SAN FRANCISCO – For the first thirty-six minutes, the Golden State Warriors were in prime position to set the tone for the NBA Finals. But the Boston Celtics had other plans.
After carrying a 92-80 lead into the fourth quarter, the Celtics outscored the Warriors 40-16 in the final period leading to a 120-108 win for Boston in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Golden State had the Celtics on the ropes, leading by as much as 15 points late in the third quarter. Teams that win Game 1 of the NBA Finals have gone on to win the series 70.7-percent of the time (53-22). Road teams that win Game 1 of the NBA Finals have gone on to win the series 47.1-percent of the time (8-9).
The Celtics are now in the driver’s seat, they have won four straight road games to improve to 8-2 away from Boston this postseason.
“Yeah, that’s kind of who we’ve been all year,” Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said. “Tough grinders, resilient group that we can always know we can rely on our defense to kind of buckle down when needed.”
According to Elias Sports, the Celtics’ comeback was the biggest in the finals after three quarters since Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls overcame a 15-point deficit to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 6 in 1992.
Stephen Curry scored a game-high 34 points in his return to the NBA’s biggest stage. Curry came out on fire in the first quarter, scoring 21 points on 7-for-8 shooting, including an NBA Finals record of six made three-pointers for a quarter. It was the most points scored in a quarter by a player in a finals game since Michael Jordan’s 22 points in the fourth quarter of Game 4 against the Phoenix Suns in 1993.
Curry finished 12-of-25 from the floor with seven three-pointers. He also added five rebounds and five assists.
“It’s not ideal, but I believe in who we are and how we deal with adversity, how we responded all year, how we’ve responded in the playoffs after a loss,” said Curry. “When you have a team that just finds a little bit of momentum like they did and they keep making shots, it’s tough to kind of regain that momentum.”
Andrew Wiggins scored 20 points in his finals debut. He scored six of the Warriors first 14 points. Klay Thompson had an average night, scoring just 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting. Draymond Green recorded a game-high 11 rebounds before fouling out with 48.3 seconds remaining in the game.
“Yeah, you’ve got to give them credit,” said Green, who shot 2-for-12 from the floor (started the game 1-for-10). “They made the shots when they needed to make them.”
Golden State is in unfamiliar territory: trailing a series. Coming into tonight, the Warriors were 21-2 in their previous Game 1s under Steve Kerr.
“It’s a different feeling. You obviously go into Game 2 with more of a sense of desperation. That’s all part of this stuff. We’ve been in this position before,” Kerr explained. “Boston played a brilliant quarter. They came in and earned the win.”
The Celtics rode the backs of Al Horford and Jaylen Brown in the fourth quarter. After Derrick White’s triple over Curry tied the game 103-103 at the 5:40 mark, Horford’s deep three-pointer on Boston’s next possession with 5:02 left in the game gave the Celtics their first lead since halftime.
“I felt like guys kept finding me time after time. Also, Derrick White hit some tough shots there too,” said Horford. “I was just getting the looks, knocking them down. That’s that.”
Horford blew a kiss to Warriors fans sitting courtside during the fourth quarter as time ticked away. Boston never trailed for the rest of the game.
Brown finished with 24 points, five assists and a team-high seven rebounds. Marcus Smart added 18 points and four three-pointers for the Celtics, who are just three wins away from their 18th championship in franchise history, which would move them past the Los Angeles Lakers for most wins in NBA history.
Tatum, who struggled from the floor on 3-for-17 shooting with 12 points, led the team with 15 assists. Boston had 33 assists on 43 made baskets.
The Celtics made its first seven three-pointers in the fourth quarter before finishing 9-for-12 from beyond the arc. As a team, Boston knocked down 21 three-pointers, tying the Dallas Mavericks for most three-pointers made against Golden State this postseason.
The Warriors made just seven shots in the fourth quarter.
“I think we had some costly turnovers. I missed a couple of great looks. Then they got some great looks from three,” Thompson said. “That kind of blew the lid open for them. Then you go 51-percent on 41 shots from the perimeter, it’s hard to beat a team that way.”
Boston took advantage of Golden State’s sloppiness by scoring 21 points off 14 turnovers by the Warriors. By the same token, Golden State mustered 10 points off 13 turnovers by the Celtics.
“I don’t think in any NBA Finals you’re going to have a margin of error,” said Green. “That’s what this team has to understand. When you get to this – when you get to this point in the season, this level, there is no margin for error. It’s two great teams, and the team that makes less mistakes is going to win the game, and they did that.”
Tonight’s loss snapped the Warriors’ franchise-high-tying nine-game postseason winning streak. Golden State falls to 54-12 at home in the playoffs dating back to 2015. The Warriors fall to 12-5 overall this postseason.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday night back at Chase Center.
Photo by Warriors/Twitter