BOSTON — The Boston Celtics scored six points over the final 7:32 of Game 4, and the Splash Brothers delivered a vintage fourth-quarter performance that evened the NBA Finals for the Golden State Warriors.
Stephen Curry scored 43 points in Golden State's 107-97 victory, stealing Boston's golden opportunity to take a commanding lead of the series. Klay Thompson added eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer that gave the Warriors a 95-94 lead they would not relinquish in the final four minutes.
"Just stunning," Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of Curry's performance. "The physicality out there is pretty dramatic. Boston's obviously got the best defense in the league — huge and powerful at every position — and for Steph to take 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 this is the strongest physically he's ever been in his career."
Andrew Wiggins added 17 points and 16 rebounds for Golden State.
Game 5 is scheduled for Monday in San Francisco at 6 p.m. PT.
Jayson Tatum led four Celtics in double figures with 23 points, but it took him 23 shots to get them. Jaylen Brown needed 19 shots to get his 21 points, and Marcus Smart added 18 points on 18 shots in the loss.
The Celtics finished 7 for 21 from the field in the fourth quarter, missing 10 of their final 12 attempts. Settling from the perimeter down the stretch against a stifling Warriors defense, Boston earned a single free throw over the game's final 16 1/2 minutes — one that gave the Celtics a 91-86 lead with 7:32 left. Smart's 3-pointer to beat the shot clock on a broken play gave them a 94-90 advantage two minutes later, but Curry scored half of Golden State's 10 straight points over the next four minutes, and Boston never recovered.
“No player movement, no ball movement," said Celtics guard Derrick White, who scored 16 points off the bench in defeat. We’ve just got to do a better job executing down the stretch. That’s the game right there.”
The Celtics jumped out to a lead for the third straight game, as Tatum connected on his first two 3-point attempts for an 11-4 edge. Wiggins countered with two of his own and eight points in the first nine minutes to sustain the Warriors long enough for Curry to catch fire. The Golden State point guard drained consecutive 3-pointers to give his team a 23-18 advantage, and he let the Boston crowd hear about it.
Tatum matched Curry's 12 first-quarter points, and Robert Williams found Grant Williams with a touch pass to the corner for a 3-pointer that beat the buzzer and salvaged the Celtics a 28-27 lead through one quarter.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Jordan Poole to open the second returned the lead to Golden State, and he too pumped his chest. His 10 points in his first six minutes off the bench and four more from Curry kept the Warriors in the lead until Brown's remarkable left-handed layup into and around traffic tied the game, 39-39.
Tatum's diving attempt for a steal on the next possession reignited a crowd the Warriors had kept at bay, and the Celtics rode the momentum to a 49-42 advantage. They led 54-49 at halftime, and it would have been more, if not for six second-quarter turnovers. Golden State got 19 first-half points from Curry, another 21 from Wiggins and Poole, and still trailed by a handful, because Thompson, Draymond Green and first-time starter in the series Otto Porter Jr. combined for just five points on 12 shots through two quarters.
"Credit to them," Celtics coach Ime Udoka said of Golden State's resilience. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy. They weren't going to come in and lay down. We had our opportunities, especially in the first half."
The Warriors entered Game 4 having outscored the Celtics in third quarters by a total of 43 points in their first three meetings, and five straight from Curry and Thompson out of the second-half gate kept TD Garden in its seat. Boston avoided a complete collapse and even led for most of the quarter, but 14 points from Curry in the third, including four more 3-pointers, gave Golden State a 79-78 lead entering the final frame.
The teams traded baskets for the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, until Brown turned two careless Warriors turnovers into a pair of driving layups and a 90-86 lead. Wiggins continued to pound the glass, and four second-chance points drew Golden State within two points. The Celtics went cold, manufacturing nothing more than Smart's shot clock-beating 3-pointer over a four-minute stretch, and a Thompson 3-pointer returned the lead to the Warriors, 95-94. A beautiful Curry floater made it a three-point game.
Boston could find no lanes to the rim, settling for nothing but 3-pointers, and five straight misses left the door open for Curry to drill another dagger 3-pointer for a 100-94 lead. Al Horford's answer made it a one-possession game with 1:32 remaining, but a Kevon Looney layup and a Brown turnover put Golden State back in the driver's seat. Five straight Curry free throws pushed the Warriors' lead to the 107-97 final.
"The heart on that man is incredible," Thompson said of his longtime teammate's 43 points (14-26 FG), 10 rebounds and four assists over 41 masterful minutes. "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."
Game 1: Celtics 120, Warriors 108
Game 2: Warriors 107, Celtics 88
Game 3: Celtics 116, Warriors 100
Game 4: Warriors 107, Celtics 97 (Series tied 2-2)
* — if necessary
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