Through Charlotte Wilder
FOX Sports columnist
BOSTON—If Stephen CurryHis eyes were lasers, they burned holes through the TD Garden jumbotron in the third quarter game 4 of NBA Final.
The Golden State star stared at the giant screen, which featured former Celtics greats in attendance. Curry looked away as Eddie House pumped his fist in the air and displayed his 2008 championship ring, upsetting the already enraged Boston crowd.
At that moment something about his facial expression changed subtly.
I had my binoculars trained on him from the press box high above the ground, and it was like watching the final act of an action movie in which the superhero must tap into extra energy — a pristine reservoir of skill and determination deep within theirs Soul – to defeat the enemy.
What Curry did. Handy.
He scored 43 points, his second-highest points in a Finals game (he scored 47 points against Toronto to force a Game 6 in 2019), and 10 rebounds as the Warriors tied the series 2-2 in a 107-97 win.
“A lot of it is because of how hostile the environment was, the fans singing, doing all their shenanigans and all that,” Curry said after the game. “[And] Boston knows how big the game is for them – if they win, they can take control of the series. So all of that mixes with the experience of knowing how inconsistent the momentum is in the final.”
Celtics fans should have worried from the first quarter on Friday when Curry established his dominance of the pitch and turned to yell at the crowd. The TD Garden was louder than I’ve ever heard, fueled by Klay Thompson’s comments about it not being “classy” after Game 3, and Curry seemed to thrive on that.
“Steph doesn’t usually show a lot of emotion, but a night like tonight made it worth it,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr later said.
In addition to saving the Warriors (they couldn’t have won without him), Curry did so after injuring his foot in Game 3. Kerr joked that not being an injury factor made it seem like Curry had “really problems out there.” ” Curry said he doesn’t prefer the foot at all and it doesn’t take up too much brain space when playing.
Game 4 was arguably Curry’s greatest Finals performance of all time. His Splash brother seemed to think so, anyway.
“I think probably No. 1,” Thompson said when asked where that game ranked for Curry. “I mean, that was almost a must-play game, and going out there and shooting as efficiently as he did and getting 10 rebounds and they attacked him on defense. I mean his condition is unmatched in this league. Steph played amazing.”
Curry certainly put his team on their backs and set the tone early as he accumulated 19 points by the end of the first half. It was clear this wasn’t the Game 3 Warriors team that gave the Celtics a 68-56 lead at halftime, then regained the lead only to crush it and lose 116-100.
No, that was the Warriors team that won three championships with Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green as anchors.
And Thompson had 18 on Friday. But so is the team of Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole and Kevon Looney now. Wiggins secured a career-high 16 rebounds and scored 17 points in Game 4. The 22-year-old Poole scored 14, and with Looney down the Warriors beat the Celtics by 21 points.
Green wasn’t very effective in Game 4, although his teammates said he brought the same fire and intensity he’s delivered on defense all season and year after year. He finished with nine rebounds and eight assists.
“Incredible,” Green said of curry. “Put us on his back. Wanted us to win. Much needed win. Game we had to have. Came out and showed why he’s one of the best players to ever play that game, you know, and why , do you know that.” Organization was able to ride him to so much success. It’s absolutely incredible.”
While Curry might have carried the team up the hill, the Warriors ultimately delivered a statement win all together.
“It just felt like we just had to let everyone know we’re here tonight,” Curry said.
“Whether that’s your audience, our team, your team, whoever wants to see that energy, that fire – we feed on that. And I think it helped us just settle into the game. Because with our experience, of course you can. Do you want it so badly that you get in your own way a bit. And everyone feels a little pressured. And it can also go in the opposite direction.
If Curry and the Warriors can keep that fire burning and continue to find ways to stave off Boston’s stifling defense, the Celtics will be in trouble. The biggest test of their season comes in Game 5. The Celtics will need to dig deep, like Curry did, to ensure they don’t fall apart against a Warriors team that played a better version of Boston in Game 4.
Because Golden State did what Boston is usually good at in Game 4 and what Boston couldn’t do on Friday. Led by Curry, it finished the game as a true unit.
During these playoffs, Boston was successful because of team cohesion. With a young core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, it ran clean through the nets and superstar Kevin Durant.
Then the Celtics defeated Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in a grueling, physical seven-game series. Milwaukee couldn’t stand up to Boston’s relentlessness without Khris Middleton on the court.
Neither does Miami. The Heat, No. 1 in the East, melted under Boston’s physical exertion, which is why we find ourselves here, watching the league’s most experienced finals team take on a slew of newcomers.
And now the Celtics in curry face the ultimate giant that reminded them of that in Game 4.
It often counts for a lot to pretend you’ve been there before, but sometimes it’s more important to have been there. The Celtics collapsed Friday, committing 16 turnovers and seemingly forgot how to shoot a basketball. The team looked hauntingly like the January version of themselves, who had a 23-24 record while Tatum missed 18 straight 3s over the course of four games.
However, it’s important to remember that both teams were unpredictable in those playoffs. Remember when the Warriors lost to Memphis by 39 points?
The Celtics are 7-0 if they lose, which they will do when they travel to San Francisco. Game 5 is everyone’s game and it will be a crucial one.
“We’ve got to play with the same power in the fourth quarter that we did, bring that Monday,” Thompson said.
This is a series between two teams. But Game 4 was Steph Curry’s game. He’s one of those people who are built differently. Placed on this earth to do something so singularly great, so gloriously transcendent that anyone who watches them feels privileged to do so.
Friday night was the basketball equivalent of a man lifting a car off a family with his bare hands. As Kerr said, it was stunning. And superhuman.
Perhaps Wiggins put it best.
“You can only watch,” he said. “Sometimes when Steph has the ball, you just watch and see what he’s doing.”
Charlotte Wilder is a general columnist and co-host of “The Volkssport Podcastfor FOX Sports. She’s honored to represent the perennially neglected Boston area in sports media, enjoys talking to sports fans about her feelings and loves eating a hot dog at a ballpark or nachos at a stadium. Follow her on Twitter @TheWilderThings.
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