The Golden State Warriors are one win away from their fourth championship in the last eight years, but they know closing out the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night will be their toughest task of the season.
“We know [the Celtics are] going to play with a sense of desperation,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said Wednesday, via ESPN. “So for us to match that or exceed that, it’s going to take the most effort we’ve had to give all year.”
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The level of effort required isn’t lost on the rest of the Warriors. “Clinching is probably the hardest game you’ll play,” veteran forward Andre Iguodala added.
Though the job won’t be easy, the Warriors have the benefit of experience as their core of Steph Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Kevon Looney and coach Steve Kerr all played in five straight Finals from 2015 to 2019. That experience is something the Celtics don’t have; none of their players had prior Finals experience before now.
“You just understand what the nerves are like,” Curry said of the closeout opportunity. “We understand the specifics of how we need to approach the game from a physicality perspective, our game plan adjustments from Game 5 to Game 6, understanding what the building is going to feel like, that energy, being prepared for it.”
As a team, the Warriors are doing their best to embrace the moment — especially the guys playing in their first Finals.
“I’m excited, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” Andrew Wiggins said of the magnitude of Game 6. “Something that I’ve worked hard for, that this whole team has worked hard for, so I’m excited.” The message of embracing the moment isn’t limited to the guys who have never been to the Finals before, though, because those who’ve been there before realize how special of an opportunity it is — and how a return trip is never promised.
“At the end of the day, once you get out there, you just have to be in the moment,” Curry said. “You got to be present as much as possible, not worry about the consequences of a win or a loss. The only opportunity you have is that 48 minutes. The more you can trick your mind into being in the moment and staying there, that’s the best advice I can give anybody in that situation, because it’s going to be the hardest game you probably ever played in your career because of what the stakes are.”
When Curry struggled in Game 5 — he went an uncharacteristic 0 for 9 from long range — the pieces around him stepped up in a major way. Wiggins had his best game of the postseason with 26 points and 13 rebounds, Thompson found his stroke and dropped 21 points of his own, and Jordan Poole and Gary Payton II combined for 29 points off the bench. If Golden State is going to get similar contributions from those players in Game 6, Warriors fans should get ready to pop the champagne.
“I sense great focus and confidence,” coach Steve Kerr said Thursday ahead of Game 6. “I think our guys are in a good place heading into tonight.”
At the least, it certainly seems like Golden State has the right mindset heading into a closeout opportunity.