BOSTON — By the strictest definition, Game 4 was not a must-win for the Golden State Warriors.
But it was also a game the Warriors could not afford to lose.
A 3-1 series deficit against the Boston Celtics would’ve been disastrous.
Steph Curry made sure that didn’t happen. He scored a game-high 43 points, lifting the Warriors to a 107-97 victory over Boston in Game 4 on Friday.
Trailing 94-90 with 5:18 left in the fourth quarter, the Warriors went on a 10-0 run and took a 100-94 lead on a Curry 3 with 1:42 to play.
It was the best game of this Finals, and the Celtics learned just how difficult it will be to eliminate the Warriors. Golden State extended its streak of winning a playoff game on the road to 27 series, and this victory was much-needed.
GAME 4 RECAP: How the Warriors held on for pivotal win
TROLLING: Celtics fans give Draymond standing ovation for early foul trouble
The 2-2 series is now a best-of-3 with Game 5 on Monday in San Francisco (9 p.m. ET, ABC). Here are five key takeaways from Game 4:
Steph the scoring machine
Every shot Curry shoots — no matter where it is — has a chance of going in. Curry had his third 30-point game of the series, finishing with 43.
He scored 14 points in the third quarter and 10 in the fourth and had 12 of his 19 first-half points in the opening quarter.
Curry made 14-for-26 shots from the field, including 7-for-14 on 3s. He also had 10 rebounds and four assists.
This time, Curry had enough scoring help to ensure his effort wasn’t wasted. It was the second 40-point performance of Curry’s career in the Finals. He had 47 in Game 3 against Toronto in 2019.
He is averaging 34.3 points in the Finals, and if the Warriors win two more games, Curry is headed for his first Finals MVP award.
The Jays Show
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are a handful for the Warriors.
Tatum had 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, and Brown had 21 points, including 10 in the second quarter. Tatum’s shotmaking and playmaking continue to shine, and Brown’s steady play shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Both are averaging 22-plus points in the Finals and are Finals MVP candidates if Boston wins the series.
However, both are prone to turnovers, and Tatum had six and Brown had three Friday. Boston’s 16 turnovers led to 19 Warriors points.
Lineup change short-lived
Golden State coach Steve Kerr started Otto Porter Jr. in place of Kevon Looney in Game 4, and Kerr didn’t go with that lineup long. After two early offensive rebounds by the Celtics, Kerr went to Looney at the 7:23 mark of the first quarter. The Warriors outscored the Celtics 21-16 the rest of the quarter with Looney on the court.
Early in the series when asked about lineup changes, Kerr said, “You never rule out anything. It’s something we discuss as a staff every day. Do we need to insert another player into the rotation? Do we need to change a combination, lineup combination? All that stuff is discussed, and we just make the best decision that we think can be made and roll with it.”
Finally, scoring help for Curry
The Warriors have been in a search of more scoring after Curry in this series. They finally got the needed help in Game 4.
Klay Thompson had 18 points, and Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole had their best games of the series. Wiggins had 17 points and 16 rebounds, and Poole had 14 points on 6-for-13 shooting.
The Warriors were also able to neutralize Boston’s size. They outrebounded the Celtics 55-42 and outscored them 19-12 on second-chance points.
Kerr sits Green in key stretch
The starting lineup change wasn’t Kerr’s only significant rotation move.
With the Celtics up 90-86, Kerr replaced Draymond Green with Wiggins with 7:32 remaining in the game. When Green re-entered the game, the Celtics had a 97-94 lead with 3:41 to go. From that point, Kerr subbed Green often — taking him out for offensive possessions and trying to get him back in the game for defensive possessions. Green had just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.
“I don’t ever want our players to be happy if I take them out,” Kerr said. “Draymond is incredibly competitive. … He’s the ultimate competitor. Came back in, made huge plays down the stretch. He finishes a game with four steals, eight assists, nine boards.
“Look, this is a tough series for him to score because of Boston’s size and athleticism, but he’s still impacting the game at a huge level. And he knows we’re just going to do whatever it takes to win. We’ve got a lot of guys who can contribute. A lot of guys did that tonight, and you know, we got it done. And whatever it takes in Game 5, that’s what we’ll do, too.”
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA Finals: Steph Curry, Warriors hold off Celtics to even series