The 2,022 NBA Finals is still waiting for one of the teams to win back-to-back games. Are the Warriors in position to finally make a breakthrough? Or will the Celtics continue the back-and-forth nature of the series?
It might seem like the Warriors are prepared to make a run to the title. Riding Stephen Curry’s scintillating Game 4 performance, the Warriors reclaimed home-court advantage. And their experience could come in handy in the important Game 6. But the young Celtics have shown that they are nothing if not resilient.
All eyes will be on Curry. His lowest point production was his 29-point effort in the Game 2 win. He is averaging 34.2 points and is easily the MVP of this Finals. What will the Celtics’ defense cook up to stop him?
USA TODAY Sports will have live updates and analysis all evening as Game 5 of the 2022 NBA Finals gets underway.
Game 5 could be pivotal in determining NBA champion
It’s clear that the stakes couldn’t be much higher for both the Warriors and Celtics entering Game 5 of the Finals. With the series tied at 2-2 and with no team able to win consecutive games, Game 5 could be pivotal in determining who wins the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
In fact, teams that win Game 5 historically have a big advantage. The previous 30 times the Finals have been tied 2-2, the team that wins Game 5 has gone on to win the series 73.3% of the time (22-8). That would include last season when the Milwaukee Bucks lost the first two games against the Phoenix Suns before winning four straight to close out the series
Why the league switched back to 2-2-1-1-1 format for Finals
As recently as 2013, Game 5 of the NBA Finals was played at the arena of the team that didn’t have home-court advantage as part of the 2-3-2 Finals format.
The league switched back to 2-2-1-1-1 format starting with the 2014 Finals.
“There has been,” then-NBA Commissioner David Stern said at the start of the 2013-14 season, “an abiding sense amongst our teams, and they’ve stated two things: One, in a 2-2 series, it’s sort of not fair for the team with the better record to be away. And two, it’s difficult for the team – the better team in terms of record to spend as many as eight days on the road away from home. “
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who was deputy commissioner then and three months from replacing Stern, supported the change then and still does today.
“We just feel it’s better from a competitive standpoint,” Silver said at the start of Boston-Golden State series on June 2. “It always felt to me in all my years in the league before we switched back to this format that, first of all, the players are used to, on their bodies, the 2-2-1-1-1 format from the earlier rounds. And it just always felt that it was – even unsure where the unfairness lay – but the three in that second city just felt long and arduous.
“We have beautiful planes in this league. It’s a long flight. Again, it’s tough on everybody’s bodies. It’s tough on the media having to go back and forth across the country, but it feels like it’s the right format.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who played in the 2-3-2 Finals format multiple times with the Chicago Bulls, prefers the current model.
“I like 2-2-1-1-1 better,” he said. “It’s a more fair format. And given that we have a couple of days in between every game, other than 3 and 4, I think both teams will be able to handle the travel. But it seems like a more fair test. What I remember was anytime a team lost one of the first two at home during that era, it didn’t seem right that you had to go on the road and play three straight road games. I think that’s why the format was changed back.
“Ironically, though, that hardly ever happened where the home team won the middle three. So it was good for travel, but it feels like a more natural flow to go back to 2-2-1-1-1.”
– Jeff Zillgitt
A not so happy anniversary
Three years ago Monday to the date, the Golden State Warriors guard tore the ACL in his left knee against the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, the start of a stretch in which Thompson was sidelined for next 2½ seasons.
On Sunday, Thompson was asked to reflect on that moment and what it meant to be back in the Finals after all he had to go through. He conceded he had not pieced together that Monday was the anniversary of that knee injury.
“Well, there’s a lot of emotions that day. We came real close to having another opportunity to three-peat, which hasn’t been done since Shaq (O’Neal) and Kobe (Bryant),” Thompson began.
“When I hurt my knee, it was kind of unchartered territory for me because I had been able to be consistently present in the lineup my whole career. So I had to kind of realign my whole train of thought with the months coming up. I knew I had a lot of training ahead, and it was actually hard because I didn’t really get a break. Usually, after such a long season, you get a nice summer break. I had to go straight into rehab, and it was a long cycle after that, a couple years. “
– Jeff Zillgitt
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Warriors-Celtics NBA Finals live updates: Game 5 score, highlights