There are certain players in sports that have a way of taking over a game unlike most others. Warriors point guard Steph Curry has been on that list for a few years now, and delivered another example Friday night in Game 4 of the NBA Finals at TD Garden.
Curry scored a game-high 43 points playing 41 minutes in Game 4. He shot 14-of-26 (53.8 percent) from the field and 7-of-14 from three, while also recording 10 rebounds and four assists. The rest of the Warriors team was 26-of-65 (40 percent) from the floor and 8-of-29 (27.6 percent) from three.
Despite those number, Celtics head coach Ime Udoka felt his team defended Curry well, and contested a number of shots Curry managed to hit anyway. “At times we’re obviously focused on him, keeping others in check. But some of those were some crazy shots that were highly contested that he made,” Udoka said after the game. “Some of the threes he hit were highly contested and you can’t do anything about those.”
“Obviously he made a lot of tough shots tonight on us,” defensive player of the year Marcus Smart said after the game. “We just got to make it a conscious effort to find him and Klay [Thompson] and their shooters, especially in transition.”
“We were there. He’s a great player; he made shots,” Smart continued. “He made a lot of the shots where we were contesting from behind. We had somebody there and he was just making them. That’s what he does. We obviously have to do a better job of limiting that. We got to make it even more tough for him. It is what it is. We get another chance to do it again on Monday.”
Al Horford also tipped his cap to Curry after the game. “A lot of credit to him. He was great tonight,” he said. “I think you have to give him his credit when credit is due. Just really tough and made plays for their team and put them in a position to win the game. Got to give him credit.”
Meanwhile, forward Jaylen Brown was also impressed by Curry’s performance but noted the team does have room to improve when it comes to containing him. “We could have done our job better. But give credit to him. He’s one of the best players in the world. He’s been here before. He had it rolling tonight. Big performance by him,” Brown said. “But we have to do a better job of containing. It’s tough. It’s hard. But we know. We never said it was supposed to be easy.”
So what can the Celtics do to keep Curry better contained in the future. Udoka suggested that starts earlier in the game, specifically limiting Curry’s overall shot attempts.
“You look at the overall numbers, the attempts, getting those off, it is the number we don’t like, the 14 attempts in general,” Udoka explained. “He came out bombing early, had nine in the first half.”
Udoka wasn’t the only member of the Celtics to mention Curry’s early looks may have helped him out later in the game. Smart offered a similar sentiment.
“When you get a guy like that, some rhythm early on, those shots, the basketball hoops starts to look a little bit bigger for him,” Smart said.
It was a volume game for Curry. His 26 field goal attempts were the second-most he’s had in the postseason this year, and his 14 three-point attempts were tied for the second-most (both were surpassed by the Game 5 series clincher in the second round against Memphis, when he scored 29 points).
Does this mean the Celtics will put more pressure on Curry off the ball in Game 5, trying to deny him those early shots to set his rhythm? Or will they continue to trust their defense, and force Curry to fight through contested shots again, daring him to duplicate this eye-popping performance? They’ll have two days to make the necessary adjustments, with Game 5 taking place Monday night. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning at 8:30 on 98.5 The Sports Hub and the 98.5 The Sports Hub Celtics Radio Network.