ADVERTISEMENT

How Golden State beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals

ADVERTISEMENT

BOSTON — Turns out the dynasty had just ground to a halt.

Golden State has won the NBA championship again, four seasons after the last. It’s the franchise’s seventh title and the fourth for its three superstars — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green — who have spent the last decade growing together, winning together and, in the last three years, learning just how fragile success can be.

On Thursday, they defeated the Boston Celtics, 103-90, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. They won the series, 4-2, and celebrated their ultimate victory on the parquet floor of TD Garden, under 17 championship banners, in front of a crowd of disappointed fans. The fans in Boston booed their team as the first half drew to a close, and rarely had reason to hope after that.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Celtics took a 14-2 lead to open the game, playing better than they did in their lackluster start to Game 5, but Golden State’s firepower threatened to overwhelm them. For nearly six minutes of playing time from late in the first quarter to early in the second, Boston failed to score.

Golden State built a 21-point lead in the second quarter and held that cushion early in the third.

With 6 minutes and 15 seconds remaining in the third, Curry hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game, giving his team a 22-point lead. He extended his right hand and pointed to his ring finger, confident that he was on his way to winning his fourth championship ring.

The moment may have motivated the Celtics, who responded with a 12-2 run. Ultimately, however, they had too much ground to make up.

Curry, who had 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting in Game 6, won the Finals Most Valuable Player Award.

Golden State celebrated after two seasons of lackluster records, one that made it the worst team in the NBA. His players and coaches spent those seasons waiting for Thompson’s injuries to heal, for Curry’s (fewer) injuries to heal and for new or young pieces on their roster to grow up and take on important roles.

When they were complete again, the core of three players talked about cementing their legacy.

They were much younger when they began their travels together. Golden State drafted Curry in 2009, Thompson in 2011 and Green in 2012.

Curry was 27 years old when they won their first championship together in 2015. Thompson and Green were 25.

That season was also Steve Kerr’s first as the team’s coach.

Golden State went 67-15 and quickly went from the playoffs to the NBA Finals, having no idea how difficult it could be to get there. The following year, the team set a league record with 73 regular season wins, but lost on a trip back to the finals. Kevin Durant joined the team in free agency that summer, and Golden State went on to win the next two championships, becoming one of the best teams in NBA history.

Credit…Allison’s Dinner for The New York Times

The champions grew as people and as players during this stretch. Curry and Green added children to their families. They were rock stars on the road, with swarms of fans waiting for them at their hotels. Three championships in four seasons made Golden State look invincible.

Only wounds could stop them.

The dynastic run ended in devastating fashion in 2019 during their fifth consecutive appearance in the finals. Durant had been struggling with a calf injury, then tore his right Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the finals against Toronto. Thompson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the next game. The Raptors won the championship that day.

“It was the end of an era at Oracle,” Curry said, referring to the old Golden State Stadium in Oakland, California. The team moved to the Chase Center in San Francisco in 2019. He added: “They are preparing for the summer. trying to regroup and figure out what’s going to happen next year.”

The two seasons of futility that followed were difficult for all of them, but no more so than for Thompson, who also tore his right Achilles tendon during the fall of 2020, sidelining him for another year.

During this year’s finals, he has often thought about that trip.

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Thompson said. “I am very grateful and everything I did up to that point led to this.”

Heading into this season, Golden State wasn’t expected to return to this stage so soon. This was particularly true because heading into the season, Thompson’s return date was unclear.

But then, hope. Golden State opened the 2021-22 campaign by winning 18 of its first 20 games. The team had found a gem in Gary Payton II, who had been passed over by other teams because of his size or because he wasn’t a standout 3-point shooter. Andrew Wiggins, acquired in a 2020 trade with Minnesota, Kevon Looney, who was drafted weeks after that 2015 championship, and Jordan Poole, a late first-round pick in 2019, showed why the team valued them so highly.

Curry set a career record for 3-pointers and mentored the younger players on the team.

Who’s to say how good this team could be once Thompson got back?

That answer came in the playoffs.

Golden State beat the Denver Nuggets in five games and the Memphis Grizzlies in six. Dallas then won just one game from Golden State in the Western Conference finals.

Curry, Thompson and Green, the engine of five straight finishes, came into this year’s championship series completely changed.

“Things that I appreciate today, I didn’t necessarily appreciate then,” Green said. “In 2015, I hated taking pictures and, you know, I didn’t really put two and two together. Like, man, these memories are so important.”

Credit…Allison’s Dinner for The New York Times

They promised not to take any part of the finals experience for granted. Green and Curry made sure their children had fun with them.

“It seems routine, but I know how special this is,” Thompson said before Game 4. “I mean, I’m trying to be present in everything that I do during this time, even in this interview, and not look ahead. Don’t even look to tomorrow.”

They faced a Boston Celtics team that was young, as they were in 2015, led by 20-somethings Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, mentored by veteran statesman Al Horford. The Celtics did almost everything the hard way as they sought the 18th championship for the storied franchise.

They swept the Nets in the first round but played seven games against the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat. They won when they had to and committed too many careless turnovers when they didn’t.

Boston was the youngest, strongest and most athletic team in the finals. The Celtics weren’t afraid of Golden State or the big stage, and they showed it by winning Game 1 on the road. The teams traded blows, with Boston confident in its ability to bounce back from almost any setback. Until Game 5, the Celtics had not lost consecutive games in the playoffs.

Curry had his way against the Boston defense in Game 4, scoring 43 points. Then, in Game 5, the Celtics blocked his efforts, only for his teammates to make up the ground he lost.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Green recalled a moment during Golden State’s flight to Boston from San Francisco between Games 5 and 6. He, Thompson and Curry were sitting together when they were spotted by general manager Bob Myers. and team basketball president. operations.

“It’s like, ‘Man, y’all are hilarious. They still sit together. You don’t understand, it’s 10 years. Like, this doesn’t happen. The guys are still sitting at the same table together,’” Green recalled. “It’s like, ‘The guys haven’t even been on the same team for 10 years, let alone sitting at the same table and enjoying each other’s conversation and presence.'”

At a separate press conference a few minutes later, Thompson was asked about that moment and why the three still enjoy each other’s company. Curry was standing against a wall, watching, waiting for his turn to speak.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Thompson said. “I owe Draymond some money in dominoes, so I don’t want to see him too many times.”

Curry bent at the waist, doubled over with a quiet laugh.

“I was half asleep,” Thompson continued. “Draymond and Bob chatted for six hours on a plane ride. He was just trying to get some sleep.”

Curry later said: “All personalities are very different. Everyone comes from different backgrounds. But we have all congealed around a collective unity of how we do things, whether in the locker room, on the plane, in hotels, whatever. We know how to have fun and keep things light, but we also understand what we’re trying to do and why it’s important in terms of winning games.”

sniloans