Stephen Curry didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as the seconds counted down at TD Garden in Boston on Thursday night. He seemed elated—big grin, dizzy, a natural reaction to winning a fourth NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors. However, in an instant, Curry collapsed to the floor with two seconds left in the 2022 NBA Finals. He cradled himself, lowered his head, rested his knees on his elbows and wept.

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Draymond Green said Curry will be furious when he hits the court in Boston in Game 6 on Thursday after going 0-for-3 in Game 5, a prophecy that was true. 34 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds, 6 of 11 from long range – the right expression of anger for a person who keeps his emotions in check but knows how to shoot basketball. When the signal sounded, teammates, rivals, photographers and family members poured onto the court. Curry got to his feet, put his hands on his head, then lowered it again as tears flowed.

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The Warriors rebuilt their dynasty by defeating the Boston Celtics 103–90 in Game 6, but after Curry’s first championship in 2015, Golden State did not enter the season with lesser expectations. The Warriors endured a two-year hiatus from the NBA’s wild following the departure of Kevin Durant and the extended absence of Clay Thompson due to injury, while Curry dealt with his own tide of illness. Given the Warriors’ pedigree, their return to the top of the NBA was not a surprise, but it was unlikely.

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After another brief moment for himself, Curry was surrounded by Thompson, Jordan Poole, Damion Lee, and newcomers Moses Moody and Jonathan Cuminga (who was 12 when Curry won his first ring). Andre Iguodala marched from center court to Curry, pulled him out of the scrimmage and handed him the game ball. One of three current teammates who played alongside Curry on each of the Warriors’ championship teams, Iguodala hugged his close friend.

From the first round to the final bell in Boston, here are seven moments that shaped the Warriors’ great postseason game and resurrected a dynasty.

April 16: Curry comes off the bench to open the playoffs.

Curry was cleared to return to the playoffs by the Warriors in April after missing the final month of the regular season with a sprain and bruised bone in his left foot, but he will be limited to 20-25 minutes in Game 1 of the Series One round.” Golden State vs Denver Nuggets. The restriction left Curry and Warriors coach Steve Kerr with the difficult task of identifying which the Curry played 20 to 25 minutes.

The Warriors imposed a similar restriction when Thompson returned to action in January after two seasons out of action. Thompson decided to take his traditional starter spot and then take longer breaks during the game. The plan proved uncomfortable for Thompson, who found it difficult to maintain his rhythm after he pulled out of the game and then spent 12 minutes on a stationary bike before taking the floor again.

Kerr offered Curry two options. The first was similar to Thompson: Curry started, but spent more time on the bench than he was used to. In the second, Curry came off the bench to start each half, shortening his time on the bench between playing time.

“It may have been an intimidating conversation with most of the other star players, but not in the least intimidating with Steph,” says Kerr. “He makes everything easy.”

Recognizing that of all the qualities of a basketball player, rhythm is one of the most valuable, Curry chose the second option.

With the Warriors leading 1-0 and extending the Game 2 limit from 28 minutes to 30 minutes, Curry reverted to the bench role, telling Kerr the deal was working well. As the Warriors prepared their rotation for Game 3 in Denver, Curry again told Kerr that he would be happy to come on as a substitute, even though his time limit had been raised to 32 minutes. Kerr expressed his appreciation and called him the greatest sixth man of all time. The two agreed that they would stick with the plan until the Warriors lost, which they did in Game 4.

When the public speaking announcer introduced the players before each of the first four games against the Nuggets, Curry found himself in the unusual position of standing next to Kerr on the bench, with Poole joining the four starting players near center court. As the teams prepared for the first council, Kerr turned to Curry and told him, “If you work hard enough, one day you too can start an NBA playoff game.”

May 3: Gary Payton II broke his left elbow after being punched by Dillon Brooks.

Payton is the Warriors’ best perimeter defenseman, but he’s also an energetic athlete who can beat defense in transitions. That’s exactly what Payton was doing early in the first quarter of Game 2 of the Conference Semifinals against Memphis, when he darted past the retreating Grizzlies defensemen and Greene hit him with a straight pass. As Payton quickly approached the basket, Brooks caught him from behind, hitting him with a full right arm swing, pinning the Warriors’ hovering guard over the head.

Payton collapsed to the floor right under the basket rack. He immediately grabbed his left hand and let out a terrible groan. Brooks was rated a flagrant foul 2 and Payton, who would be diagnosed with a fractured elbow later that night, would be sent to recovery and rehab for five weeks. The incident angered the soldiers. Kerr described the play as dirty.

“Dillon Brooks cracked the code,” Kerr said at the time.

When he joined the Warriors last season, Payton was a consummate basketball apprentice who struggled for years to find a home in the NBA. He even considered leaving his gaming career to become a video coordinator. Being named the starter to take on one of the toughest defensive assignments in the NBA, Ja Morant’s dynamic Memphis All-Star Game throughout the series, was to be the culmination of Payton’s long journey.

But after he was diagnosed with a fractured left elbow at the FedEx Forum X-ray room and put in a cast while his team continued to fight within yards of him, he had to postpone that trip. Payton returned to the locker room, where he greeted the team after the Warriors’ 106–101 loss in Game 2.

“The team was crushed after the game,” he says. “We lost, but my teammates and coach Kerr supported me after the game – how they felt about the game, how they reported it – it meant a lot.”

Payton returned in Game 2 of the Finals, exhausting all three of his shots in 25 minutes. A week later, in a pivotal Game 5 victory for the Warriors, he scored 15 points with three steals, choking out Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart on defense.

May 13: Kevon Looney entered the starting lineup.

A 39-point playoff loss could prompt a team to make significant adjustments. After the Warriors lost Game 5 to the Grizzlies 134–95 in the Conference Semifinals, assistant coach Mike Brown, who served as acting head coach during Games 4 and 5 for Kerr who tested positive for COVID-19, sent Kerr message with message. sentence:

The Warriors should start Looney in place of Jonathan Cuminga in Game 6.

The defensive brain of the Warriors staff, Brown watched as the size of the Grizzlies mistreated the Warriors in Game 5 when Memphis swallowed 18 offensive rebounds while the Warriors’ defense was a sieve. Kerr appreciated the recommendation and told Brown to sleep with her until the staff reconvened the next day.

When the staff met with Kerr in San Francisco the next morning, Brown informed the group that Curry and Green had told him on the plane that Looney was a logical candidate to start Game 6. much more to discuss. Given Brown’s defensive instincts and the endorsement of two of the team’s most energetic players, the decision was clear: Looney would start.

This step is not without complications and risks. The Warriors resisted the game of their two “big men” for a long time. Neither Green nor Looney shoot long distances, and for all of Looney’s strengths, he has never been a dynamic shot to the basket. Despite his agility, Looney can still be vulnerable on the perimeter with pick-and-roll cover.

Looney immediately allayed any fears by establishing himself as an all-round defender and, most importantly, with 22 rebounds and five assists in the Warriors’ series-clinching victory. Since then, he has provided an endless supply of screens and has turned into a genius in the Warriors action that generates so many hits for Curry, Thompson and Poole. For a team whose playstyle and team ethic values ​​dedication, Looney is the epitome of that principle.

May 18: Andrew Wiggins defends Luka Doncic

The “Ja Rules” governed the Warriors’ coverage patterns against the Grizzlies’ dynamic young point guard in the conference semi-finals. While it lacked the clever wordplay of its predecessor, the Luke Rules, devised by the Warriors’ coaching staff, were to be the single most important set of bylaws that determined whether Golden State would return to the Finals for the first time since. 2019.

“There aren’t too many specific tactics with Luka like ‘make him go left’ or ‘make him go right’ because he can beat you in either direction,” says assistant coach Jama Mahlalela, who works closely with Wiggins on more subtle game. game plan details. “With Luka, everything starts with the words: “Give him as much time as you can.”

For Wiggins, this meant putting pressure on Doncic as aggressively and aggressively as possible with the entire court. This meant that Doncic had to constantly turn when he took the ball into the top zone. This meant, as a general principle, to tire him out as much as possible. The strategy required an enormous amount of energy from Wiggins.

“Just make it work,” Wiggins said after the first game. – It was the main thing – 94 …