NBA Finals Game 5 preview: Warriors favored to take series lead over Celtics

Mark Blinch / National Basketball Association / Getty

Just a few days ago, the Warriors were underdogs in the series and in Game 4 against the host Celtics. Boston held a 2-1 series lead and had two of the final four NBA Finals games at home, if necessary. One win later, it's Golden State that's favored to win both the series and a pivotal Game 5, which has historically decided the champion in a 2-2 series.

Here's how we're betting Monday's Game 5:

Celtics @ Warriors (-4, 212), 9 p.m. ET

The Celtics have their backs against the wall after a turnover-fueled loss in which Golden State got hot from three, while Boston's offense fell apart down the stretch.

Wait, haven't we heard that before? It was the same story after Game 2 when the Celtics lost by 19 points and were doubted by oddsmakers and talking heads alike heading into Game 3. You know the rest: Boston cleaned up those issues for a dominant 16-point win, just as it's done throughout this entire postseason.

What happened next was something even we didn't see coming in Game 4: Stephen Curry engineered arguably the best performance of his entire career, carrying his team to victory by dropping 43 points and 10 rebounds - becoming just the third point guard with 40 points and 10 rebounds in NBA Finals history. He finished 9-for-14 (64.3%) on contested shots and scored just shy of 46% of Golden State's points in his 41 minutes on the court.

He did all of it despite battling a foot injury that didn't seem to hamper him on Friday. Can he keep it up in Game 5? He'll have to because his teammates have provided next-to-no support this entire series.

Klay Thompson (18 points) wasn't as bad as he was in the first two games, but he shot 41.2% from the field and still doesn't look like the Splash Brother of old. Andrew Wiggins (17) and Jordan Poole (14) both shot worse than 50% and haven't been consistent secondary options on offense. And Draymond Green was so bad in Game 4 that head coach Steve Kerr pulled him during a critical stretch in the fourth quarter when the Warriors ripped off a critical 11-4 run to take the lead for good.

That's what's left of this Golden State team heading back home for Game 5, where it hadn't lost a game this postseason until falling apart late in the first game of this series. We know what's coming from both sides on Monday: Curry will command full attention as the catalyst for the Warriors' offense, and the Celtics will attempt to pick apart Golden State's defense while avoiding careless turnovers, which have fueled the Dubs' offense all series long.

The last time Boston needed a spark, it relied on its size to out-muscle the Warriors inside. In many ways, that matchup has defined the series, as the team with more points in the paint has won all four games thus far. Expect the Celtics to bully their way to the rack in Game 5, which would force Kerr to commit big minutes to Green and center Kevon Looney, who've been liabilities in this series.

You can also count on Ime Udoka's squad to cut down on turnovers, as it has this entire postseason after a sloppy performance. The C's are 1-6 in these playoffs when they commit 15 or more turnovers; they're 5-1 in the following game, winning those five games by an average of 17.6 points with 7.6 fewer turnovers.

Jayson Tatum has also been relentless following defeat, averaging 30.7 points on 48.3% shooting to help his team to a perfect 7-0 record after losses. The 6-8 forward used his size effectively in Game 3 against the undersized Warriors but shied away from that in Game 4, scoring just three points in the fourth quarter for a stagnant Celtics offense.

Those are all correctable issues for a team that has already bounced back in a similar way in this series and, on paper, is simply the better squad. If Marcus Smart - who held Curry to 1-of-4 shooting while matched up in Game 4 - can navigate his way into more on-ball defense with the two-time MVP, that would tip the scales even further toward the road team in Monday's pivotal spot.

Pick: Celtics +4

C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at cjackson.cowart@thescore.com.

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NBA Finals Game 5 preview: Warriors favored to take series lead over Celtics
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