The moves and matchups that could decide Celtics-Warriors Game 5

    Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) is a senior writer for ESPN Digital and Print.

Every good series transforms at some point from a mystery — the teams exploring lineups, feeling out schemes — into something firmer. After that threshold, both teams know the fundamentals: who they want to play, and when; how they want to attack on offense; their defensive principles against those attacks.

The series becomes about execution, toughness, poise, and a little luck.

These strange, riveting NBA Finals aren’t quite there, but they’re approaching the strategic endgame. Rotations have been whittled, schemes tweaked and tweaked again. One team has made a starting lineup change.

The aggregate score is 422-421, Warriors. Both teams have 64 3s on solid-to-great shooting. The Golden State Warriors have one more offensive rebound than the Boston Celtics and one fewer turnover. The Celtics are plus-7 in free throws.

The bookend games — Games 1 and 4 — were similar: road teams roaring to wins behind rampaging fourth-quarter runs. The middle games were relative blowouts.

The league’s No. 1 and 2 defenses have won the day; both teams are scoring about 110.5 points per 100 possessions, equivalent to the 20th-ranked offense in the regular season.

As expected, Boston feels steadier, with enough reliable support to withstand Jayson Tatum’s miserable 2-point shooting; he’s 14-of-51 on 2s, and struggled again in Game 4 to strike the balance between decisiveness — as both passer and scorer — and flailing into traffic. Golden State’s offense outside the Stephen Curry maelstrom feels precarious, though Andrew Wiggins has done his job and the Warriors found ways to spring Klay Thompson in Boston.

Curry has 137 points; Golden State’s No. 2 scorer, Thompson, has 69. Curry is averaging 34 points on 50% shooting — including 49% from deep — against a defense that obliterated everyone once Boston turned its season in January. That defense — and Golden State’s inconsistent scoring around Curry — is stretching him to his limits.

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