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What’s at stake for the Celtics and Golden State in Game 6 of the NBA Finals

The Boston Celtics are in dire straits after losing to Golden State on Monday in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, leaving them with a 3-2 deficit as the series switches to Boston on Thursday. Teams with a 3-2 lead in best-of-seven NBA Finals have won the championship 39 of 48 times, or 81.3 percent. Some of the Celtics’ regular-season problems are reappearing in the Finals: They haven’t been able to keep up the effort for full games and have seen fourth-quarter leads evaporate.

Meanwhile, Golden State is in the driver’s seat. On Monday, Stephen Curry had his first disappointing game of the series and his team still won, a bad sign for the Celtics.

But there is still at least one game left to play. The Celtics have gotten used to coming back at unexpected times, including in Game 1, which featured an unexpected fourth-quarter implosion by Golden State.

Here’s a look at where the series stands before a potential elimination game on the NBA’s biggest stage.

Jayson Tatum, 24, is the main reason the Celtics made it to the finals. He is one of the best scorers in the league and is capable of dropping 50 points in a playoff game, like he did last year against the Nets in the first round. But against Golden State, he has struggled to score near the rim and has struggled with turnovers. On Monday night, he set a league record for turnovers in a postseason. Tatum is shooting 37.3 percent from the field against the Golden State.

If the Celtics are going to avoid elimination, they’ll need more from Tatum. But there is hope for Boston: In Game 6 of this year’s Eastern Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks, with the Celtics facing the same deficit, Tatum put up a 46-point performance.

In Game 5, the Celtics had 18 turnovers and Golden State had six. In Game 2, the Celtics had 18 and Golden State I was 12 This has been a problem for the Celtics throughout the playoffs, particularly with their stars, Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who have often been stripped naked while dribbling in the paint. If Boston doesn’t take care of the ball, they don’t win. End of story.

Defensively, the Celtics have been good. Golden State has scored 100-108 points in each of the first five games, which, considering their offensive talents, is acceptable. It’s on the offensive end that Boston has struggled to generate consistent looks.

For most of the series, Curry has had to carry a huge offensive load. Through the first four games of the series, the Warriors shot just 37.3 percent on attempts. considered wide open. That’s mostly because of the rest of the Golden State players who haven’t been able to make Boston pay for Curry’s tight defense.

That is until Game 5, when Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole punished the Celtics from deep, making up for Curry’s 0-for-9 night from 3. Even Draymond Green, who has had a dismal series, scored 8 points, serving as a crucial factor. exhaust valve for Curry.

If Golden State’s non-Curry players make their shots, it’s going to be very difficult for Boston to win.

Golden State showed they could win despite a poor game from Curry. But he doesn’t want to take that risk again. Curry’s 43-point performance in Game 4 was remarkable. If he can dig into another similar outing, he puts himself in the conversation for one of the best final performances ever.

The series will head into a winner-take-all Game 7. And if the Celtics win that, they will have completed a stunning turnaround from January, when they were 18-21. It will show that a team can win a championship with two dominant wings on the ball who play similar games, in this case Tatum and Brown. It will also validate the team’s decision not to trade its young players for any of the established players that have come onto the market in recent years.

Golden State will have to wonder if not trading any of its young players — rookies Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga and second-year center James Wiseman — for immediate help would have been the right move to take advantage of Curry’s shrinking window.

For the first five years of Andrew Wiggins’ career, he was known primarily as a cautionary tale. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected him first overall in the 2014 NBA draft and then traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves weeks later to build a title contender around LeBron James. He showed glimpses of elite athleticism, enough for Minnesota to spend a maximum contract extension on him. But the production never matched the contract. However, since he joined Golden State via trade in 2020, Wiggins has changed his career. This year, he played in his first All-Star Game. And in the finals he has been, at times, the best player on both teams. If Golden State wins the championship, Wiggins will have been a big reason, and he will complete a remarkable turnaround in his career.

If Golden State wins Game 6, Curry will almost certainly win the Most Valuable Player Award in the finals, which would fill the only gap left on his resume. But a championship has a lot at stake for Curry. His previous titles, according to some NBA observers, have not been legacy-burnishing championships like they have been for other stars. In 2015, Golden State beat a James-led Cavaliers team that was missing two of its three best players. In 2017 and 2018, Golden State beat the Cavaliers again, but Kevin Durant was arguably the best player on those teams. This would be Curry’s first championship in which he was unequivocally Golden State’s best player and the opposing team was in top form. This championship would elevate Curry higher in the discussion of NBA greats.

Most of Boston’s key players are young and still entering their prime. Tatum and Brown are dynamic wings who could, in theory, be All-Stars for years to come. But if they lose, questions will arise as to whether they can do it together. The problem for Boston is that it doesn’t have much wiggle room in free agency. With several teams expected to make improvements next year, including the division-rival Nets and the Toronto Raptors, the Celtics will face tough questions about whether making edge changes is enough.

Green has offered insightful commentary on his podcast after each game. With a championship, he’ll be able to do it guilt-free and without fans telling him to stop, despite his poor performance in the series.

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