Warriors winning bench battle again vs. Celtics big for NBA Finals Game 6

BOSTON — Steph Curry’s streak of scoring at least a 3-pointer in 233 straight games between the regular season and the playoffs, which came in Monday night’s Warriors win over the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, should have been be viewed as nothing more than positive at this point.

Why? Draymond Green said it best after the win, sharing how angry he knows Curry will be soon. The numbers don’t hurt either.

When Curry failed to score a 3-pointer and play in the next game, he lost 93-for-177 from the deep. That’s a not-too-shabby 52.5 percent clip. That’s only part of the good news.

The Warriors’ second-best scorers, Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson, are also on the up. Coming off a double-double with 26 points and 13 rebounds, Wiggins has compiled two consecutive double-doubles. His 26 points is the most he’s scored in the Finals and second most in the playoffs.

Thompson struggled to open the series. In his first two games, he averaged 13 points and made just 26.7 percent of his 15 3-point attempts. He’s turned it on in the last three games though. After scoring 21 points in the Warriors’ last win, Klay now averaged 21.3 points while shooting 42.4 percent from beyond the arc. Its stock goes up just when the Warriors need it.

Oh yeah, Game 6 Klay is back too.

Those three will be called upon to bear the burden of points in Game 6 with a chance of becoming champions at the TD Garden on Thursday night. However, you cannot be the only ones. Just like the last game, the Warriors must win the bench fight again to complete this series.

Golden State’s “strength in numbers” mantra shone bright as Curry struggled to find his shot in the final game. Two key contributors were Jordan Poole and Gary Payton II. They combined for 29 points – 15 from Payton and 14 from Poole. The Celtics bench scored a total of nine points.

“To go out there and be aggressive, make games,” Poole said after Game 5 when asked what was the biggest key to the Warriors’ second unit surpassing Boston so far. “The coaching staff kind of gives me the keys to go out there and be extremely aggressive and chase my shot.”

Poole was looking a lot more comfortable playing that Celtics defense the longer the streak went on. In his last two games, he has 28 points, shooting 10-to-21 (47.6 percent) from field and 5-to-13 (38.5 percent) from long-range. It also doesn’t help to beat the buzzer with immense confidence again.

Then there’s Payton. Six weeks after fracturing his shooting left arm in a brutal fall against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round of the playoffs, Payton appears to remain essential to the Warriors’ success.

He returned in Game 2 against the Celtics and scored 14 points in his first three games of the series. In Game 5, Payton exploded for 15 points, along with his five rebounds and three steals. The veteran journeyman was a strong plus-16 in plus-minus.

His return was inspirational to say the least.

Steve Kerr watched as Payton worked his left arm in a sling, sprinting down the court and doing defensive slides. He was literally willing to do anything to make his comeback, and the Warriors are reaping the rewards.

“The guy’s a workaholic,” Kerr said after Game 5. “He’s amazing. Amazing athlete, great defensive player. He’s got really good instincts out there and is obviously a super competitive team but I’m really happy for him with his journey in this league.

“He’s come a long way and now he’s getting a chance to shine in the final, so it’s great.”

When asked if he expected to make that kind of an impact after such a grueling injury, Payton gave us all a look like we’ve been handed crazy pills at the Chase Center.

There was no skepticism. A question mark never occurred to him.

“I had no doubt that I would come back,” Payton said. “I wouldn’t miss that for anything in the world.”

The third piece of the puzzle is either center Kevon Looney or forward Otto Porter Jr. It all depends on who Kerr starts. If he stays with Porter like he has in the last two games, Looney’s presence needs to be felt from the bench. The reverse is true when Kerr brings Looney back into his starting XI.

Porter has played 29 minutes in his last two games as a starter, scoring just four points. He was a plus-5 in those two games combined.

Looney was hit with three fouls in less than three minutes when Kerr approached him in the final game. But he ended up playing 17 minutes off the bench, scoring two points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out three assists. He was a plus 12. In his last two games off the bench, he has eight points and walked away with 15 rebounds.

The ever-reliable 26-year-old is a combined 33-plus in his last two games, both Warriors wins.

RELATED: Steph, Klay, Draymond’s latest historical achievement adds to the lore

Celtics guard Derrick White has always been a huge X-factor depending on which version of him turns up for Boston. He is said to be their lighter off the bench and give them a shot on goal when he comes in. Well, he scored a point and missed all four of his shot attempts in Game 5. White was down 13 in 21 minutes and Grant Williams, the Celtics’ other key bench player, was down 18 in 16 minutes.

Those two are minus 60 in their last two games, both resulting in Celtics losses.

The stars must shine for both teams on Thursday evening. If the Warriors want to end that streak and celebrate on the streets, they can’t have down games from Curry, Thompson, Wiggins and Green. The Celtics will, of course, need their Big Three of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart to ride the home crowd and force a Game 7.

But if the Warriors’ bench bounces back, that could be the difference in overtime in the Finals or a fourth title returning to The Bay.

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