By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and the Golden State Warriors took complete control of the NBA Finals with a commanding Game 5 win over the Boston Celtics on Monday night. Coming off a Game 4 that saw a historic showing from Stephen Curry, Curry took a backseat in Game 5, letting his teammates shine.
As is often the case this postseason, Andrew Wiggins was shining brightest for the Warriors. During the Western Conference Finals against the Mavericks, Wiggins was integral to the defensive effort to contain Luka Doncic, and his contributions as a rebounder and scorer were solid. In Game 5, Wiggins continued to operate as an excellent defender on the wing, pestering Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown all game. Still, it was his offensive contribution that sparked the win. Wiggins scored 16 points during the first half, keeping the Warriors in the game as the rest of the offense struggled.
Wiggins loomed large in the first half while the score was close, but as has often been the case during the postseason, Boston collapsed during the fourth quarter following a dazzling third-quarter run. Wiggins followed up his 16-point first half with a 10-point fourth quarter. Crazily enough, Wiggins had five made baskets during the final frame. The Boston Celtics as a team had a mere four. Entering the season, Wiggins was viewed as a bust, an overhyped former top overall draft pick coasting on his draft pedigree. Wiggins deserves to be free of the label after his incredible play this postseason.
For the Celtics, Robert Williams III was again the most pivotal contributor. Williams played 30 minutes, scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, grabbed eight boards, and dominated on the defensive end. With Williams on the court, Boston outscored the Warriors by 11 points. However, during the 18 minutes Williams rested, the Celtics were outscored by 21 points. Given Williams is dealing with lingering knee issues, the solution isn’t as simple as extending his minutes. However, with Boston’s season on the line tomorrow night, it might be the only solution to forcing a Game 7 on Sunday night.
While Williams has been the most significant difference-maker for the Celtics through five games in the series, he isn’t the only player capable of lifting Boston to a Game 6 win. Jayson Tatum played like an All-NBA level superstar through the first three rounds of the playoffs. However, through five games of the Finals, he’s struggled, to say the least. Tatum is failing to finish at the rim. His two-point attempts have been consistently short. Even his free-throw shooting has been bad. Tatum’s passing has devolved from creative and effective to frustratingly awful or completely nonexistent.
Perhaps most surprising for Tatum, he has failed to step up in the fourth quarter of games. Tatum has to avoid head-scratching turnovers tomorrow night. He has to take advantage of his size and speed over Golden State’s defenders. He has to lead by example, creating open looks for teammates and knocking down the ones made for himself. For the Celtics to force a Game 7 and win the championship, Tatum doesn’t just have to be better. Tatum has to be a superstar.