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Warriors suffocating defense carries them to huge Game 2 victory over Celtics

The Warriors evened the NBA Finals at 1, setting up a huge Game 3 in Boston on Wednesday.

Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Well, whether Game 2 of the NBA Finals was a must-win game or not for the Golden State Warriors (*cough* it was *cough*), they evened the series with the Boston Celtics at 1-1 with a blowout 107-88 victory. Now, as both teams head to Boston for Games 3 and 4, the Dubs will look to regain home-court advantage by winning at least one of their next two games.

While the final score was lopsided, the Warriors did not dominate from the jump. Golden State did bring an even greater defensive intensity in Game 2 than in Game 1, but it’s not that simple in the NBA Finals. After Celtics star Jayson Tatum was abysmal in Game 1, missing countless open looks, he was unstoppable early in Game 2.

Boston had their two best players, Jaylen Brown and Tatum, making their shots in the first half. The Warriors would have easily been trailing in the first half of Game 1 if not for Steph Curry’s historic first-quarter performance. Yet despite far better all-around play from Golden State in Game 2, Tatum and Brown ensured the Dubs led just 31-30 at the end of the first quarter.

Still, Tatum and Brown were covering up some alarming trends for the Celtics’ offense, ones that would ultimately seal their demise. Boston committed seven turnovers in the first quarter alone, which the Dubs turned into 13 points.

Curry was the focal point of Golden State’s attack (shocking I know), but center Kevon Looney also got off to an exceptional start. Looney had 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 steals in the first quarter, using his length to cause problems for Boston in nearly every facet of the game.

In the second quarter, with Steph on the bench, Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson’s offensive struggles continued. While Curry returned with eight minutes remaining in the half (suggesting the Warriors were planning to play him 40 minutes in the game), Poole and Thompson killed the Dubs momentum. Neither Thompson nor Poole could convert their limited looks, and both struggled defensively.

However, Nemanja Bjelica and Gary Payton II stepped up off the bench to make up for Thompson and Poole’s struggles. Bjelica continued his strange trend of shutting down elite wing scorers, giving Tatum problems on multiple possessions. Payton knocked down a corner three, looking close to fully healed from his elbow injury, and was back delivering All-NBA Defense on the other end.

Curry led the Warriors with 15 points at the half, and even without a great second scorer, the Dubs led 52-50 at the break.

Golden State reaped the rewards of their smothering defense in the third quarter. Tatum and Brown’s shotmaking cooled, and players like Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and Derrick White did not generate any of the scoring punch they delivered in Game 1.

The Dubs slowly extended their lead while the Celtics tried to find some rhythm offensively. Then, in the closing minutes of the quarter, sparks started to fly. Curry knocked down back-to-back deep threes to extend their lead to 17, and Poole caught fire for the first time in the series. Just like that, the Warriors were ahead 87-64 and heading into the fourth quarter with an exclamation point.

Unlike in Game 1, there was no fourth-quarter heroics from the Celtics on Sunday. They trailed by more than 20 points for almost the entirety of the quarter. Both teams pulled their starters with four minutes remaining in regulation.

Curry finished with a game-high 29 points and +24 plus/minus alongside 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and just 2 turnovers. Able to sit for the entire fourth quarter, Steph should be well rested for Game 3.

Looney was 5-for-5 from the field with 10 points and 7 rebounds in only 19 minutes of action. Poole, Wiggins, and Thompson also added double-digit point totals but were all quite inefficient from the field.

Draymond Green, who easily could have been ejected in the first half after receiving an early technical foul, had a moderate +7 plus/minus but filled the stat sheet with 9 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block.

After shooting 8-for-15 from the field in the first quarter, Brown and Tatum were just 5-for-21 shooting over the remainder of the game. Tatum finished with a Celtics-high 28 points, while Brown was second on the team with 17. White was the only other Celtic player to reach double-figures, scoring 12 points on 4-for-13 shooting.

With the NBA Finals even at one game apiece, all of the attention shifts to Game 3, where the Warriors will try to stop the Celtics from gaining a 2-1 series lead on their home floor. Both teams will have two days off before the matchup, which is scheduled to start on Wednesday, June 7th at 6:00 PM Pacific Time.