Analysis: Game 4 win shows Warriors are still road warriors
The streak started a little over nine years ago. A trio of kids — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green — went into Denver on a cool April night in 2013 and helped Golden State win Game 2 of a Western Conference first-round series.
And afterward, Curry said something prophetic.
“We’re a resilient team,” Curry proclaimed that night.
He had no idea how right he was.
The Warriors have been in 27 playoff series over those nine seasons. They’ve won a road game in every single one of them, a streak that is beyond compare in NBA history. And it can be argued that none of those road wins for Golden State in the Curry-Thompson-Green era were bigger than the latest one, a 107-97 win over Boston in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday night.
Series tied, 2-2. Home-court advantage reclaimed. Game 5 is on Monday in San Francisco, the start of a best-of-three to decide the NBA title. And if the Warriors didn’t extend that road streak, the story would be wildly different right now. The Celtics would be on the brink of a title. The Warriors would be just on the brink.
“What a gut-check win,” Thompson said.
Indeed it was, probably more so than any other road victory in this Warriors’ run.
There have been bigger moments: the Warriors have three championships in this era, and yes, getting handed a golden trophy by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is the biggest moment a team can have. But of the 39 road wins that the Warriors have enjoyed during this run, only one might truly measure up to the one Golden State got on Friday in terms of significance.
That would be Game 4 of the 2015 NBA Finals. Same scenario: the Warriors were trailing that series 2-1, they were on the road and facing the dreaded 3-1 deficit, but found a way that night in Cleveland to top the Cavaliers and even the series on their way to a six-game triumph for a title.
Thompson mused after Boston’s win in Game 3 that he was feeling those 2015 vibes again.
He might be right.
“You have a group of guys who are going to be in the Hall of Fame someday: Steph, Klay, Draymond,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “These guys are the constant. They have been here together throughout that span. So, they are not only gifted but they are incredibly competitive, and that’s what it takes to win on the road. You have to summon that kind of will and intensity and passion, and those guys have that.”
Imagine, 48 hours before Game 4, the question was whether Curry could even play. He sprained his left foot late in Game 3, the same injury that ended his regular season a few games early. Curry said Thursday that he would play, and on Friday, he delivered a performance for all-time — 43 points, 10 rebounds, four assists.
“This was nearly a must-win game, and to go out there and shoot as efficiently as he did, and grab 10 rebounds and they were attacking him on defense … Steph played incredible,” Thompson said.
The 43 points represented Curry’s second-highest total ever in a road playoff game. He had 44 in a game at San Antonio in 2013, a second-round affair that probably very few people remembers and certainly didn’t have anywhere near the stakes, spotlight and pressure that was present on Friday night in Boston.
He was demonstrative. Yelling at the crowd a couple times, even. Very un-Steph-like. But the moment couldn’t have been bigger, and Curry delivered, all those years of winning road games at playoff time on enemy hardwood preparing him for this ultimate moment.
“He wasn’t letting us lose,” Green said. “That’s just what it boils down to. … He was going to come out with that type of fire, and he did.”
And now, instead of Boston fans starting to wonder when the parade will be, buckle up for another huge game Monday. The winner of Game 5 will have a chance to claim the trophy with a win in Game 6 on Thursday in Boston. Otherwise, next Sunday, the whole thing gets decided with a Game 7 in San Francisco.
Like Curry said after that first road win nine years ago, the Warriors are resilient.
That might have never been more evident than it was Friday night.
Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds(at)ap.org
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