By midnight Thursday night, the National Basketball Association will either have a new champion or a seventh and deciding game on tap for Sunday evening.

Let Golden State win inside Boston's TD Garden on Thursday and the Warriors will win their fourth championship in eight years with the three-headed monster of Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

Such a victory would do much to cement the argument that the Warriors deserve mention as one of the NBA's best dynasties ever, and make them at least as likely to repeat a year from now as anyone else is to dethrone them.

However, let the Celtics win the next two — as they did in climbing from a 3-2 deficit against then-defending champ Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference semis — and not only will Boston edge past the Los Angeles Lakers for most world championships all-time, going ahead 18-17, but the Big Green will almost assuredly become the favorites to repeat in the spring of 2023.

So who wins this year? In a series in which every game has been decided by double-figures to date, is one team appearing to get stronger as another weakens?

Is Golden State's overwhelming advantage in Finals experience beginning to show against the Finals green Green, none of whom have ever reached the playoffs' grandest stage before?

Judging by the Warriors' 104-94 win on Monday night, it would seem Golden State appears more than ready to again hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy. For further proof of its apparent superiority, GS won this one with Curry having about as bad an outing as a potential series MVP can have one game after scoring 43 points in Game 4 and almost single-handedly willing the Warriors to a crucial series-tying win in Boston.

But not on Monday. Game 5, at least for Curry, was why the Boomtown Rats once sang, "I Don't Like Mondays."

The best long-range shooter ever scored but 16 points and failed to hit so much as a single 3-pointer for the first time ever in a playoff game, going 0-9 from over the rainbow. At least one video appeared to show him dealing with a possibly split fingernail, but whatever the cause for his poor shooting, it didn't result in a home loss because the Warriors are a little like the Atlanta Braves at the moment — a new hero steps up every game.

This time around it was Andrew Wiggins, who scored 26 points, hauled in 13 rebounds, had two assists, two steals and a block.

Afterward, Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of Wiggins, who joined the Warriors three years ago after an up-and-down career with the Minnesota Timberwolves: "We knew we needed his athleticism and defense and his versatility. We had no idea that he would make this kind of contribution. But I think it's a reminder that for every — almost every player in the NBA, circumstances are everything. You kind of need to find the right place, the right teammates, that kind of stuff. Wiggs has been a great fit."

Maybe it's Kerr's system that's a great fit, as well as his ability to tailor his offense to the talent he has on hand. Boston is bigger, stronger and arguably more athletic than Golden State. But no offense in the league executes better or moves with more beauty than the Warriors. Beyond that, maybe no defense has quicker hands, which Kerr's Kleptomaniacs have used to befuddle the Celts time and again.

Boston isn't dead yet. Just ask the Bucks, who were on their home court for what would have been a series-clinching sixth game, but lost that one, then lost the series finale at Boston. Or ask the Miami Heat, who were on their home court for the seventh and final game of the Eastern finals, but also lost to the Celts.

For all its sloppiness, Boston still has the tools to rally and win.

But the former Atlanta Hawk Al Horford, who's done so much to provide leadership and timely 3-point shooting to this relatively inexperienced Celtic squad sounded more defeated than defiant in Monday's postgame.

"Our backs are against the wall," he noted. "This is the time that we look at each other in the eyes and we got to figure it out. We have an opportunity now. Got to figure it out. There's no tomorrow for us."

Or there could easily be a Game 7 on Sunday. Between now and Thursday night, there may be more attention paid to a single split fingernail than any time in sports history.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at