SAN FRANCISCO — Warriors point guard Stephen Curry played all 12 minutes of the first quarter Thursday night and knocked down six 3-pointers, setting a league record for most threes made in any quarter of an NBA Finals game.
Curry’s red-hot shooting jump-started the Warriors, who finished the first with a 32-28 lead. At the start of the second, Curry took his usual rest and sat on the bench for five minutes. When he checked back in, he was held scoreless, missing both of his shot attempts.
So, after such an impressive offensive performance to open the game, does Curry wish he could have stayed in to continue to ride that momentum?
Not necessarily. Curry expressed trust in Golden State’s typical rotations and the decision to take his rest as scheduled. That being said, he also noted the importance of making adjustments at this stage.
“It’s about winning four games by any means necessary,” he said. “I think everything starts to come on the table when you look at trying to get ourselves back in the series on Sunday.”
It sure sounds as though Curry would be open to having his workload ramp up. He played 38 minutes in Game 1, checking out for breaks at the start of the second and fourth quarters.
When Curry was on the bench in the second, the Warriors maintained a 6-point lead. When Curry was on the bench in the fourth, however, the Warriors didn’t score while the Celtics went on a 7-0 run to cut into Golden State’s double-digit lead.
Curry’s playing style requires he has fresh legs, especially at 34, given his off-ball movement, his role in the pick and roll, and the amount of 3-pointers he takes per game. But his playing style also explains why should be on the court: He’s always a threat to score and draws significant attention from the defense.
It may be time for coach Steve Kerr to shave a few minutes off Curry’s rest so that he returns to the game sooner. He’s only eclipsed 40 minutes once this postseason, in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals against Memphis. In Golden State’s most recent Finals run against Toronto in 2019, Curry logged at least 40 minutes in every game, averaging almost 42.
With the Warriors treating Sunday’s Game 2 as a must-win, Curry sounds ready and willing to up his minutes.
“At most, we’ve got six games left,” he said.
Will Payton play?
Warriors guard Gary Payton II didn’t log a single minute in Game 1, despite being listed as available to play.
Kerr said Payton was only available for “special circumstances,” such as a late-game stop. Payton has not returned to game action since fracturing his left elbow on May 3.
“I didn’t feel comfortable playing him significant minutes yet,” Kerr said. “The training staff felt like he needed a little more time.”
Payton is one of Golden State’s best perimeter defenders, so the Warriors could certainly use his presence on the floor. He averaged 17 minutes per game during the regular season.
Kerr said he anticipates Payton will truly be available in Game 2, adding that the bonus day of rest was beneficial. Payton, for his part, said he is “ready to go” and not dealing with any discomfort.
If Payton does see the floor Sunday, his teammates are expecting him to have a meaningful impact. Curry called Payton “a defensive menace,” mentioning his physicality and ability to guard multiple positions.
“He gets into the ball,” Curry said. “He makes people uncomfortable. He can disrupt a lot of different actions and different situations out there. He has to go be the GP that we know him to be. He can affect this series that same way. Guarding Jaylen [Brown], guarding Jayson [Tatum], guarding Marcus [Smart], guarding whoever he’s asked to guard, and giving us a huge boost of energy because that’s what he does.”
Green has his say
After the Warriors’ loss in Game 1, Draymond Green fired off a tweet in response to those criticizing his performance.
Green has acknowledged that he needs to play better in Game 2, but he still wanted to say something to the people telling him to get in the gym and watch more film. Though Green said he doesn’t read Twitter, he wanted to poke fun and respond to the Internet trolls.
“It’s like, ‘Oh, man, you tweeted. You should be watching film for 24 hours,’ ” Green said Saturday. “ ‘You tweeted, you should be in the gym shooting for 24 hours.’ Because that’s incredible for your body. But that’s what happens. You give people a voice and a platform to speak, and they really don’t know what they’re talking about. So, in their mind, it’s like you should be in the gym shooting 24 hours. Then where would my legs be to shoot in 24 hours? It don’t work that way.”