Warriors acting like prudes because they can feel NBA Finals slipping away

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Tomase: Warriors acting like prudes because they can feel Finals slipping away originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

For all of their breathtaking greatness en route to three championships and six Finals trips, the Warriors have always carried themselves with an air of prissiness.

Head coach Steve Kerr just lurrrves to lecture opponents on etiquette, particularly if their transgressions involve so much as directing a negative thought towards superstar Steph Curry. Marcus Smart learned this lesson in March when he dove for a loose ball and landed on Curry’s knee. Whereas some might respect the effort and accept the result as a function of competitiveness, Kerr didn’t even wait to issue a reprimand, upbraiding Smart on the court. “I thought it was a dangerous play,” he admonished like a tsk-tsking schoolmarm.

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The Warriors were understandably upset to see their leader and star sidelined for the rest of the regular season with a foot injury, but no objective observer could reasonably call the play dirty. Smart wanted the ball more and he got it.

Fast-forward three months, and it’s starting to feel like the Celtics want this title more, too. In Wednesday night’s Game 3, the C’s blew an 18-point lead and then blew out the Warriors anyway, winning 116-100 and taking a 2-1 series lead.

Rather than address the real issues — Boston’s overwhelming advantages in depth, athleticism, and desire — the Warriors instead discussed decorum, excoriating the TD Garden crowd for serenading willing villain Draymond Green with a series of profane chants.

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“Very classy,” Kerr sniffed.

“Dropping F-bombs with children in the crowd,” Klay Thompson scolded. “Real classy. Good job, Boston.”

The Warriors exude “how dare you!” prudishness on and off the court, where they take Boston’s aggressiveness as an affront. They seem to believe they should be able to play an unfettered game that’s defined by their dazzling levels of skill, the Splash Brothers running free and launching 3’s from fields of daisies.

The Celtics have no interest in obliging. They’re not only trampling those daises, but laying carnage to the innocent butterflies and ladybugs flitting about, too. The Warriors didn’t come anywhere close to matching that intensity. The C’s outrebounded them, 47-31, outscored them by a 2-to-1 margin in the paint, and limited Golden State’s vaunted offense to just 11 points in a fourth-quarter beatdown.

Rob Williams soared to four blocks. Al Horford bullied smaller defenders in the post. Jaylen Brown took to the skies for a team-high 27 points. Smart and Jayson Tatum filled the stat sheet.

Rather than address the real issues — Boston’s overwhelming advantages in depth, athleticism, and desire — the Warriors instead discussed decorum, excoriating the TD Garden crowd for serenading willing villain Draymond Green with a series of profane chants.

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The Warriors look like a team that knows it can’t keep up with the younger, more dynamic Celtics. The C’s survived a bruising Eastern Conference gauntlet to get here, while the Warriors traipsed through the tamer West, with Memphis providing their only real physical test.

Outside of Green, an agent of chaos whose attempts to muck up the game were met with the indifference of a 1,000-yard Jaylen Brown stare after one of his three dunks, the Warriors might as well be playing croquet at a rugby match.

Their offense basically boils down to Curry, and he’s transcendent, but the Celtics leaned on him all night and wore him down, the mouthguard hanging from his lips like Mike Tyson crawling around the ring in Tokyo after absorbing one too many shots from Buster Douglas. Curry’s night ended with another yelp of pain, this time after Horford dove on his legs to secure a loose ball. That Celtics outnumbered Warriors in that pile by a count of 3-2 spoke to the relative effort levels of each club.

The Warriors feature a pretty brand of basketball that’s built around pretty players, with one glaring exception. Green is their enforcer and instigator and agitator, and he plays the part brilliantly. He single-handedly put the Celtics on their heels in Game 2 with a series of taunts, trips, and tackles, but he had nothing in Game 3, scoring just two points before fouling out.

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Celtics fans let him have it, giving him the Kyrie treatment with chants of, “(Bleep) you, Draymond!” which, to be frank, is a terrible look for a great fanbase, but it is what it is at this point. Green simply noted that he played “like (expletive),” and acknowledged that he was soft.

The Warriors can’t afford that, because he’s their only buffer against the dreaded S-word, their watcher on the wall. The Raptors beat them up en route to a championship in 2019 when the Warriors lost Kevin Durant and Thompson to major injuries, and it sure feels like the Celtics are walking a similar path.

If the Warriors have a problem with that, they could try to do something about it. Or they can just keep holding court like a bunch of stuffy Victorians, and see where that gets them.

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