Celtics-Warriors takeaways: C’s steal Game 1 with fourth-quarter explosion originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston:
There’s simply no quit in these Boston Celtics.
For a moment, Game 1 of the NBA Finals vs. Golden State looked like a repeat of Game 1 vs. Miami when they were derailed by a dismal third quarter. After taking a two-point lead into halftime on Thursday night, those third-quarter woes continued as they were outscored by 14 in the frame.
2022 NBA Finals simulation predicts bold outcome for C’s-Warriors:
The C’s did a 180 with a dominant fourth quarter, starting it with a 14-0 run and finishing it with 40 points while holding the Warriors to 16. They were unconscious from deep, shooting 9-of-12 on 3-pointers to put an exclamation point on the 120-108 victory.
The two teams combined to hit 40 3s, the most ever in an NBA Finals game. Al Horford, Derrick White and Marcus Smart contributed 15 of those makes from beyond the arc. Stephen Curry hit seven 3s of his own to finish with a game-high 34 points in a losing effort.
Game 2 is scheduled for 8 pm ET Sunday at Chase Center. Here are our takeaways from the Celtics’ thrilling Game 1 win.
Jayson Tatum takes a back seat:
There may have been some Game 1 jitters for Jayson Tatum, because the Celtics star could not find his shot throughout the contest. He was a putrid 3-for-17 from the floor and finished with 12 points. Nine times out of 10 that would spell disaster against a team like the Warriors, but not on Thursday night.
Tatum made up for his abysmal shooting night by making an impact as a playmaker. He dished seven assists in the first half, the most in a half of a player’s Finals debut: since John Stockton had seven: in the second half of Game 1 against the Chicago Bulls in 1997.
He finished with a career-high 13 assists and joined elite company in the process. Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson (14) is the only player with more assists in a Finals Game 1. Celtics greats Larry Bird and Dennis Johnson are the only other players with 13 in Game 1.
“I’ve talked to him all year about impacting the game when his shot’s not falling,” Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said after the win. “That’s what it was all about. He’s still defending. Still impacting the game on that end too.”
The Celtics are now 19-2 this season (6-0 in the playoffs) when Tatum has seven or more assists. To put the icing on the cake, Tatum was +27 during the fourth-quarter comeback despite not scoring a point.
Al Horford, Derrick White pick up the slack:
With Tatum struggling offensively, there was no way the Celtics were winning this game unless the supporting cast came to play. They definitely did.
Making his first Finals appearance hours before celebrating his 36th birthday, Al Horford was sensational. The veteran big man set a new career-high playoff with six 3-pointers, the most 3s ever by a player in their Finals debut.
“Don’t nobody deserve to be here more than him,” Smart said of Horford. “We knew it was only a matter of time for him to have a big game and continue to have a big game. He’s been that catalyst for us this whole year.”
Horford finished with a team-high 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting (6-8 3PT).
Also making an enormous impact in the comeback victory was backup guard Derrick White. Not known as a sharpshooter, White stepped up to score 21 off the bench and shoot 5-of-8 from long range.
Jaylen Brown sparks fourth-quarter run:
Horford and White helped finish the job, but it was Jaylen Brown who started the Celtics’ epic fourth-quarter comeback.
Brown bounced back from a rocky offensive performance and was lights out in the final frame. He hit his first four shots, including two 3-pointers, for a total of 10 points in the fourth quarter.
“I think that for us, the key was Jaylen Brown at the start of the fourth quarter,” Horford said in his postgame press conference. “With the way that he came out and played, with his energy. Scoring, but also Rob Williams gets a lob dunk. And I just think that was the start for us of something there.”
Brown ended up with 24 points while shooting 10-of-23 from the field. He also brought down seven boards and dished five assists in the win. His fourth-quarter effort was huge on a night in which Tatum could not find his groove, but Boston will hope to have both of his stars firing on all cylinders in Game 2.
Celtics defense adjusts to Stephen Curry:
Curry wasted no time to make his presence felt yet again on the big stage. Appearing in his sixth NBA Finals, the two-time MVP dropped 21 points in the first quarter and shot 6-of-7 from 3. That’s a new record for 3-pointers made in the first quarter of a Finals game. It’s also the: most points in a Finals quarter: since Michael Jordan notched 22 in the fourth quarter of Game 4 vs. Phoenix in 1993.
Led by Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, the C’s made key adjustments to defending Curry from that point on.
“This isn’t the Heat series. We can’t start back. We have to start up,” a mic’d up Smart said on the ABC broadcast. “Especially if they start so high, you start up then drop cause we’re chasing. Now he goes down into the paint.”
Curry went on to put up a goose egg in the second quarter. He’d hit one 3-pointer the rest of the way and finish with 34 points.
Boston won’t be able to keep Curry down forever, but the response to his first-quarter onslaught shows other Warriors will have to step up to win this series. In a battle between the NBA’s top two defenses, the Celtics won Round 1 handily.