Small Screens: ‘NBA Finals’ Game 4 Review

Confrontation, family ties, and what is beginning to feel like a never-ending game of cat and mouse continued in ‘Game 4’ of NBA Finals.

Co-director Ime Udoka is new to this kind of Adam Silver production, but the director he’s sharing the stage with, Steve Kerr, isn’t, and Kerr paired with Silver have been known for their drawn out series in the past. This is not to knock the pacing of Finals in its entirety, because there has been some interesting off-beat action unfolding, only to point out that the major quibble with Conference Finals and Playoffs before it was that much of the action felt lopsided and entirely too fast. For Finals to swing so far in the opposite direction is clearly a nod to viewers but what’s thus far saved it from being a slog are the more interesting storylines and conflicts that have been given the time and space to develop.

In ‘Game 4’ the most notable POV shift was to the series celebrated hero, Steph Curry (Steph Curry) who, after a slow burn build-up that was handled deftly by Kerr, erupted in this episode. Steph Curry stepped out into the ‘Celtics’ headquarters literally screaming. He shouted at the crowd, still decked out in their costumes of green resembling all the hues of an early summer forest, after heaving back-to-back “threes” through that brooding, inanimate apparatus both groups have shown episode after episode they are striving to protect.

Steph Curry has been a character, up to now, that appeared to be content to carry the star protagonist’s burden without drawing the same kind of attention to himself that his co-stars have been, and Finals has done a decent job in getting us to think it hadn’t been wearing on him at all. It may be the kind of accelerated bildungsroman Silver has given us before, to varying degrees of success — I think of Aaron Gordon (Aaron Gordon) in NBA All-Star Chicago: Dunk Contest and the way that character aged before our very eyes over the span of 20 or so tense, self-aware minutes, akin to the antagonist in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’s misplaced choice of drinking chalice — but carried in the quiet, watchful performance of Steph Curry, his sudden bombast in ‘Game 4’ is believable.

We watch him make eye contact with the raving, green garbed men in the middle distance and we understand immediately that he has carried this series out of pride and, to a degree, a personal fixation on routine and that he is tired. Tired of being the failsafe, the good-natured workaholic, “old reliable”, and while that burden is a choice he understands, he won’t be bullied by a stadium’s worth of adults who pay solemn allegiance to a leprechaun.

Incensed, he flung the symbolic orange orb of human folly through the circle of protection 43 times.

This energy was picked up by actor-director, Steve Kerr, who barreled onto the parquet living room floor set of the ‘Celtics, Home’ demanding an act of “travel” had been committed. As an aside, it’s been very well-done by Finals’ writers to implement language and terminology unique to this universe so fluidly, without any clunky explainers.

“The heart on that man is incredible,” Klay Thompson (Klay Thompson) later said of his co-star, in a post-episode production that can still be counted as a cinematic extension of Finals, “The things he does, we kind of take for granted at times, to go out there and put us on his back. We’ve got to help him out on Monday.”

Klay Thompson’s allusion to help “on Monday” of course refers to the next episode of NBA Finals (Monday, June 13, 9pm ET/6pm PT), but before we get to ‘Game 5’ and whether the notes of emotion and intensity evident in Steph Curry’s arc remain at the forefront or revert to smoldering just under his exterior, we have to sift through some of the more confusing beats of ‘Game 4’.

For one, an actor who looked as if he may have just walked in from outside the studio to substitute as an extra, Nemanja Bjelica (Nemanja Bjelica), had a string of confusing moments three quarters of the way through ‘Game 4’. But upon rewatch, it appears he had been there all along.

It makes sense that Klay Thompson would allude to the absence of those around Steph Curry in ‘Game 4’ via a promise to be there in the next episode, given the real-time subversion on display by the person we’ve come to understand to be the final part of a ‘Warriors’ trifecta. Draymond Green (Draymond Green), at this point, can be considered an active saboteur. He continued the storyline that was building across ‘Game 2’ and ‘Game 3’ where it seemed he was hapless against what the bigger, better familial dynamics of the ‘Celtics’ had. We understand that this is a character not accustomed to being bullied or left behind, and yet we are seeing it again and again. Draymond Green has so far responded by retreating into himself, seeking refuge in putting a great distance between himself and the band he’s meant to be an important part of, but ‘Game 4’ saw this behavior heightened enough that the actor’s mother gave some thought to a theory in-line with one floated in my ‘Game 3’ review, that this is an alternate timeline version of the character. It’s a theory that holds water, mainly because in past Silver productions we’ve not seen this kind of drastic shift from a character. Though with the recent commercial flops of such sci-fi productions like Raised By Wolves and Terminator: Dark Fate, it’s a risky move for a studio with perennial broadcast concerns on the brain, echoed by the narrators at one point who cautioned after a late-episode performance by one of the ‘Celtics’ group was, “Understanding your customers”. Given the series narrators, though, it could have been a total misnomer.

Indeed, the narration of Finals continues to work in the abstract as a running commentary removed from the action of the series and the motives of its characters (for example, yelling “Bang!” as abruptly as someone might sneeze). But one did allude to not being able to “wait for the podcast” that Draymond Green would deliver. It’s another experimental move by Silver which feels, a little, like a move toward the literary tool of autofiction.

Though a lot of the storyline of ‘Game 4’ was centered around the ‘Warriors’ characters, their shortcomings and motivations, it left off with a feeling that the ‘Celtics’ side will be seeking their due next episode. With the setting slated for another change, back to the more demure framing of what’s been Finals’ interpretation of San Francisco, let’s hope that the most memorable thing in that reveal doesn’t turn out to be how much we miss the clamor and strain of all those furious green people.