4 Things to Watch Out for in Game 4 of the NBA Finals

Ultimate Preview: With Boston winning 2-1 at Golden State, what can we expect in Game 4 of the NBA Finals?

Full Coverage: 2022 NBA Finals

BOSTON – The NBA Finals will reveal themselves and where they’re headed on Friday, when the Celtics get one step closer to the 18th flag, or the Warriors tie and reclaim the court at home and maybe the series lead as well.

When it comes to issues, here are four to look for in Game 4 (9 ET, ABC) in TD Garden:

1. The Celtics will test Steph Curry’s squeaky foot early and often

Because of course. June is a month without sympathy in the NBA. A championship is at stake and teams will do whatever it takes to win one. Boston will take Curry off the screens and into a workout to reveal, once and for all, exactly how sensitive Curry’s left foot is 48 hours after an unfortunate collision with a clumsy Al Horford.

If you believe Curry, the only thing that hurts him right now is his feelings. He did not require an MRI. He looked pretty normal on Thursday and played down any significance of the Game 3 crash, though the Warriors didn’t hold a practice run – and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t post the footage to social media anyway.

“I will play. That’s all I know now,” he said.

He didn’t exactly say, “I’m going to play without any problems or discomfort,” so take that for what it’s worth.

“It’s just a pain tolerance thing that you have to deal with,” he said. “At this point in the series, if you’re good enough to play, you play.”

Stephen Curry speaks to the media about the foot injury he suffered in Game 3.

This is the same foot that was mangled when Marcus Smart landed on it in March – in what coach Steve Kerr called “a dangerous move” – that forced Curry to miss a month. Curry said this one isn’t too bad. But see, whenever there’s a foot problem with Curry, the sensitivity meter is on edge, due to his history of ankle sprains.

Curry’s importance to the Warriors is obvious; he brings three rings and holds the Finals MVP voting position, which would be his first, in this series with a 31-point scoring average and consistent play. The game is getting physical, so not only should your pitch continue to cooperate, but your body as well. Especially with him playing 35 minutes a night and now a greater sense of urgency down 2-1.

2. Is Jaylen Brown the Warriors’ biggest problem?

There was a common denominator in the Celtics’ two wins: they were also Brown’s best games in this series.

He scored 24 points with seven rebounds, five assists and took advantage of the Celtics’ fourth quarter storm in Game 1. And then he gave his signature game so far on Wednesday, setting the tone early and delivering 27 points, nine rebounds and five. assists. That doesn’t even explain the work he’s been doing defensively, switching between Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole and others.

What’s also notable about Brown is how unwavering he is in the bright lights. He’s gravitated to the ball in tense moments, accepted the toughest defensive task, got physical when needed and isn’t backing down to Draymond Green.

“Playoffs are my favorite time of year,” he said. “It’s what I love about basketball. It’s real basketball.”

Here on the bigger stage, Brown is explaining exactly who he is: a mature two-way player who is capable of seizing the moment, no matter how big. Last year, he was out with a wrist injury when the Celtics went down in the first round. Right now? He’s obviously a growing problem for the Warriors, who must pay him the same level of respect they give Tatum. Mainly because Brown has almost as much of the ball in his hands and has improved as a playmaker.

“I appreciate Ime (Udoka) for having this trust in me and this belief in me,” he said. “All the rest was growth from here. Experience is the best teacher. The way I learn things is by putting myself in the middle of it. So being able to get those reps all season long has helped in the playoffs now.”

Jaylen Brown finishes with 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists to help the Celtics gain a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

3. Grant Williams is making his way back into the mix

In the first two games of the NBA Finals, the “other” Williams seemed invisible, appearing only when he exchanged small talk with Draymond Green. Otherwise, Grant Williams has been unplayable, averaging just 18 minutes and doing nothing special with it, with six points and four rebounds in total.

This came in contrast to the Eastern Semifinals, when he had a couple of 20-point games against the Bucks, helped by 3-point shots, and was also named to the front line of defense against Giannis Antetokounmpo. In the Eastern Finals, he averaged 30 minutes and also had tough defensive assignments.

But the smaller, faster Warriors made Williams a little stale, at least until Wednesday, when Williams finally had positive stretches. His 20-minute efficiency and energy produced 10 points, five rebounds and helped give Boston a size advantage; although Williams is only 190 cm, he plays bigger and has helped the Celtics control the interior.

“We all have to come out of the next game with the same intensity, including me,” Williams said. “I am proud to be prepared, mentally and physically, for whatever comes my way. Everything they ask me to do, I do.”

The Warriors exploited their faster, smaller versions much better in the earlier rounds of the playoffs far better than they did in the Finals, which raises a curious question now that they’re down 2-1…

Hear the best of Grant Williams as the Celtics win Game 3!

4. How will the Warriors get “big”?

Would this series have a different flavor from a Warriors point of view if James Wiseman, their 7-foot young center and projected starter, remained healthy? Suppose the Warriors had the chance to use him and Kevon Looney, the best-fit on offense, against the Celtics?

This is one of those hypotheses that won’t mean anything if the Warriors win the series, but will become an interesting one if they lose and continue to get beefy in the paint and close to the edge. The Warriors were able to favorably exploit the size issue against the Mavericks in the Western Finals because Dallas was weak on functional big men; not so in this series because the Celtics are thriving – and also keeping their fingers crossed that Robert Williams III can remain standing.

There’s really no secret here: Draymond Green must shake off his lethargy and Looney must recapture the spirit and impact he had against the Mavericks when he was a factor on both sides. These Warriors “big men” were inconsistent in the Finals and especially turned to steam in Game 3 as the Celtics defeated them, collecting offensive rebounds and causing Draymond to be eliminated.

Will the Looney Western Conference Finals finally make an appearance this round? Or was this streak an anomaly for a player with limited abilities who, over the course of his NBA career, was steady but unspectacular?

More important is how Draymond recovers, not from the crowd’s reaction – which will be harsh again – but from his own carelessness towards fouls and his ongoing allergic reaction to open shots. He still hasn’t hit double figures in scoring and while that’s not a big requirement of him, he misses out on chances that often lead to fouls or harder shots for his teammates.

“I have to be more aggressive on both sides of the ball,” he admitted. “I think I can. I will.”

Draymond Green says he needs to be assertive on offense for the Warriors to win Game 4.

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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for over 25 years. You can email him here, find your file here and follow him twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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