Back in the NBA Finals for the sixth time in nine years, the Golden State Warriors wasted an amazing opportunity against the Boston Celtics, falling 120-108. Now down 1-0 in their best-of-seven matchup, the Warriors will need to come from behind in the series to end up raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Warriors star Steph Curry scored 21 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the field (6-for-8 from three) in the first quarter, seemingly setting the stage for an easy Dubs win. However, despite carrying Golden State to a 32-point quarter, it would have been even more productive if several other players, especially Draymond Green, had converted several open looks.
The Celtics had several defensive lapses throughout the first quarter, leaving Curry alone on multiple threes. Given their defensive struggles, they probably felt good about trailing just 32-28 heading into the second, when Curry got his first rest of the series.
The Dubs built a 10-point lead, but the Celtics answered with a 10-0 run of their own to tie things up at 47. Boston adjusted to Curry when he returned to action and held him scoreless in the quarter. Jordan Poole, normally tasked to step up when Curry struggles, was just 1-for-4 from the field with as many turnovers as points in the first half (2). Klay Thompson wasn’t quite as absent, but was unable to take over.
Otto Porter Jr. and Andrew Wiggins each offered some scoring punch in the first half, but far from enough to make up for Curry’s quiet second quarter. After both teams went back and forth, the Celtics led 56-54 at the half.
The Warriors had a more holistic offensive attack in the third quarter. Curry got back to adding to his scoring tally, while Kevon Looney and Green nabbed several offensive rebounds to give the Dubs second-chance opportunities. On the other side of the ball, Celtics star Jayson Tatum remained a shell of himself offensively. Frankly, the entire Celtics squad struggled to create open looks against the Warriors defense. Golden State outscored Boston 38-24 in the quarter, taking a 92-80 lead heading into the fourth.
In the final quarter of regulation, the Dubs faltered with Curry on the bench. Poole’s abysmal play continued and the Celtics took advantage of him defensively. A few bad offensive possessions by the Warriors opened the door for a Boston counterattack led by Jaylen Brown.
A 7-0 run cut the Dubs lead to five and with 9:20 left in regulation, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr brought Curry back onto the court. Steph solved the offense’s problems, but Golden State found themselves on the wrong side of a three-point barrage. Brown, Derrick White, Payton Pritchard, and Al Horford knocked down threes on six out of seven offensive possessions (with Brown making a layup on the exception) taking a 109-103 lead with under five minutes remaining in regulation.
At that point the Warriors were panicking. Curry started playing like he had no one around him he could trust to make a shot and the Celtics were prepared for it, forcing the ball out of his hands. Wiggins and Green each failed to convert some open shots while the Celtics converted on the other end.
Boston went on an incredible 17-0 run to control the game, pulling ahead by 15 points in the final couple of minutes. After Curry’s explosive start and the Warriors seeming control of the game for most of regulation, the Dubs were pulling their starters and conceded.
Curry finished with a game-best 34 points on 12-for-24 shooting with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and just 2 turnovers. Wiggins (20 points), Thompson (15), and Otto Porter Jr. (12) were the only other Dubs in double-figures.
Horford led the Celtics with 26 points on just 12 attempts from the field. Brown recorded 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists, finishing the game with a game-high +22 plus/minus. It was arguably White and Marcus Smart, however, who made the difference for Boston. The secondary offensive contributors for the Celtics combined for 39 points on 9-for-15 shooting from three.
Now the question is will Golden State be able to bounce back? They wasted an obvious opportunity to control the series. Now they will be playing from behind for the first time this postseason. The Celtics, on the other hand, needed to win just one of the first two games to gain home-court advantage. They now can get greedy heading into Game 2.
Both teams will have two days of rest before facing off in Game 2 at 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.