SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State’s Steph Curry struggled with his shot. The Warriors’ 3-point shooting evaporated. And the Boston Celtics started to take control and looked like they might put themselves in position to win another road game in the playoffs.
Then, the Celtics had a mini-meltdown offensively and with the referees, and Golden State took advantage.
Relying on Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson, an improved performance from Draymond Green and strong bench play, the Warriors defeated the Celtics 104-94 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday.
This was the 31st time a Finals series was tied at 2-2, and in the previous 30 instances, the Game 5 winner won the series 73.3% of the time (22-8).
Golden State can win the championship in Game 6 on Thursday in Boston (9 pm ET, ABC).
The Warriors will try to win their fourth title in eight seasons and first since they beat Cleveland in 2018. It would be their seventh overall — third most for a franchise behind the Los Angeles Lakers and Celtics, each with 17.
This was the first time the Celtics have lost consecutive playoffs this postseason.
Here are five key takeaways from Game 5:
Wiggins thrives again
Wiggins followed up his double-double in Game 4 with another one in Game 5: team highs in points (26) and rebounds (13), and it has reached the point where it’s fair to ask: Where would the Warriors be in this series without Wiggins?
Wiggins was 12-for-23 shooting and also had two assists, two steals and a blocked shot. In the fourth quarter, he had 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting, including an emphatic one-handed dunk with 2:10 left, giving Golden State a 99-84 lead.
His performances in the past two games are a major reason why the Warriors are in this position.
Curry struggles for the first time in series
Curry had at least 30 points in the first four games of the series, including 43 in Game 4 — the second-highest scouring output of his Finals career.
Curry finished with 16 points on 7-for-22 shooting, but he had eight assists, three rebounds and a steal.
Curry didn’t have his shot going on Monday, missing all nine of his 3-point attempts. It was the first time in his career that he did not make a 3-pointer in a playoff game, according to basketball-reference.com.
Tatum starts slow, gets hot, finishes cold
In the opening seven minutes of Game 5, Jayson Tatum didn’t attempt one shot. Once he started shooting late in the first quarter, he had a hard time missing.
Through three quarters, Tatum connected on 9-of-15 shots and had 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. He started the third quarter with two 3-pointers, helping the Celtics eliminate a 12-point halftime deficit.
But he had just five points on 1-for-5 shooting in the fourth quarter as the Celtics were outscored 29-20.
Green comes to play in Game 5
Green heard the criticism. About his play from him. About doing his podcast during the NBA Finals. He had his strongest game of the series in Game 5, coming out aggressive with four points, two rebounds and two assists in the first quarter.
On Sunday, Magic Johnson tweeted, “I’m looking forward to a triple double from Draymond Green tomorrow!”
Close, but not quite. Still, Green had eight points, eight rebounds, seven assists and one steal.
3-ball trouble for both teams
The Celtics entered Game 5 shooting 37.2% on 3s in the playoffs, including 37.8% in the Finals. They missed their first 12 3-point attempts and didn’t make one until Tatum hit at 4:34 of the second quarter.
Boston finished the half 3-for-15 on 3s, which oddly was better than Golden State’s 3-for-17. The Warriors finished 22.5% and the Celtics 34.4% on 3s.
One Warrior who did have his 3-point shot working: Klay Thompson, who had 21 points and made 5-for-11 3s. Thompson made two 3s in the fourth — one part of a 10-0 Warriors run to start the quarter and one with 1:45 left giving Golden State an 102-86 lead.
Offense wasn’t pretty but also not a surprise given the Celtics were No. 1 and Warriors No. 2 in defensive efficiency during the regular season.
The difference? Boston shot just 20-for-43 inside the arc, and Golden State made 32-for-48 and outscored the Celtics 50-36 on points in the paint. Boston also missed 10 free throws, and Golden State’s bench outscored Boston’s 31-10. The Celtics committed 18 turnovers that resulted in 22 Warriors points.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism