Golden State Warriors preparing for ‘hardest game’ after failing to close out previous three series in first attempt

BOSTON — The Golden State Warriors are in a position they have been in many times before: one win away from an NBA title.

They’re playing in the NBA Finals for the sixth time in the last eight years, and a dose of cautious optimism flows through the Warriors’ locker room as they play Thursday night (9 ABC). But the Warriors also made it clear that nobody is celebrating yet.

“You’re not doing yourself a favor by thinking about things that don’t exist yet,” said Klay Thompson.

The Warriors have struggled in closeout games this postseason, failing to complete every series they’ve played on their first opportunity — all coming to the streets.

The stakes that await them on the other side of their next game against the Boston Celtics only make it harder.

“Clinching is probably the toughest game you will play,” said Andre Iguodala.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he sees no common thread in the games Golden State has dropped.

Maybe it’s more about the survival instincts of their opponents. Ahead of Game 4 of Round 1, Denver’s Nikola Jokic said he didn’t feel his team deserved to be carried away when they were 3-0 down in the series. That propelled the Nuggets to a Game 5 win. In the second round, Memphis outplayed the Warriors from the start. In the Conference Finals, the Mavericks, like the Nuggets, tried to avoid the sweep.

On each of the Warriors’ three failed closeouts, they were down by double digits at halftime. They managed to stay close in the first quarter, but the second quarter became a big problem, especially against Memphis and Dallas.

Golden State also had a problem defending the perimeter. The Warriors’ opponents have shot from beyond the 3-point line 53 to 115 (46.1%) in those three losses. That could pose a problem against the Celtics, as Boston has 317 3-pointers this postseason, the most of all time in a single playoff year.

In that series, Games 4 and 5 were the first straight losses the Celtics had stringed together since late March, when they lost to the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat. Before that, they hadn’t lost consecutive games since January.

“We know [the Celtics are] I’m going to play with a sense of desperation,” Thompson said. “In order for us to achieve or exceed that, we’re going to have to put in the most effort of the year.”

As the Warriors ended their streak against Denver, Stephen Curry said Golden State may have forgotten how much guts it takes to wrap up a streak, especially to start the game. This trend continued into the Western Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals. But now the Warriors rely not only on their experience in the playoffs, but also on winning title games.

“You just get the nerves,” Curry said. “We understand the specifics of how we need to approach the game from a physical standpoint, our game plan adjustments from Game 5 to Game 6, understanding how the building is going to feel, this energy of being prepared.”

Curry said he will remind himself – and his less experienced teammates – that he comes into play. But after that, it’s about the mindset the Warriors have been preaching all season: Keep an eye on what’s happening in front of you.

“At the end of the day, when you’re out there, you just have to be in the moment,” Curry said. “You have to be present as much as possible and not worry about the consequences of winning or losing. The only opportunity you have, those 48 minutes is the best advice I can give anyone in this situation as it will probably be the toughest game you have ever played in your career due to the high stakes.

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