Even after Game 3 on Wednesday night, when the Boston Celtics stayed in control for a 116-100 victory and a 2-1 series lead, the what-me-worry Warriors collectively shrugged. Draymond Green casually said his performance reminded him of excrement. Klay Thompson, because he has the aura of a surfer just roused from a nap, spoke of some serious vibes. And Stephen Curry laced up his Fendi sneakers, walked slowly into the interview room and confessed that he probably aggravated the same injury that caused him to miss the final 12 games of the season.
Wait. Did Curry, who might deserve Finals MVP win or lose because he’s shining so bright during this series, admit that he felt as though he strained a muscle in his left foot again? The 34-year-old superstar — who has to run around and do most of the scoring because his veteran teammates aren’t doing it consistently enough — may have a busted wheel? Errr, maybe it’s time to start sprinting for that plane after all.
Poised Celtics start fast, hold off Warriors for 2-1 lead in NBA Finals
The Warriors may never say it publicly, but now it’s okay to panic. To be concerned — very, very concerned — about Game 4 on Friday night, and about the outcome of this series.
Curry will play in Game 4, he declared Thursday after getting a night’s sleep and time to evaluate what happened during the loose-ball scramble with Celtics big man Al Horford. While Curry was going to his knees to secure the ball, Horford toppled over his left foot. The two-time MVP recognized the same pain he felt in March, when Boston’s Marcus Smart similarly crashed into Curry’s foot while going for a loose ball.
This time, Green said he heard Curry screaming. Teammates gathered over him as he laid on his back, grimacing.
The wailing and the wincing were the scariest sights and sounds for Warriors fans, but by then they should’ve picked up on the earlier warning signs.
The degree at which Curry’s mouthpiece hangs from his lips can serve as an appropriate barometer for the Warriors’ emotional state. Though he will stick it out after making big threes, on Wednesday night the jutting piece of plastic indicated a heightened sense of concern.
In the third quarter, Green picked up one of his six fouls, and Curry walked toward the team’s sideline, shaking his head, slightly spreading his arms, his protruding mouthpiece telling the story of his frustration. Fans keenly aware of their star’s emotions might have used his mouthpiece as their anxiety interpreter.
If that method is too abstruse, then Warriors fans could have sensed their team’s fate by watching Green’s performance.
Through much of this series, Green has been diminished into just a vocal role guy. He’s played like a podcaster who loves talking about NBA hoops, rather than an actual NBA player. While Green imposed his will as a bully in Game 2, his tactics failed miserably Wednesday night as the Celtics proved they couldn’t be intimidated twice in a row. Green finished with two points, four rebounds and three assists — and as the host of The Draymond Green Show, he summed up his night like a good podcaster who knows how to capture an audience.
“Like s—,” Green said of his play. Five-year-old Draymond Jr., sitting beside his father, didn’t flinch at the profanity. Because children know the truth, too.
Thompson, the other half of the Splash Brothers, kept his postgame interview G-rated. And he didn’t care much for the vulgarity hurled at Green by Boston fans, who regularly chanted “F— you, Draymond!”
“Dropping f-bombs with children in the crowd,” Thompson said, in his Zen-like manner. “Real classy. Good job, Boston.”
Though Thompson showed concern for the children of Boston and their impressionable ears, he didn’t seem all that worried about his team being in a 2-1 hole. Instead, his mind wandered back to happier times.
Warriors star Stephen Curry will play through foot pain in Finals
Thompson believes in the power of positive memories, and when going through a slump, as he did through the opening two games, he’ll often watch YouTube clips of his better shooting performances. Trailing in the Finals would be no different: Thompson cued up a souvenir from seven years ago.
“We’re not going to overreact. We’ve been in this situation before,” he said. “Getting big 2015 vibes.”
That year, the Warriors trailed 2-1 to the LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers but bounced back to win the series 4-2. Good vibes. However, Thompson must have glossed over the vibes from 2019 — the last time the Warriors faced a 2-1 hole.
During the Finals matchup with the Toronto Raptors, the Warriors were hampered by injury. Kevin Durant tore his right Achilles in Game 5. The next game, Thompson sustained an ACL injury. Toronto wrapped up the championship in six games. Durant, a free agent, decided to do his rehabilitation across the country with the Brooklyn Nets. Thompson would miss the next two seasons.
Curry’s left foot does not compare to the Durant and Thompson injuries. Even so, if Golden State’s best player returns Friday night but is somewhat limited by the discomfort, the Warriors could be in more trouble than first expected.
“Well, we need him if we want to win this thing,” Thompson said. “I know Steph is going to do everything he can in his power to play. I am really hoping he’s okay because he’s our identity, and without him, it will be very difficult.”
The Warriors’ core pieces are veterans who know what they can accomplish. They’re too good to overreact out of fear. On Friday, they very well could start the game with the urgency of high school seniors during the last days of school — and get away with it. Then again, it wouldn’t hurt if the Warriors treated the Finals like finals week and showed a little more concern.