In Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, between the Bulls and Jazz, Michael Jordan, battling the flu, had a game for the ages.
Jordan scored 38 points and the Bulls defeated the Jazz 90-88 to take a 3-2 series lead; Jordan would go on to win the fifth of his six NBA titles.
The game would later be known as “The Flu Game”
Fast forward 25 years to Game 4 of the NBA Finals between the Warriors and Celtics at TD Garden Friday night. The Celtics had an opportunity to take complete control of the series, but Steph Curry, battling a foot injury he suffered in Game 3, had a game for the ages. Curry had 24 of his 43 points in the second half, including seven threes, 10 rebounds, and four assists as the Warriors defeated the Celtics 107-97 in “The Foot Game.”(our name for it)
The series is tied 2-2, and Game 5 is Monday night at Chase Center.
Boston led 94-92 with under five minutes left in the fourth, but the Warriors went on a 15-3 run to close it out, and Curry would score 10 of those 15 points
According to StatMuse, Curry joins Jerry West and Magic Johnson as the only point guards to record a 40-point/10 rebounds Finals game.
In addition, according to ESPN Stats & Info, at age 34, he is the second-oldest player in NBA Finals history to record a 40-10 game behind only LeBron James(35), who did it in 2020.
Furthermore, the 24-second half points were the most for Curry in an NBA Finals game.
“Yeah, I think he was really laboring out there,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said playfully after the win. “He really struggled. No, never even looked like it was a factor, so…
“Just stunning. The physicality out there is, you know, pretty dramatic. I mean, Boston’s got obviously, best defense in the league. Huge and powerful at every position, and for Steph to take that — that kind of pressure all game long and still be able to defend at the other end when they are coming at him shows you, I think this is the strongest physically he’s ever been in his career, and it’s allowing him to do what he’s doing.”
Klay Thompson, who scored 18 points, was impressed by Curry’s heart.
“I think I have seen him show that much emotion, and the heart on that man is incredible,” Thompson said. “You know, the things he does we kind of take for granted from time to time but to go out there and put us on his back, I mean, we got to help him out on Monday. Wow, just showed why he is — shocking he wasn’t a First Team All-NBA guy, but whatever, next year.”
According to Thompson, this was Curry’s best performance in an NBA Finals Game.
“I think probably No. 1. I mean, this was nearly a must-win game, and to go out there and shoot as efficiently as he did, and grab 10 rebounds, and they were attacking him on defense,” he said. “I mean, his conditioning is second-to-none in this league. Steph played incredible.”
Draymond Green, who struggled again in Game 4 as he had two points, nine rebounds, and eight assists, says Curry showed why he’s an all-time great.
“Incredible,” Green said. “Put us on his back. Willed us to win. Much-needed win. Game we had to have. Came out and showed why he’s one of the best players to ever play this game, you know, and why, you know, this organization has been able to ride him to so much success. It’s absolutely incredible.”
Curry gave credit to the medical staff.
Great rehab, medical staff hooking me up the last two days, getting me right, he said. I think, for the most part, I didn’t think about it. Like I don’t know how to explain the pain. It’s more so just when you’re out there, you don’t compensate, or you don’t — it doesn’t take up too much mental space in terms of feeling like I can do whatever I want to out on the court. So hopefully, that continues with these next two days off, and get ready for Game 5.”
More importantly, the Warriors got home-court advantage back.
“It means everything knowing the sense of urgency we had to have tonight to win on the road and keep some life in the series, get home-court advantage back and try to create some momentum our way,” Curry said.
These teams have alternated wins in this series. Plus, Boston has not lost two games in a row in these playoffs, so expect them to come out with a big effort Monday night.
The Boston Celtics fed off their crowd and came out with a lot of energy in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
Jaylen Brown had 22 of his 27 points in the first half, nine rebounds, and five assists; Jayson Tatum added 26 points, six rebounds, and nine assists, and Marcus Smart chipped in with 24 points, seven rebounds, and five assists as Boston defeated the Warriors 116-100 at TD Garden to take a 2-1 series lead.
Game 4 is Friday night in Boston.
The Celtics had their largest lead of 18 points in the first half and led 68-56 at halftime. However, in the third quarter, the Warriors went on a 25-10 run to take their first lead since the first quarter as Steph Curry(15) and Klay Thompson(10) combined for 25 points in the quarter, but things fell apart for the Warriors in the fourth.
The Warriors were outscored 23-11 in the fourth as they shot 33% from the floor and 1/9 from downtown. The Celtics went on a 17-7 run to take a 14-point lead, taking complete control from there.
Curry, who had a game-high 31 points, including six threes, said the first quarter, where the Warriors trailed 33-22 after one, and the first few minutes of the fourth sunk the Warriors.
“That first two or three minutes kind of set the tone for the rest of the fourth and gave them a little bit of a cushion,” Curry said. “We had a hard time responding after that. So between the first three minutes of the fourth and the first 12 minutes of the game, that was pretty much it.”
Things went from bad to worse for the Warriors as Curry’s leg was rolled up on late in the fourth. Curry would remain in the game until he was removed along with the rest of the starters.
According to Curry, who missed 12 games in the regular season after injuring his foot against the Celtics in March, he should be fine.
“I’ll be all right,” he said. “I got caught — obviously in some pain, but I’ll be all right. See how it feels tomorrow and get ready for Friday…
“Same thing I did in Denver — or against Boston in the regular season, but I’ll be — not as bad.”
If the Warriors don’t have Curry, they won’t win this series. It’s that simple. Hopefully, for the Warriors, the NBA, and the fans, Curry will be ready to go in Game 4.
Draymond Green, who was public enemy number one in Boston, was not very good Wednesday night as he had two points, four rebounds, and three assists in 35 minutes of action. Green would foul out in the fourth.
According to StatMuse, Green has as many fouls as points, more techs than threes, and more turnovers than baskets.
When asked how he played in Game 3, Green said: “Like sh**.”
For three quarters, the Boston Celtics struggled to find their way in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Warriors. The Celtics trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half and trailed 92-80, heading into the fourth.
However, the Celtics exploded in the fourth. Al Horford scored 11 of his 26 points in the quarter; Jaylen Brown poured in 10 of his 24 points, and Derrick White added 13 of 21 points in the second half as Boston outscored Golden State 40-16 in the final stanza to defeat the Warriors 120-108 at Chase Center.
Game 2 is Sunday night in San Francisco.
In the fourth, Boston tightened the screws on defense and got hot at the right time as they shot 68% from the floor, including 9/12(75%) from deep.
Marcus Smart, who had 18 points, said the team stuck to their game plan and started to make shots.
“It hasn’t been our first time being down in that position, nor in this game, let alone all season,” Smart said after the win. “We came in with a game plan. For us, it was just to stick with it, believe in ourselves. Kept doing that. As you see, everybody starts to catch fire, get hot, things start to go our way.
Boston has been involved in two Game 7s, including winning on the road against the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, and according to Brown, this team is battle-tested.
“We’re battle-tested,” Brown said. “We’ve been through a lot. We’ve been through a lot of experiences, a lot of losses. We know what it takes to win. I give credit to every guy in that locker room from top to bottom. We got a great, resilient group.”
It took Horford 15 years and 141 playoff games to get to the NBA Finals, and in Game 1, with the game tied at 103 late in the fourth, Horford scored eight straight points.
“I felt like the guys kept finding me time after time,” Horford said. “Also, Derrick White hit some tough shots there, too. Yeah, it was just get the looks, knock ’em down, that’s that.”
Steph Curry scored 21 of his game-high 34 points in the first quarter. Curry made six threes(the most ever in a Finals quarter) in the first quarter. Despite the loss, Draymond Green is not concerned.
“We’ll figure out the ways we can stop them from getting those threes and take them away,” Green said. “But no, I don’t think it was a rhythm thing. We pretty much dominated the game for the first 41, 42 minutes. So we’ll be fine.”
Boston stole this game and should be happy that they found a way to get this victory, especially when you consider their best player, Jayson Tatum, had only 12 points on 3/17 from the field, but he did impact the game in other ways, as he had a game and career-high 13 assists and five rebounds.
Great win for the Celtics, and man, they look the part, but there is still a lot of series left.
Earlier in the season, when the Bostons Celtics were floundering, many were calling for the team to trade either Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown.
After a loss to the Bulls in November, Marcus Smart called out Tatum and Brown and said the following:
“Every team is programmed and studied to stop Jayson and Jaylen,” Smart said. “I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball.”
On Wednesday, Celtics head coach Ime Udoka discussed that moment during NBA Finals media availability.
“The thing about the Chicago game was that nothing said publicly had not been said privately,” Udoka said. “Although it may rub people wrong because it was said publicly, that was something we were working on behind the scenes every day, film session, one-on-one sessions. We all understood the areas we need to improve. That was what it was, and we moved past that pretty quickly.”
That moment changed things for the Celtics.
As the season progressed, Tatum and Brown figured it out, and after falling to 18-21 in January, Boston went 33-10 over the final 43 games.
Brown became a first-time All-Star, and Tatum was first-team All-NBA for the first time in his career.
The duo had big moments together in the regular and the playoffs. In April, Tatum had 31 points and six assists, while Brown added 32 points and seven assists in the 128-123 victory over the Pacers. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was the first time since Game 2 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Semifinals that two Celtics had recorded 30 points and five assists in the same game.
Tatum and Brown are averaging at least 20 points per game during the 2022 playoffs. According to StatMuse, they are the third pair of teammates aged 25 or younger to reach the NBA Finals, with each player averaging 20 or more points per game.
Both Tatum and Brown discussed the struggles.
“Were there like moments that were tough? It was just like, you know, it was very frustrating,” Tatum said. “You know, head-scratching and all those type of things. It was more so, how can we figure it out? It wasn’t, like man, we can’t do this. It was; we got to figure something else out. It was tough. There were definitely some tough moments…
“Beginning of this year, every game was like, I don’t know if we’re going to win. It was a lot tougher than it should be, and that’s something I wasn’t used to.”
Brown added: “Last year, obviously things didn’t work out, etc., for other reasons, but this year, I didn’t feel like it was because of the way we played basketball. I just think they didn’t come together at the right time. Early on in the season, I was injured. I missed about 15 games. You know, the narrative isn’t going to say that. They are just going to say that you guys lost. Doesn’t matter what the excuse is. We’ve got a first-year head coach. We were trying to figure it out. We play in a city that it has no patience for any excuses, so we didn’t make any. But as things started to come together, we got healthier. We made a couple moves in the front office that were vital for us, and things started to fall in line.”
If the Smart moment doesn’t happen, who knows if Boston would be in the Finals at this point? But one thing is for sure, the Celtics have figured it out and are four wins away from winning an NBA title.
This is a tough series to call. Both teams are defending at a high level, and both teams are getting production from multiple players. The Warriors have the experience as this is the sixth time they have been to the Finals in the last eight years, while no one on the Celtics has been on this stage before.
However, it might come down to who has the best player, and you can argue that Tatum has been one of the best players in these playoffs, and Brown has not been too far behind. In addition, Boston has been battled-tested in these playoffs as they won two Game 7s. One on the road and one at home.
The Warriors do have something to prove as they want to show that the duo of Curry, Thompson, and Green can another title without Kevin Durant.
Here’s a shot in the dark: Warriors in 7, but Boston in 7 would not be surprising.
Phoenix, you have a winner in town. Backup center JaVale McGee is a winner. He has been a part of three of the last five NBA Finals’ winning teams and got his last title in 2020 with the Lakers.
In addition, he won a Gold Medal last summer in Tokyo. The three-time champion signed with last year’s Western Conference champions, the Phoenix Suns, in the offseason.
On Friday, McGee started for Suns center Deandre Ayton(illness) against the Boston Celtics, and he played well. McGee had his fourth double-double of the season, with a season and team-high 21 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. This was McGee’s 10th career game of 20-plus points and 15-plus rebounds.
Ultimately, the Suns(21-4) would rout the visiting Celtics(13-14) 111-90.
In 25 games, McGee averages 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds off the bench.
Last season, Phoenix had Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky as Ayton’s backup, but it’s clear after 25 games that McGee is an upgrade, and according to McGee, if he were in Phoenix last season, the Suns would have won a championship.
“I definitely bring championship experience,’ McGee said post-game. “I’ve been there and won it. I’m undefeated in the Finals. It’s just a challenge through the whole season to stay locked in, and I try to bring that energy every game, every practice. Every day they see me, I try to bring that great energy to the guys. Some guys have a bad history of being a cancer to a team, or they didn’t play well this game, or they didn’t play a lot this game, and that’ll change their whole mood. I’m not that guy. I’m the same way. If you ask any of my teammates, any of the coaching staff, of any team I played for too. For example, if you asked guys last year in Denver, I didn’t even play, but I was still being that guy, that energy guy, even though I didn’t play. So, it’s just what I bring to teams when I come. Yeah, I feel like if I was here(Phoenix) last year and I got traded here instead of Denver, we probably would have won.”
What McGee is saying is not far-fetched. In fact, the Suns may have won last year if McGee was on the roster. The guy just does winning things and makes winning plays.
In Game 1 of the Finals, Phoenix lost Saric to an ACL injury, which impacted the depth in the frontcourt. Also, the Suns were up 2-0 in the Finals against the Bucks, and maybe a guy like McGee, who has Finals’ experience, could have helped Phoenix get it done.
Phoenix is tied with the Warriors for the best record in basketball right now, and it appears that they will have a great shot to get back to the NBA Finals, so we’ll put McGee’s beliefs to the test this season.
Will he be the difference? We’ll find out in June.
-The Suns limited the Celtics to just four three-point field goals on 26 attempts(15.4%), the four threes and 15.4% were both season lows by a Suns’ opponent.
Up two (32-30) with 8:16 remaining in the first half, the Suns closed out the second quarter on a 25-9 run to take an 18-point, 57-39 lead into the halftime break. Phoenix’s lead never dwindled below double figures the rest of the game.
Watch below as McGee talks win over Celtics, and more:
Chris Paul is back in Phoenix with the Suns, and now they try to complete what they started last season. With the return of Paul, Phoenix is running it back and trying to get back to the NBA Finals.
Last season, the Suns lost to the Bucks in 6 in the NBA Finals after blowing a 2-0 series lead.
At 36, Paul signed a four-year, $120 million contract with the Suns this offseason, and according to the 11-time All-Star, returning to Phoenix was an easy decision.
“It was an easy decision, though,” Paul said about returning to Phoenix. “This is close to my family, and this became my family last year. Not only being here in Phoenix was fun basketball-wise, but it was fun as far as life. Being around these guys, those of you that work know that anytime you go to work and you don’t feel like you’re at work and you really get a chance to enjoy what you’re doing, it’s always a nice feeling. So doing that here with the team that we had, the coaching staff, I wanted to come back.”
Obviously, anytime you get to the Finals, the expectation the following season is to get right back there, and Paul was asked about the expectations for the team this season.
“Man, I think our expectations is to come in and start the process over again,” Paul said. “We got to work, day one. It’s not like you come into this season and be like, ‘Alright, playoffs is set. We’re going to start where we were last year.’ No, there’s a lot of things we can get better at, and we want to get better at. And that’s the whole fun part of the season. Getting as far as we did was cool and well, but when we all saw each other, we were basically reminiscing on the process, all the moments that got us there.”
Getting back to the Finals won’t be easy. The Western Conference opened up for Phoenix last season. The Lakers were banged up in the first round, Denver was not healthy in the second round, and the Clippers limped into the Western Conference finals, so things worked out in Phoenix’s favor.
However, the Suns still has a very good basketball team, and they have Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton, and in the offseason, they added JaVale McGee, Elfrid Payton, and Landry Shamet.
Will it be enough? Not sure; the Lakers, Nuggets, Clippers, Jazz, and Warriors will be strong this season, so a return to the Finals may not happen for the Suns, but Phoenix will definitely be in the mix.
Watch as Paul talks during Suns’ Media Day:
Chris Paul finally made it to the NBA Finals in Year 16 of his career, but unfortunately for him and the Suns, the season ended without winning an NBA title.
Phoenix fell to the Bucks in Game 6 of the NBA Finals 105-98 at Fiserv Forum on Tuesday and would lose the series 4-2 after having a 2-0 series lead.
No one expected the Suns to get to this point. They missed the playoffs last season but added Chris Paul and Jae Crowder to the mix, and they were able to have the second-best record in the NBA, and ultimately, they made it to the Finals.
Paul, who had 26 points and five assists on Tuesday night, knows this loss will hurt for some time.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Great group of guys, hell of a season, but this one is going to hurt for a while.”
Even though the Suns got to the Finals, which is good, Paul is not satisfied.
“For me, it just means back to work. Back to work. Nothing more, nothing less,” he said. “Ain’t no moral victories or whatnot. We sort of saw what it takes to get there, and hopefully, we see what it takes to get past that…
“Everybody in that locker room knows we had enough, but it wasn’t enough. So, we got to figure it out. I think for me, I just look at myself and figure out how can I get better, what I could have done more, and make sure I come back next season ready to do it again.”
The 11-time All-Star can opt-out of his contract. Paul is scheduled to make $44.2 million next season if he decides to opt-in. No matter what he decides, the 36-year-old point guard says he will play next season.
“I mean, it will take a while to process this or whatnot, but it’s same mentality, get back to work,” he said. “I ain’t retiring… That’s out. So, back to work.”
Phoenix could have a hard time getting back to the Finals. The Lakers, Jazz, Warriors, Clippers(if they re-sign Kawhi Leonard), and Nuggets will be formidable in the Western Conference.
However, the Suns have a star in Devin Booker and a budding star in Deandre Ayton, but Paul was the difference. If he does come back, Phoenix can still contend. If he doesn’t, that’s a big blow for this team. We’ll see what happens in the offseason, but Suns have built a winning culture, and we shall see if they can build on the success they had this season.
After one quarter in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, it appeared the Phoenix Suns would blow out the Milwaukee Bucks. Phoenix led 37-21 after the first quarter and were rolling. However, the Bucks dominated the second and third quarters. Milwaukee outscored the Suns 79-56 in those two quarters, and shot a combined 71.1 percent (32-of-45) while knocking down 10 of their 14 threes.
Phoenix battled back in the fourth quarter, but Milwaukee held on to win Game 5 123-119 at Footprint Center.
The Bucks took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, but the Suns cut the lead to 120-119. With 16.9 seconds left in the contest and a chance for Phoenix to take the lead, Jrue Holiday would make the play of the game when he stripped Devin Booker, threw an alley-oop pass to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who dunked the ball and was fouled by Chris Paul. Antetokounmpo would miss the free throw, but Khris Middleton would secure the offensive rebound and make one of two free throws to put the game away.
Holiday, who shot 12-of-20 from the floor and scored 14 of his 27 points in the second quarter and added a game-high 13 assists, was remarkable for Milwaukee on both ends of the court on Saturday night. He is a big reason why Milwaukee is one game away from winning their first NBA title in 50 years.
“Big-time steal,” Antetokounmpo, who had 32 points and nine rebounds in Game 5, said postgame about Holiday’s play on Booker. “Showing a crowd, they didn’t get to the spot, and he came from behind and ripped the ball out. He can go down to the other end and just, you know, go for like a full play, run the clock down. But he trusted me and made an incredible pass, also, for the lob. It was big time. It was a big-time play. It was the winning play of the game.”
Holiday added on the steal on Booker: “I feel like we knew Booker wanted to take that last shot and played great defense on him and made him turn his back, and he turned right into me. I guess I was just in the right place at the right time.”
As the Suns examine Game 5, they will look at the second quarter. Phoenix was outscored 43-24 in that quarter. Booker, who scored a game-high 40 points on Saturday night after scoring 42 in Game 4, talked about the second quarter.
“It was tough,” he said. “We came out and did what we intended to do, get off to a great start, and we let it go. They stayed resilient, and they kept playing through. So, tough loss for us.”
After being up 2-0, the Suns have lost three straight, something they have not done since January. Phoenix has not faced elimination at any point in these playoffs until now. As Suns head coach Monty Williams says, “Everything you want is on the other side of hard.”
So, Phoenix has to find a way in Game 6 in Milwaukee on Tuesday night if they want to keep their season alive.
-With his 40 points on Saturday night, Booker has now scored 582 points this postseason. He joins Dwyane Wade as the only two players in NBA history to score 580-plus points in one postseason while under the age of 25.
-Game 5 marked just the second time in NBA Finals history of consecutive quarters with a scoring margin of at least 15 points (Suns outscored the Bucks 37-21 in the 1st quarter, while Milwaukee outscored Phoenix 43-24).
-The Suns outscored Milwaukee 66-44 in the first and fourth quarters combined.
-Chris Paul turned in his first double-double performance of the Finals, and his fourth of this postseason tonight, scoring 21 points to go along with a team-high 11 assists. Paul knocked down all three of his three-point attempts on the evening.
-Middleton scored 20 of his 29 points in the second half tonight while adding 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Middleton shot 12-of-23 on the night and knocked down 3 of his 8 three-point attempts.
If the Phoenix Suns fall short in the NBA Finals, they might look back at Game 4. Phoenix built a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but Devin Booker, who had a bounce-back game with 42 points after scoring 10 points on Sunday, had to leave with his fifth foul with over 11 minutes left in the fourth.
When Booker returned midway through the fourth, the Suns still had a three-point lead, but Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton turned it on. He scored 14 of his 40 points in the final quarter, including the game-winner with just over a minute left in the contest as Milwaukee defeated Phoenix 109-103 at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night to tie the series up at 2.
“As far as the fourth quarter, late in the fourth quarter, we just ran sets that allowed me to get to my spots,” Middleton said. “After that, I just got to make reads. Whether to shoot, whether to find an open guy, Giannis(Antetokounmpo) on a roll. It’s just reading the defense at that point. Just luckily, thankfully, I hit some shots.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo added on Middleton: “But that’s what he does down the stretch. We want him to have the ball. We want him to be the decision-maker. We know he’s going to take big shots, and tonight he was incredible.”
It was not all about Middleton in the fourth. With the Bucks up 101–99 late in the game, Antetokounmpo, who had 26 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists in Game 4, made the defensive play of the game and maybe the series. Booker threw an alley-oop pass to Deandre Ayton, and the first-team all-defensive player made a fantastic block, which saved the game and maybe the series for the Bucks.
“Just a hustle play,” Antetokounmpo said on the block. “I thought I was going to get dunked on, to be honest with you. But you know, going down the stretch, do whatever it takes to win the game. Just put yourself in a position that can win the game. I saw the play coming. I saw that Chris(Devin Booker) was going to throw the lob, and I was just going to jump vertical toward the rim. Hopefully, I can be there in time, and I was there in time and was able to get a good block and go down and get two points. So it was a great hustle play.”
While Booker shined for Phoenix, Chris Paul struggled. He had 10 points(5/13 shooting), seven assists, and five turnovers. The most significant turnover was with 32.4 seconds left and the Suns trailing 101-99. Paul would lose the ball, and ultimately Middleton would put the game away with a layup in transition.
“It was me. I had five of them,” Paul said about the turnovers. “It was bad decision making. That time we were down two, and I tried to cross over right there, slipped, turned it over. I had some bad passes in the first half.”
Game 5 is Saturday night in Phoenix. It’s the best of three at this point. The Suns had an excellent opportunity to win Game 4 and wasted an outstanding performance by Booker, but now they go back to Phoenix and hope to get right. For the Bucks, they have been in an 0-2 hole before and know what it takes to get out of it.
-Antetokounmpo left the game at the 8:29 mark of the first quarter in Game 4. The reason why? He had to “tinkle.”
“How do you guys say politely? I wanted to take a tinkle. A tinkle,” he said. “I wanted to take a tinkle and came back (laughter). That’s polite, right?
-According to Elias Sports, Booker had the most points in Finals history by a player with 10 or fewer points in the previous game.