Stephen Curry produced an awe-inspiring display in Game 4 to draw the Golden State Warriors level in the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.
In the best game of the series so far, the Warriors guard delivered one of the most special performances of his glittering, storied career.
He bagged 43 points and 10 rebounds for an outstanding double-double, accompanied by four assists in a transcendent performance, to decide a thrilling seesaw game at the TD Garden.
The only time the lead went to double digits was right at the end of the game, with the lead changing hands around a dozen times as the Warriors won out in the end 107-97 against the Celtics.
Crucially, Boston dried up down the stretch – making just one field goal over a period of over six minutes – before Al Horford dropped a big three with 90 seconds left to make it a three-point game.
In the end though, the Dubs got it done. The Warriors had various aspects they were looking to improve on coming in and they ticked every box. The rebounding improved, the three-point shooting improved and they got bigger contributions from the players they needed them from.
Andrew Wiggins pulled down the most boards of his career, 16 of them, to go with 17 points. Klay Thompson finished with 18 points and put in an improved defensive performance, and Jordan Poole scored 14 points from the bench, including a double-figure first half showing which included some big plays to keep the Warriors in touch when the Celtics threatened to create separation.
For the hosts, Jayson Tatum got 23 points and 11 rebounds and Jaylen Brown got 21 points and was playing impressively before drying up later in the game. But Boston, despite some big plays from that pair and from Robert Williams III on the defensive end, did not have enough.
Steve Kerr deserves huge credit too. The Celtics were plus-40 over the fourth quarters in the first three games of the series but the Warriors head coach made a huge call to remove Draymond Green with just over seven-and-a-half minutes to go in the final quarter of Game 4.
It worked as the Warriors fought from behind to take the lead and never relinquished it. When Green was reinserted back into the action, although he, again, did not have his best game, the six-time NBA Finals veteran made two pivotal plays in the clutch to clinch the victory after the bucket from Horford that had reduced it to a one-possession game.
Firstly, he grabbed a huge rebound for an extra offensive possession off a miss and then provided a smart assist for Kevon Looney to help ice the game. Championship DNA epitomised.
Kerr also made a big call before tip-off, choosing to start Otto Porter Jr instead of Kevon Looney. It gave the Celtics a different problem to contend with – although when Marcus Smart waltzed up the lane unabated to get an easy lay-up for the first basket of the game, it looked like it might backfire.
But as a three-time NBA champion coach, Kerr has been in difficult situations before and he backed his judgement by making big calls at the right times. He also picked up a technical after the refs failed to call a travel on Payton Pritchard, something he was definitely right about, before the Celtics’ young guard shot one of two at the line.
At the half, there was a noticeably big discrepancy in the distance shooting. Boston went 8-of-14, and Golden State went 7-of-25. However, they were only five points behind.
At the start of the third, Curry hit a bank shot from the wing and then Thompson hit a three-pointer to tie it.
That could have sparked another big third quarter run for the Warriors, but this was a game of swings, with a high-speed intensity and a stop-start rhythm. The Celtics looked more composed speed and pace wise, particularly in the first half, but were prone to turnovers.
It proved part of their undoing but even more so, a 14-point third quarter for Curry – who believed it should have been more with no foul calls on two three-pointers where he definitely could have gone to the line – helped engineer a change in momentum.
That, grabbing rebounds when needed and the gutsy calls from the coach, made the difference for the Warriors, outwith the obvious.
In the end, this victory was all about Curry. He set more records, of course. Curry became the first player to score five-or-more threes in four consecutive NBA Finals games.
It was not just his distance shooting, though, he fought through all sorts of coverages all night to deliver what his fellow ‘Splash Brother’ Thompson declared afterwards to be be his “best” NBA Finals performance.
He also joined elite company in Jerry West and Magic Johnson as the only point guards to record a 40-point and 10-rebound NBA Finals game.
Bear in mind Curry managed to do all of that, coming into the game nursing an injury after Celtics big man Horford landed on his leg late in Game 3.
The headlines will be about him and rightly so. The two-time league MVP is chasing his first NBA Finals MVP award, and if the Warriors can win this compelling series, he will surely get it.
Now it is back to the Bay Area and the Warriors have home-court advantage once again.