NBA Finals: How the Celtics beat the Warriors in Game 1
A flurry of 3-pointers that cloaks the opponent in hopelessness and leaves them yearning for explanations from a higher power. Every time the ball splashes past the goal with no resistance from the rim, the bench players celebrate with deserved arrogance. A score run that has you examining the record books, unable to believe that something so heinous has ever happened.
That was supposed to be the tale of the Golden State Warriors’ return to the top tier of the basketball universe in the first-ever NBA Finals game at Chase Center. Instead, the Boston Celtics embarked on an unparalleled fourth-quarter run, fueled by hot shooting and perfect ball movement, to win Game 1 120-108 in San Francisco, emptying the Warriors.
Midway through the first quarter, Golden State’s unbelievable story was already being written. Stephen Curry was on an unstoppable tear that only he can put together, hitting 6-for-8 from 3-point range on way to a game-high 21 points in the first quarter. With little over two minutes remaining in the second half, the Warriors used a signature third-quarter run to transform a two-point halftime deficit into a 15-point lead.
Over the previous eight seasons of Warriors basketball, a 38-point third quarter has been a knockout blow for many an unfortunate opponent. It would be an understatement to suggest Boston reacted in the NBA Finals 75-year history.
When people think of the Warriors, they generally think about 3-pointers — Curry and Klay Thompson’s long-distance flurry are legendary in basketball. Boston, on the other hand, turned the Warriors’ most cherished weapon against them on Thursday.
In the fourth quarter, the Celtics outscored Golden State 40-16, a feat made all the more impressive by their 9-for-12 3-point shooting, which they poured down on the Bay Area and its supporters. They scored seven straight 3-pointers at one point, the latest one by Al Horford giving his side a six-point advantage that appeared insurmountable at the time due to the imbalance of momentum.
Given that Jayson Tatum, Boston’s best scorer and the Eastern Conference finals MVP, was restricted to 12 points on 3-of-17 shooting, including a box-and-one, the reversal was even more astonishing. His 13 assists, on the other hand, exemplified a Celtics squad dedicated to making the proper play, no matter how easy, and confident that it will ultimately bring favourable results, as supported by head coach Ime Udoka’s message.
“They are excellent at assisting and other such tasks. So, obviously, it’s as simple as drawing two, finding someone who’s available, and that’s it “After Game 1, Tatum remarked. “That’s exactly what I was attempting to achieve.”
It wasn’t just that the Celtics made 3s (21 for 41 for the game), but it was also how they lined them up. They moved the ball fast, entering the paint and kicking out to guys in ideal positions with even better passes. Take a look at this play, in which the Celtics complete four passes in six seconds, leading to an open 3-pointer for Horford, who established an NBA record with six 3-pointers in his Finals debut.
That ball movement reminds us of the Warriors, don’t you think?
Small-ball, a Golden State hallmark in the past, was again deployed by the Celtics to control the fourth quarter on both ends. Horford, Tatum, Jayson Brown, Derrick White, and Payton Pritchard were among the players on the court as Boston ultimately seized the lead. The Celtics had built a six-point lead less than three minutes later and had taken Warriors centre Kevon Looney off the court. The “Poole Party” lineup of Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, and Jordan Poole stuttered after seeming untouchable against the Denver Nuggets in the first round, but it was insufficient to repair the enormous breaches in the Warriors’ dam that the Celtics had ripped out.
The Warriors had no one to focus on because the onslaught was so extensive. In the fourth quarter, Horford, Brown, White, and Marcus Smart each hit two 3-pointers. One was added by Pritchard. For years, the Warriors’ motto has been “Strength in Numbers,” but it definitely applied to the Celtics on Thursday.
“We take satisfaction in the fact that everyone can contribute on both ends,” Udoka remarked after the game. “That’s satisfying, especially when your best guy is having a bad night.”
In the fourth quarter, the Celtics used a lot more switching and pre-switching on defence to minimise Curry’s shooting and the Warriors‘ penetration. The small unit also played with greater physicality, according to Udoka, and “seemed to wear [the Warriors] down a little bit.” Before the benches were emptied in the final minute, they restricted Golden State to 6-of-15 shooting in the fourth quarter, including 1-for-6 from 3-point range, and forced as many turnovers as the Warriors had assists. Overall, Boston’s small-ball lineup paid off, and it’ll be interesting to see how the series unfolds.
In some ways, it seemed fitting that the Celtics came back from a big hole in their first NBA Finals game — after all, their regular season was highlighted by an incredible switch-flipping feat. After a shaky start, they were tied for 25th place on Jan. 28. They went 26-7 with a net rating of plus-13.8 after that, five points more than the nearest opponent, and won the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed. The Celtics know how to respond because they’ve done so all season, and Udoka continued to preach resilience as the Warriors’ advantage grew in the third quarter.
“We’ve gone through a lot together. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, as well as a lot of losses. We understand what it takes to succeed “After Game 1, Brown stated. “From the top to the bottom, I offer credit to everyone in that locker room. We have a fantastic, tenacious squad on our hands. The strength of a chain is determined by the weakest link.”
The craziest thing about the playoffs, especially the Finals, is that it’s all about Game 2 as soon as the final bell rings on Game 1. Both sides will review the tape and make adjustments, knowing that the outcome of Sunday’s rematch may be quite different than the first. The Celtics, on the other hand, reaffirmed everything they’ve learned over the previous five months on Thursday.
“We can’t go too high or too low at the same time. We performed admirably, but we must replicate that level of intensity in the upcoming game, which we recognise “Smart said. “We’re all aware that this is a game of runs. You don’t go into a game intending to lose. Things take place. All you have to do now is figure out a method.”