG, 80.0 percent FT
  5. Klay Thompson: 18.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 38.3 percent FG, 36.7 percent 3FG, 100 percent FT

On Thursday

NBA Finals Game 6: Celtics at Warriors, 9 p.m. ET (ABC)


Related reading

Slater: Warriors’ stingy defense has delivered them to the doorstep of an NBA title
Weiss: Celtics’ fourth-quarter offense burns out, pushing Boston to brink of elimination
Kawakami: Andrew Wiggins is finding his best self exactly when the Warriors need it most

(Photo of Klay Thompson and Al Horford: Cary Edmondson / USA Today)





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