The heart of the warriors will come into its own in NBA Finals Game 4 against the Celtics

BOSTON — Game 4 of each NBA playoff series is the first in which a team’s persistence can be accurately measured. The only options are a sweep (4-0), establishing dominance (3-1), or demonstrating resilience (2-2).

The result of Game 4 of the NBA Finals between the Warriors and the Boston Celtics on Friday night will show which team has the heart of a champion.

That means the team that wins not only knows what to do, but also has the ability to execute it and the determination to do it until the game is decided.

If Boston prevails and becomes the first team to inflict consecutive losses on the Warriors this postseason, they will take a three-game lead to one and bury Golden State in a hole deep enough to have escaped the Finals only once in history is.

If the Warriors win, they’ll regain home field advantage and return to the Bay Area with a completely rational optimism.

The stakes are significantly higher, especially for the Warriors.

“It’s desperate,” Otto Porter Jr. said Thursday. “We really need to win Game 4. We just have to stay calm in the first quarter and do justice to their physicality.”

The warriors understand the mission. They realized it on May 29 when the Celtics defeated the tenacious but ultimately exhausted Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Losing Game 6 at home and then going to Miami and finding a way to win the clincher is a strong statement of Boston’s steadfastness.

Flying to San Francisco two days later and digging deep enough to overcome a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter was further impressive proof of who these Celtics are. They quickly develop the heart of a champion.

Are you ready to certify this status?

The core members of the Warriors have confirmed their hearts three times. They have a very different question than the Celtics and their youthful core.

Do Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson still have what it takes?

Only Curry was on championship form in all three games. Jaylen Brown was very good for Boston, but Steph’s 116.8 offensive rating tops all starters on both teams. Draymond was bad in Game 1, great in Game 2 and miserable in Game 3. Klay held off in Games 1 and 2 before making his mark in Game 3.

“It’s definitely on our account,” Green said of the three-ring trio. “These two guys [Curry and Thompson] did their part [in Game 3]. I didn’t do mine.

“It will always be on us no matter how deep in the bank we go.”

They are all well over 30 years old, but also at different physical stages. Curry, 34, is among the most conditioned athletes in the sport and it shows. 32-year-old Draymond has spent most of his career battling bigger and heavier monsters of color, which takes a physical toll. He’s fast approaching a crossroads in terms of ability to make a consistent impact. Klay, 32, is five months into a 941-day absence due to separate devastating injuries, one in each leg. He looks good but he’ll probably be better next season.

“I’m just going to try and seize the moment knowing what the last two years have meant to me,” Thompson said. “Nothing is guaranteed in this league, so I’m just trying to soak it all up.”

Much is asked of these three players who still believe they can achieve the goal they aspire to. They also realize that with such advanced careers and this roster, it’s harder to reach a championship than it was a few years ago. Much harder.

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That’s why the heart of the Warriors will come into its own in Game 4. Above all in defence, strength must be visible early on in order not to fall behind, like in game 3, almost seven minutes after the lead with 15. It needs to be visible late to avoid the kind of disastrous fourth quarter that wiped them out in Games 1 and 3.

“We’ve got to come out with that power, that Warriors ball brand that’s been so successful over the past decade,” Thompson said.

While it’s possible for the Warriors to have the heart of a champion and still lose Game 4, that would signal that they probably don’t have the capacity this time around.

However, in order for them to have a chance of winning, there can be no doubt as to what lies within.

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