Celtics try to move on from Stephen Curry’s 43-point outburst: ‘We let it happen’

SAN FRANCISCO – i have to see the movie. It’s a painful exercise in explaining an inexplicable breakdown in defense, or cliche for a losing coach or player to deflect a question they’d rather leave unanswered.

We don’t seem to hear it from the winners that often. Stephen Curry didn’t have to give up after his historic 43-point breakout in Game 4 of the NBA Finals watch the movie to describe what happened.

But he still settled in for a little video following his epic performance in the Golden State Warriors’ 107-97 win over the Boston Celtics, who are leveling that streak at two games apiece.

“It’s cool,” Curry said Sunday when I asked him what it was like to look at the footage of what he did on Friday night. “There are a lot of different emotions because you usually know the outcome of the game. It’s like watching the end of a movie. It’s always nice to know that the film ends up being great.”

Curry said it made sense to watch again to look for patterns that worked for him against the Celtics’ defense and also to guess what Boston might be trying to do differently in Game 5. But also: “To observe a lot of different reactions in the crowd and on the bench and so on.”

“It’s always good entertainment,” he said.

There are technical adjustments Boston could make, though the Celtics don’t appear to be able to limit Curry or are even interested in doing so. His 137 points in four games is the most scored by anyone on either side — by a wide margin. He has already scored 25 3-pointers in the streak, just seven fewer than his own NBA record for 3-pointers in a Finals. Heck, he drilled seven in Game 4 alone. That record could fall on Monday. Curry has made at least five 3s in all four games, an NBA record.

Then there is the emotional component. Regardless of Curry’s skill or his reputation as the all-time greatest marksman, the Celtics’ ego remains a challenge. Depending on your point of view, they let this happen or were onlookers while Curry went wild.

“We let it happen, but it happened,” said Marcus Smart, who was voted the league’s best defensive player this season by working members of the NBA media.

“We all know what he can do outside of 20 feet, 30 to 35, 40 feet,” Smart said. “The guy is special in that regard. The way he can affect the game by running around and being able to put the ball out and open up is just tough for a defender because you can’t take a break.

Celtics coach Ime Udoka said he was pleased with Curry’s defense overall, with room for a minor adjustment here or there. Udoka is basically trying to surpass him, which means two things: the Celtics haven’t been great on offense in their two losses, and they don’t want anyone other than Curry to really hurt them.

“Our balance must be better on the offensive,” suspected Udoka. “Let’s keep him working on that end and have faith in what we’re doing on defense, which allows him to get some looks, deflect some looks, but kind of contain everyone else.”

Curry is 34 years old and in his 13th season. He’s appeared in six NBA Finals, won three championships (but never a Finals MVP), and set too many records to list. According to ESPN’s Stats Shop, Curry is the second-oldest player in history to score at least 40 points with 10 rebounds in a finals game. He has had at least 30 points three times in four games in that series, 10 times in the 2022 playoffs and 50 times in the postseason for his career — the 11th player in league history.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr attributed Curry’s height to his relentless commitment to a daily routine. “It’s like a metronome,” Kerr said, before comparing Curry to Roger Federer, the former world No. 1 tennis player who is still playing at 40.

Kerr said Federer visited the Warriors’ dressing room during a pre-season trip to China in 2017. Draymond Green asked him how he could be so good for so long. Kerr said Federer’s response was, “I love my daily ritual.”

“I often think of Steph when I think of this Roger Federer story,” Kerr said. “Very, very similar, just a kind of joie de vivre and just enjoying the process.”

Curry is a noted golf fan and competes in the occasional Pro-Ams when time permits. As luck would have it, the PGA Tour’s US Open is taking place this week at the Brookline Country Club, just outside of Boston, with a practice round scheduled for Wednesday and the first round scheduled for Thursday. Game 6 of the finals will be played at the venue on Thursday at 9pm, meaning Curry would have two solid opportunities to get onto the course and run a few holes if he so desires.

Curry said his PGA Tour friends would likely offer him tickets this week, but he wouldn’t accept. “All my attention is on recovery and recovery and preparation,” he said. “I’m going to stand in front of the TV though and make sure I watch as much of it as I can.”

That is, if he has time. Who knows how game 5 will go? He might watch some of the more traditional movies.

“He had a great game (4) but there were also a lot of things that we could have done better as a group,” said the Celtics’ Al Horford. “We had a really good filming session and we’re expecting a much better game tomorrow.”

Of course they did.

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(Photo by Stephen Curry: David Butler II / USA Today)

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