Believe it or not, pundits continue to view the Warriors as underdogs heading into Game Six of the National Basketball Association Finals. For some reason, they can’t seem to get the respect they feel they deserve even after an emphatic victory in the fifth match of the best-of-seven affair. Forget that they’re in their sixth championship series appearance in eight years. For the most part, even casual observers believe the Celtics are down two to three more from self-inflicted wounds than as proof of the ascendancy of the Western Conference titleholders.
Don’t tell that to the Warriors, though, and, for once, they may have grounds to deem themselves slighted. After all, they claimed Game Five even though leading Finals Most Valuable Player candidate Stephen Curry had an atrocious time from the field. To argue that he had an off-day would be an understatement; he canned zero out of nine attempts from three-point range and finished with a seven-of-22 clip from the field. And yet the blue and yellow won pulling away — in large measure because those around him picked up the slack, and more.
Considering Curry’s status as the greatest shooter in league history, it’s fair to contend that he will more likely regain his shooting touch than not in Game Six. Perhaps he was tired from having to carry much of the load heading into the last contest; if so, then the extra day of rest should help him. Head coach Steve Kerr likewise made some adjustments to ease his burden; he played off ball in quite a number of sequences, unusual given his unprecedented success with his even-higher-than-usual usage rate.
It bears noting that Curry remains on track to finish the title set-to with unprecedented offensive numbers despite his poor showing in Game Five. And he’s so efficient in getting leather and nylon to meet that even his touch is less than silky, he’s still drawing double, even triple, coverage. In other words, the Warriors fully expect to leave TD Garden today with the Larry O’Brien Trophy in their hands. Which is to say the Celtics will have to live up to billing and match their intensity in order to extend the series.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.