NBA Finals

Why Brad Stevens, Celtics should recognize Warriors' last NBA Finals play

Why Brad Stevens, Celtics should recognize Warriors' last NBA Finals play

With his team trailing by one with 9.6 seconds left in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Steve Kerr needed a winning play.

The Golden State Warriors coach appeared to draw up just that: Andre Iguodala lobbed an inbound pass to Draymond Green, who found Stephen Curry for an open 3-point attempt.

Curry missed, and the Dubs had to watch the Toronto Raptors celebrate an NBA title on their own floor. But astute observers -- including Celtics alum Evan Turner -- noted, that play to spring Curry was a page out of Boston head coach Brad Stevens' book.

We have video evidence, too: Here's a supercut of the Celtics running that same play successfully on multiple occasions out of late-game timeouts.

 

The second play for Avery Bradley in the above video is almost identical to what the Warriors ran Thursday night. The Celtics have had pretty good success with Stevens' action -- including a couple game-winners -- and the Warriors may have won an NBA Finals game with it had Curry knocked down the 3-pointer.

Some questioned Kerr for running a 2-second play with 10 seconds still on the game clock, but it did allow Golden State time to track down the rebound, even if it failed to do so. (The Raptors also deserve credit for defending this pretty well, as Serge Ibaka gave a decent contest of Curry's shot.)

Stevens probably wishes he was calling that play for the C's in the NBA Finals instead of watching another coach run one of his signature actions, but it's still a testament to his basketball mind that Kerr turned to his play in crunch time.

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About Last Night: Kawhi's Raptors poised to pull off stunner after taking 3-1 NBA Finals lead on Warriors

About Last Night: Kawhi's Raptors poised to pull off stunner after taking 3-1 NBA Finals lead on Warriors

What we’re talking about: Toronto Kawhi-etly on the cusp of first NBA title  

It’s not like the Golden State Warriors haven’t had their backs to the wall before, but this feels different. It feels different because they are on the brink of elimination against a Toronto team that has played with better effort, better execution and maybe most important, a heightened sense of urgency.

Take all that into account and you have the Raptors heading home for Game 5 with a chance to claim the first NBA title in franchise - and their country's - history. 

And while some will point to the absence of Kevin Durant (calf) for the series, that shouldn’t diminish what Toronto has been able to accomplish in this series. 

Again, Toronto hasn’t controlled this series because they have been at the top of their game. They have had more than their share of rough patches every game thus far. But they managed to do just enough to do what was necessary to win, whether it was knocking down a ton of shots or lock down defensively. With or without Durant in the series, the Raptors are playing like a team that refuses to go away without bringing the Larry O'Brien Trophy with them.  

What we’ll be watching: Durant to the rescue?

With their playoff lives on the line, the only real wrinkle Golden State can throw out there now is the return of Durant, who hasn’t played in about a month.

Because everything else Golden State has done up to this point hasn’t been enough to knock out a Toronto team that has shown itself to be more than just the Kawhi Leonard Show in winning back-to-back games on the Warriors' home floor with a chance to do what no team has ever done - bring an NBA title to Canada.

Quote-unquote

“We don’t care who gets the shine. Whoever’s night it is, that’s whose night it is.” - Kawhi Leonard after Raptors Game 4 win. 

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Kawhi Leonard's regular-season rest could topple the Warriors dynasty

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USA TODAY Sports photo

Kawhi Leonard's regular-season rest could topple the Warriors dynasty

Kawhi Leonard's load management during the regular season has made him a playoff machine -- which has the Warriors dynasty on the ropes. Click here for more from Tom Haberstroh.