BOSTON — Poise. Experience. Championship mettle.
Those terms can become cliche, but cliches exist because there is an element of truth in them — the team hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy has to show that poise, that attention to detail under pressure.
Golden State showed it in Game 6 in the TD Garden.
They showed it throughout the NBA Finals. They showed it over the past couple of seasons as an organization.
The Warriors are champions again because of it.
A desperate Celtics team took the court in Game 6 and, with their season on the line, attacked early — aggressive defense, playing bully ball inside then moving the rock and finding the open man, and then knocking down shots. Boston raced out to a 12-2 lead to open the game.
That’s when the Warriors showed their championship poise.
They weathered the storm and continued relentlessly executing their game plan, knowing the Celtics have had stretches every game where they get sloppy. That time came late in the first quarter and spilled into the second — eight scoreless Celtics possessions that led to a 21-0 Warriors run (or, 35-8, if you roll it out a little longer).
Turnovers, the ultimate harbinger of Celtics trouble, told the story. Boston had 13 turnovers in the first half — the most in a half all season — and 23 for the game.
That’s too many against the Warriors.
“We started out well, then it got away from us,” Al Horford said. “Offensive rebounds hurt us. Those turnovers really hurt us, as well. I felt like we kept fighting. But even when we fought and when we got to what felt like striking distance, we would turn the ball over again. We would do something that was unsound or unsolid.”
Stephen Curry scored 34 on his way to Finals MVP, and the Warriors beat the Celtics 103-90 to win their fourth NBA championship in eight seasons, and their first since 2018.
“This one hits different for sure, just knowing what the last three years have meant, what it’s been like from injuries to changing of the guard in the rosters, [Andrew Wiggins] coming through, our young guys carrying the belief that we could get back to this stage and win, even if it didn’t make sense to anybody when we said it, all that stuff matters,” Curry said.
“I’m happy for everybody, but I’m thrilled for Steph,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “To me, this is his crowning achievement in what’s already been an incredible career.”
The Warriors were simply the better team in this series. The Celtics are the younger, bigger, more athletic team, and the Warriors took a couple of games to figure out how to beat that. That’s where the poise, the championship mettle comes in — Golden State adjusted but without losing their identity, drilled down on what worked, and didn’t let up. They didn’t panic — just like the organization didn’t panic and make trades the past couple of seasons — they focused what they knew worked.
Part of the problem for Boston was that for far too much of the series Andrew Wiggins outplayed Jayson Tatum and held the Celtics’ star in relative check — Tatum had 13 points on 6-of-18 shooting in Game 6. Marcus Smart had 9 points on 4-of-12 shooting. When the droughts come it exposes the Celtics’ lack of shooting.
To be fair Warriors have an underrated defense — it was second best in the NBA this season — and they did a great job helping on drives from Tatum and Jaylen Brown, forcing them to play in a crowd and make the right read. The Boston stars only did that some of the time.
Meanwhile, the Warriors just kept executing — setting picks, giving up the ball and relocating then getting it right back, showing how much it matters to have shooters across the roster. Wiggins had 18 points and was 4-of-9 from 3. Jordan Poole had 15 off the bench and was 3-of-8 from 3. Even Draymond Green had a couple of 3s on his way to a dozen points in his best game of the series. Earlier in the series, it was clear Green needed to do more for Golden State. In Games 5 and 6 he did and they are champions for it.
Celebrating in their locker room after the win, the Warriors players started a joking “f*** you Draymond” chant, and you can bet Green was dancing right in the middle of it all.
Game 6 Klay Thompson didn’t show up, it was a rough night for him, but in the end, a player who fought back from two potentially career-ending injuries was celebrating another title.