Game 6 of the NBA Finals tonight at TD Garden in Boston could be the last game of the league’s 75th season.
With a victory, the Golden State Warriors, who lead the Boston Celtics 3-2 after a 104-94 victory in Game 5 at home on Monday night, will close out the series out and win the franchise’s fourth championship in the last eight seasons.
Game 6 comes after the first back-to-back win of the series for either team. After dominating the third quarters of the series, the Warriors were outscored 35 to 24 by the Celtics in Game 5 and led by just 75-74 entering the fourth. It was an unusual circumstance in that Stephen Curry, who forced the Celtics for 43 points in Game 4, was ice cold. He would finish the game going 0-9 on three-point attempts, his first game in the last 233 dating back to 2018 without making at least one.
“Keep shooting,” said Curry after missing 15 of 22 shots in a 16 point, 8 assist performance. “I’m not afraid to go 0 for whatever, because I’m going to keep shooting.”
Curry’s teammates made up for his surprisingly deficient scoring. Forward Andrew Wiggins, who has been exceptional as the best two-way player in the series, had a team-high 26 points. Curry’s longtime backcourt partner Klay Thompson added 21, and guards Gary Payton II and Jordan Poole contributed 15 and 14 respectively off the bench.
While the Warriors have been one of the NBA’s best offensive teams for the most of the past 10 seasons, they have also become a top defensive squad during the same period led by forward Draymond Green and Thompson, and it has shown versus the Celtics. Green, who had struggled earlier in the series but bounced back with solid performances in Games 4 and 5, has been a seven-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection and was the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Thompson has been named to three NBA All-Defensive teams.
But in this series, nobody has been a better defender than Wiggins, who played for the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2013 to 2020 before coming to the Warriors in a trade in February 2020. The 27-year-old former No. 1 overall pick (2013) has locked in on the Celtics’ potent All-Star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, forcing them into tough shots and limiting their impact late in games.
“He’s definitely confident, he’s definitely enjoying the playoffs,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr after Game 5. Along with his scoring, Wiggins had 13 rebounds in Game 5 after posting a crucial 17 points and career-high 16 rebounds in a 107-97 Game 4 Warriors’ win.
“He loves the challenge,” continued Kerr, “he loves the competition. He’s found such a crucial role on this team. I think that empowers him. He knows how much we need him. He’s been fantastic.”
Wiggins, who made his first NBA All-Star team this season, expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to be playing for a championship after his noteworthy Game 5. “It’s something I dreamt about for sure,” said Wiggins. “This is the ultimate stage. It doesn’t get bigger than this.”