BOSTON — For two days, Golden State forward Draymond Green saw it in his teammate Stephen Curry. The fire Curry plays with isn’t always apparent to outsiders, but Green sensed that it was simmering within.
Their team was down in the NBA finals, 2-1, and Curry was not going to let them lose Game 4.
On Friday night everybody else saw that emotion, too.
After one of his two first-quarter 3-pointers, Curry screamed into the crowd full of Boston Celtics fans who had shown up early to hound him and his teammates. There was a long way to go in the game, one of the finest of his illustrious career, but he shouted to send a message.
“Felt like we just had to let everybody know that we were here tonight,” Curry said.
He added: “You can want it so bad, you kind of get in your own way a little bit, and everybody feels a little bit of pressure, and it can go the opposite way. I wanted to try to leverage that in a positive direction for us to start the game.”
On Friday night in front of a hostile crowd in Boston, Golden State evened its series with the Celtics, 2-2, and regained home-court advantage. Golden State won, 107-97.
Curry scored 43 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, becoming only the third Warriors player to have at least 40 points and 10 rebounds in an NBA finals game; Rick Barry did so in 1967, and Kevin Durant did in 2018. Curry, Michael Jordan and LeBron James are the only players 34 and older to score 40 or more points in an NBA finals game.
As Golden State stretched its lead in the final minutes of Game 4, Celtics fans began to leave. When Curry was at the free-throw line with 19.1 seconds left in the game, a chant of “MVP” could be heard in the upper deck of the arena.
The series will return to San Francisco for Game 5 on Monday, followed by Game 6 in Boston on Thursday.
The crowd heartily booed Golden State’s players, beginning in their pregame warm-ups.
When Klay Thompson appeared on the court an hour before the game, a group of fans in the lower bowl booed him. I have acknowledged them with their arms and encouraged them to get louder. Green emerged a few minutes later and drew an even louder explosion of boos. Two nights before, Thompson had criticized the crowd for chanting obscenities at Green.
The Celtics entered the game with aspirations of handing Golden State its first back-to-back losses in this year’s playoffs. Before Friday’s game, Golden State had won all five games that followed losses this postseason.
But Boston understood the fierce grip that a 3-1 lead can hold in a best-of-seven series.
“We understand we have a chance to do something special, put some pressure on tonight,” Celtics Coach Ime Udoka said before the game.
The Celtics gained confidence from the way they had played in the last game.
“We have to replicate what we did in Game 3,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said on Thursday. “We reduced our turnovers. We reduce our second-chance points, offensive rebounds. We just controlled the game, the game that we wanted to play.”
Golden State made a change to its starting lineup for the first time this series in Game 4, replacing Kevon Looney with Otto Porter Jr.
The playoffs this season have been characterized by blowouts, and the Celtics have played in several of them, including all three that came during the finals. Boston won Game 1 by 12 points, lost Game 2 by 19 and won Game 3 by 16.
But early on, Game 4 showed promise that it could be a tightly contested matchup that would stay interesting until the end.
Curry and Boston’s Jayson Tatum each scored 12 points in the first quarter.
“Everybody was emotional tonight,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said. “Down 2-1, we had to come out with some desperation and more physicality than we showed in Game 3. So it was a team-wide sense of aggression and emotion. That started right from the opening tip.
“Steph obviously doesn’t normally show a lot of emotion, but a night like tonight warranted it.”
The first quarter ended with Tatum passing the ball into the paint to Robert Williams III, who flicked it out to Grant Williams in the corner for a 3. Grant Williams’s 3 gave Boston a 28-27 lead heading into the second quarter.
By halftime, the lead had changed hands six times and the score had been tied five times.
It was Celtics guard Jaylen Brown’s turn to shine in the second quarter. He scored 10 points and Boston outscored Golden State by nine points when he was on the court during that quarter.
Boston had stretched its lead slightly by halftime, to 54-49.
But Golden State would not go quietly, especially not with Curry available. He had 33 points heading into the fourth quarter, having scored 14 in the third.
The game was tied at 86 with eight minutes left.
Thompson picked up his fourth foul with 5:33 left in the game. The crowd chanted at him the same obscene chant they had directed at Green in Game 3, but replaced “Draymond” with “Klay.” About one minute later, Thompson’s 3-pointer gave Golden State a 95-94 lead.
Boston scored only eleven in the game’s final five minutes.
There was some doubt after Game 3 that Curry would be available for Game 4 because he hurt his foot in a pileup while fighting for a loose ball. Curry participated in Golden State’s shootaround on Friday morning and was cleared to play.
After Curry’s performance Friday night, the second-highest scoring finals game of his career, the first question posed to Kerr in the postgame news conference was a cheeky one about how he thought Curry’s foot held up. Kerr laughed.
“I think he was really working out there,” Kerr quipped. “I really struggled.”
Thompson was also asked about Curry first when he took the postgame podium.
“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 from him, I mean, we’ve got to help him out on Monday. wow.”