Klay says it best
There's a long way to go. Golden State can tie this thing up on Sunday. There's no need to panic if you're a Warriors fan.
The Golden State Warriors entered the night undefeated on their home floor during the 2022 NBA playoffs and for three quarters it looked like they would continue that trend in Game 1 of their NBA Finals series against the Boston Celtics. However, things changed in a major way over the course of the final 12 minutes of action as the visitors walked into Chase Center and outscored the Warriors 40-16 during the fourth quarter to come away with a 120-108 win.
The stars for both sides came to play as Stephen Curry led all scorers with a game-high 34 points while Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole combined for 44 points, nine rebounds and seven assists of their own. In the end, that was not enough to overcome the performance from Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Derrick White as the road team was able to steal home-court advantage in Game 1.
Game 2 will take place on Sunday night in San Francisco.
Here are four key takeaways from the game:
The Celtics entered the fourth quarter in serious trouble down 12 points to a Warriors team that was 9-0 at home in the playoffs through the first three rounds. And when the frame started with Jayson Tatum missing two easy looks to continue his brutal shooting performance, it didn't appear as though a comeback was in the cards.
That's when Jaylen Brown took control. With Tatum struggling, the Celtics put the ball in his hands, and he started to make play after play. He either scored or assisted on 20 of the Celtics' first 23 points of the fourth quarter, as they came storming back and finally tied the game with 5:40 remaining on a Derrick White 3-pointer that Brown assisted on. It would be hard to say enough about how important that stretch was from Brown. That was the exact scenario where they needed him to step up, and he did it in the biggest game of his career.
It appeared as though we would be in for a frantic finish, but instead the Celtics just kept rolling right along. They outscored the Warriors 17-5 over the final 5:40 to pull away for a double-digit win and a 1-0 series lead. The final fourth-quarter tally was 40-16 in favor of the Celtics. That 24-point margin was the largest in a fourth-quarter in Finals history.
While the Celtics played well in all aspects of the game in the final frame, the key factor was their 3-point shooting. They made their first seven attempts of the quarter from downtown and finished 9-of-11 in from deep the fourth. Even more impressive was that they had five different players make a 3-pointer during that stretch.
"Just continue to play," Al Horford said after the win. "That was our message throughout the whole game. They're such a good team. And for us, it was just, you know, continue to play no matter what. And our guys, that's what we did. It wasn't our best game, but we continued to fight and find different ways to get this win."
When the Celtics traded Josh Richardson, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2028 first-round pick swap to acquire Derrick White from the San Antonio Spurs, there were some who worried that they gave up too much for a guy who wouldn't even be in their starting lineup. As it turns out, they may not have given up enough.
White fit in seamlessly when he arrived at the deadline and has stepped up time and again during the playoffs, especially when Marcus Smart was dealing with injuries. On Thursday night, White did it again with perhaps his best performance yet. He finished with 21 points and three assists, knocked down a season-high five 3-pointers and played stellar defense all night long. Single-game plus-minus isn't always the best indicator, but White being a team-high plus-25 in this game is no surprise.
His ability to dart around screens and stick with the likes of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole while they run all over the floor is the primary reason he's important in this series. Any offense the Celtics get from him is a bonus, and they hit the jackpot in Game 1. This was just the second time he's scored 20-plus points in the playoffs, and he hit two massive 3s during their fourth-quarter run.
"[White was doing a] little bit of everything," Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said. "Obviously going five for eight from three. But playmaking, shot-making and defense. You talk about we don't have much drop-off when Marcus goes out and he comes in, his size and versatility on the defensive end, playmaking ability to get guys involved and be aggressive on offense was huge tonight."
Al Horford has been in the league since 2007 and has made the playoffs in 13 of his 15 seasons. But until this run, he had never made the NBA Finals. In fact, his 141 playoff games without a Finals appearance were an NBA record. That drought finally came to an end on Thursday, as he stepped onto the floor for Game 1.
He looked right at home, as he drilled his first shot of the night -- a 3-pointer off the feed from Jayson Tatum. That shot foreshadowed what would come, as Horford made a career-high six 3s en route to 26 points, six rebounds and three assists. In addition to being a career-high, Horford's six 3s were also the most by any player in NBA history in their first Finals game.
"Just grateful for this opportunity," Horford said postgame. "It's just going out there and playing basketball at the end of the day. That's just what it is. Just grateful to be in this position. God has put me in this position, and it's something that I embrace and I'm excited about. Just excited to be able to share this stage with these group of guys. We have a lot of great guys here, guys that have really bought into what we're trying to do. It's just fun to see all that come together."
Like many others, Horford was especially great in the fourth quarter as the Celtics made their comeback. He went a perfect 4-of-4 from the field for 11 points and hit the 3-pointer that gave them the lead for good with 5:10 remaining. Much like Derrick White, defense is what the Celtics really need from Horford. When he's scoring like this it makes them very tough to beat, as Game 1 showed.
Steph Curry made a 3-pointer for the first basket of the game, which started a historic first quarter in which he made six 3s and scored 21 points. The six 3s were an NBA Finals record for the most ever made in a single quarter by one player, and the 21 points were the most a player has had in a Finals quarter since Michael Jordan in 1993.
While Curry still had to make the shots, the Celtics' numerous defensive lapses were a big part of his early success. There were multiple possessions where the Celtics miscommunicated and left Curry wide open for a practice-level shot and others where their bigs were sitting too far back in drop coverage.
As the game went along, the Celtics settled in defensively and did a much better job guarding Curry. His final line looks great -- 34 points, five rebounds and five assists -- but he did almost nothing after the first quarter. In fact, he had more shots (16) than points (13) from the second quarter on. That's an encouraging sign for the Celtics.
Jayson Tatum started Game 1 by bricking jumpers on each of the Celtics' first two possessions, and his shooting night didn't get much better from there. He finished with 12 points on 3 of 17 from the field for his least efficient game of the playoffs, and second-least efficient game of the entire season.
And yet, he still had a massive impact on the game, and the Celtics were plus-16 with him on the floor. Part of that was his defense, of course. With all the other elite defenders on this team, Tatum gets overlooked at times, but his length and versatility makes it very difficult for opponents.
The main thing for Tatum on Thursday night, though, was his playmaking. The Warriors weren't going to let Tatum beat them by playing one-on-one. Tatum responded by making the right play time and again. He didn't get frustrated when his shot wasn't falling, he didn't try to force the action and get stuck in traffic and he took care of the ball. As a result, he finished with a career-high 13 assists, which were also the most in NBA history for a player in their Finals debut.
"Yeah, I think that was kind of [Udoka's] message from day one, just to challenge me to be the best player that I can be and improve other areas of my game," Tatum said. "We watched a lot of film throughout the course of the season of games, just areas, things I could improve on. You know, obviously play-making was one. Drawing a lot of attention. Just help the team out as much as possible. So he's done a great job with challenging myself, just the group, in that aspect."
There's a long way to go. Golden State can tie this thing up on Sunday. There's no need to panic if you're a Warriors fan.
The Warriors won the offensive rebounding battle 12-7, but more importantly, they almost always turned their offensive rebounds into points. That's an issue Al Horford wants to address. "We have to better for next game making sure that we're not giving up so many second-chance points," Horford said.
"We've always embraced challenges, no different we embrace this," Draymond Green said. "So no, it's not a hit to the confidence at all." The Warriors have never won a Finals in which they lost Game 1. They'll have to change that stat if they hope to win the championship.
There's a lot of basketball left to be played here, and Boston has taken its foot off of the gas pedal before. The Celtics should have won Games 3 and 5 of the Bucks series at home. They should've closed Miami out at home in Game 6. They know the Warriors are going to fight back.
Steve Kerr's team is usually the one overwhelming opponents from behind the arc, not the other way around. But Boston had one of the best shooting nights in Finals history, and that's what carried them through Game 1. "They were moving the ball really well and they had us on our heels."
Boston trailed Brooklyn in the fourth quarter of Game 1.
Boston trailed Milwaukee in the fourth quarter of Game 4.
Boston overcame 2-1 series deficits against the Bucks and Heat.
"That's kind of who we've been all year," Celtics coach Ime Udoka said after the Game 1 comeback. "tough, grinders, a resilient group."
Remember, Nemanja Bjelica hit a completely meaningless 3-pointer with 16.4 seconds left. If he'd missed that shot, Boston wins the fourth quarter by 27 points and the Celtics have this record to themselves. It was THAT bad for Golden State in the fourth. Now they'll have to respond in Game 2.
It's one thing to come back from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter, but it's another thing to completely turn the game around in the process. The Celtics didn't just come back and squeak out a win; they've pulled away and put the game totally out of reach. Just a remarkable fourth quarter from the Celtics, who have made nine 3-pointers in the fourth
With the starters set to exit the game, the final tally in the competitive portion of the fourth quarter of Game 1 was 40-13. That's a 27-point win for Boston. My. God.
The Warriors have played defense all night as though Marcus Smart 3's done bother them. Well, Smart's 3 on that possession might have just been the clincher for the Celtics. At 114-103, the Warriors look cooked.
Boston making seven 3's in a row isn't sustainable. Sometimes, the other team just gets crazy hot. But the Warriors would still be leading this game if their offense hadn't fallen off of a cliff. This tends to happen to the Warriors against great switching defenses. When their off-ball stuff gets taken away, the Warriors look frighteningly pedestrian. It's how Cleveland won the 2016 Finals, and it's how Boston has swung this fourth quarter tonight.
All of a sudden, the Celtics have a lead to hold on to down the stretch. That's good, of course, but they've struggled in this position during the playoffs, in large part because they slow down on offense and start getting iso heavy. They need to keep running regular offense here
In the first 15 games of the playoffs, Derrick White shot 10-for-48 (20.8 percent) from 3-point range. White is 11-for-17 since then, including 5-for-7 tonight. What an incredible turnaround, and at the best time for Boston.
A few shots ago, Derrick White made the 35th 3-pointer of the game. That sets a new Finals record, and there's still plenty of basketball to play. Both sides have made 18 3-pointers in this game. It's a truly special shooting performance on both sides.
The Warriors jumped out to a big lead thanks to their strong 3-point shooting, but the Celtics have turned the tables in the fourth quarter. They are a remarkable 6-6 from downtown to start the frame, including two clutch makes from Derrick White, who is up to 21 points on the night. All of a sudden the Celtics are in front
It's a minor thing, but the Warriors have been killing teams with one specific play for like eight years. Essentially, it is a Stephen Curry-Draymond Green pick-and-roll in which Green screens for Curry, the defense traps Curry, Curry makes the pass to Green as a short-roller, and then Green kicks it out to Andre Iguodala in the corner when Iguodala's defender acts as the low-man defensively. In a fun twist, the Warriors just ran it in reverse: Iguodala screened, Green cut from the corner, two points.
Jayson Tatum has already missed two great looks to start the fourth, so it might just not be his night. With Tatum struggling, the Celtics have put the ball in Jaylen Brown's hands, and he's stepped up in a major way. He just scored five quick points and then drove inside to find Williams for a lob to cut the deficit to five. Huge stretch there for the Celtics to get back in the game. They should keep playing through Brown while he has it going
We covered how vulnerable Golden State is when Curry rests in the first half, but the Warriors won that first stint without Steph by two points. They haven't been so lucky this time around, as Boston just rolled through a quick 7-0 run to cut a 12-point lead down to five in two-and-a-half minutes. Don't be surprised if Curry returns to the game early after this timeout.
According to the website Cleaning The Glass, the Celtics are scoring 98.5 points per 100 halfcourt plays, while the Warriors are scoring 100.0 points per 100 halfcourt plays. There's not some crazy transition disparity, either. The difference in the game is that Golden State has rebounded almost half of its misses and has scored 23 second-chance points to Boston's 9.
Let's take a look at Golden State's third quarters in the Finals, year-by-year:
2015: Warriors plus-1
2016: Warriors minus-4
2017: Warriors plus-6
2018: Warriors plus-23
In that sense, the notion that the Warriors always dominate the third quarter in the Finals seems a bit anecdotal. We've seen it in so many individual games that we've forgotten the worst of it. Boston will win some third quarters in this series. But tonight? We got the obligatory avalanche as the Warriors won it by 16.
Tatum has done a great job playmaking, but at a certain point you need your best players to score if you want to win. So far, Tatum hasn't done that. He has 12 points on 3 of 14 from the field and just missed a wide open 3-pointer with no one within 10 feet. He needs to wake up for the fourth quarter if they want any hope of making a comeback
Boston doesn't usually play this small. They sometimes use Marcus Smart and Derrick White together, but White and Payton Pritchard is a pretty rare lineup combination just due to their size and Pritchard's defensive limitations. Golden State just tried to take advantage of it with a small-small pick-and-roll meant to isolate Pritchard on Curry. Curry passes out of it, and the Warriors get free throws as a result.
It was a slow start for Jordan Poole, and that contributed to Boston's strong second quarter. But Poole just pulled up from 30 feet and drilled a 3 to remind Boston's defense of just how far his range extends. Curry and Thompson already stretch the defense. When Poole is making shots like that, it removes any possible reprieve the Celtics might have. As long as one of those shooters is on the floor, the Celtics are in danger.
The Celtics have had problems rebounding throughout the playoffs -- one downside of switching -- and they still haven't solved anything. They are getting crushed so far as the Warriors have 10 offensive rebounds and 19 second-chance points. Giving this electric Warriors offense extra chances is never going to end well. The Celtics have to rebound if they want to win
Kevon Looney: four offensive rebounds
Boston Celtics: four offensive rebounds
Just a reminder that Kevon Looney had 30 offensive rebounds in his previous six playoff games combined. This is an incredible stretch he's on.
Look, Draymond Green is never going to get proper appreciation for his offense because he doesn't score points and because he's such a historically incredible defender, but go back and watch that last possession when you get a chance. Draymond collects the short-roll pass from Curry, immediately kicks it back to Wiggins for an open 3 and then collects two offensive rebounds in a row. There are very few better blank space offensive players in basketball than Green. He finds ways to make himself useful even when defenses know that he's not a shooting threat.
Turnovers have been a key indicator for the Celtics during the playoffs, and they did a pretty good job taking care of the ball in the first half. However, they're getting a bit sloppy to start the second half. They already have two turnovers in the first two minutes. You can't afford to make it easy for the Warriors
Golden State has been the best third-quarter team in the NBA for years, especially at home. They were a league-best plus-232 in third quarters in the regular season, and they were plus-180 in home third quarters. This is what Golden State has been doing for their entire run. They started the third quarter on an 8-2 run, and now it's up to Boston to respond.
The Celtics got off to a rough start on the defensive end. They were giving up way too many open 3s, especially to Steph Curry, and seemed a bit unsure at times about who was guarding who off the Warriors' movement. That changed at the end of the second half. They were spectacular over the final few minutes, and as a result go into the break with the lead
Remember when Stephen Curry went scoreless in the first half of Game 6 against Houston in 2019, but then exploded to lead the Warriors to a win in the second? Yea, this game has been the opposite of that. Curry has 21 points... but all of them came in the first quarter.