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Curry cold cocks Celtics in crucial quarter, Warriors cruise to 107-88 win

The Warriors KO’d the Celtics in a 35-14 third quarter. This time, they didn’t let Boston get up off the mat in the fourth.

2022 NBA Finals - Game Two
Steph Curry hits a shot behind his fullback, Draymond Green.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors exploded in another huge third quarter against the Boston Celtics in Game Two of the NBA Finals. This time, they kept their foot on the gas pedal.

There would be no miracle comeback Sunday night after the Warriors blew the doors off Boston in a six-minute stretch in the second half, on the way to a 107-88 victory. After Grant Williams and Jayson Tatum hit back-to-back threes to cut the Warriors’ lead to 68-62, Golden State held them without a field goal for the next six minutes and 25 seconds. It was a 25-2 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters and completely put the game away for the Dubs. The Celtics finally got a layup from Aaron Nesmith, but only after a frustrated Coach Ime Udoka had pulled his starters with the Warriors up 29 points.

Steph Curry led the way with 29 points and five three-pointers in just 32 minutes. As promised, Steve Kerr bumped up his minutes early, but Curry was so dominant in his 14-point 3rd quarter that he earned himself a whole 4th quarter of rest. He scored 14, drew three fouls, and generally flummoxed a Boston defense that had made the Warriors work hard for their points for two quarters. By the end, backup center Daniel Theis was flailing at Curry and Poole at the perimeter, and Curry was D-ing up - he took a pass away from Al Horford that moved him to 10th all-time for steals in the NBA Finals.

Unsung hero Kevon Looney made both his shots, blocked one of Marcus Smart’s, and grabbed four rebounds in the quarter - he had 12 points on 6-6 shooting for the game, plus three steals and two assists. And while the Warriors let up just slightly in Game One at the end of the third, this time they forced a shot clock violation and a wild three-point miss, while Jordan Poole calmly drilled two three-pointers, the last one a near-NBA-Finals-record 39-footer.

Poole went for 17 points in the game, and matched Curry with five three-pointers, but it’s pretty clear that the biggest deal to him was catching up in the season-long shooting competition with Curry and Klay Thompson. “He’s capable of doing that. We shoot half-court shots every practice and shootaround, and we have a little competition going. If you make one during the game we count it, so he took the lead,” said Curry, who also praised Poole for sticking with his shooting and playing more under control.

There was some clear frustration early, as Poole absorbed a lot of contact from Boston without getting a whistle early, like when Theis hip checked him on the way to the rim before blocking his shot.

Poole often gets frustrated at the lack of calls, but a crucial moment came early in the second quarter, after Derrick White’s chasedown block/goaltend sent Poole sprawling, and he was whistled for a technical after lightly brushing White’s knee and he stepped over the prone Poole.

The refs went to video review and reversed the call, although after the game, Memphis Grizzlies Coach Taylor Jenkins announced that he and the Memphis medical staff had concluded that Poole injured Ja Morant’s knee on that play. Poole still struggled in the second, but came back refreshed and confident after Kerr sat both him and Klay Thompson for a long stretch in favor of Gary Payton II. Klay, struggling all night with 4-19 shooting (how did he not get to 4-20?), got benched after missing a shot and then missing Derrick White running wide open for a corner three. But he locked in defensively after that.

For Boston, it was a much better shooting game for Jayson Tatum, who shot 6-9 from distance and scored 28 points after Game 1’s 3-17 effort. At the same time, he logged the single-worst individual plus/minus in NBA Finals history with his -36 in 34 minutes. Yes, single-game individual plus/minus is a flawed statistic, but on the other hand, it’s also a hilarious stat that he will not be texting Kobe Bryant about. Jaylen Brown had 17, but he was a different player after scorching 14-point first quarter, where he shot 4-6 and hit three triples. For the rest of the game he was 1-11 overall, 0-5 from three-point range, and scored three more points.

The Warriors got an assist from the officials when Brown picked up his second foul after “negligible, negligible contact” on Gary Payton II when he missed a point-blank layup, something the Warriors specialized in during the first half. According to my count, they blew five uncontested attempts at the rim in the first quarter alone, possibly intimidated by the very idea of Robert Williams coming out of nowhere to block their shots.

The only Warriors unaffected by Williams was Kevon Looney, who jumps so slowly that it throws off Time Lord’s timing. But Williams left early after Marcus Smart dove into his knee in the third quarter. I sympathize with Celtics fans here. It’s really hard to lose an important player just because Smart launches himself wildly into their legs.

In general, Golden State got a lot more calls than they did in Game One, although Boston didn’t help themselves with all their take fouls, leading to multiple reviews for clear path rule violations - a rule that does not seem to ever be called in the NBA anymore, along with continuation. Was this game an aberration, or was it a bigger aberration that no Boston starter was called for a single foul in the first half of Game One? All I know is that when all a team can talk about after a game is the officials, after losing by 19 points, they’re stunned.

There was more fake controversy due to the aggressive play of Draymond Green, who got a fairly soft early technical foul after he drew a foul on Grant Williams after catching him in a bad defensive position.

Later, Draymond clearly antagonized Jaylen Brown after fouling him on a three-point shot, but in what world would this ever be an ejectable offense in the NBA? Ejected for pantsing an opponent? Come on. It’s not like Kane Fitzgerald was on the officiating crew.

Clearly the Warriors needed Draymond’s aggression, who set the tone by tying up Al Horford on the game’s opening possession. The Warriors lost the following jump ball because they always lose jump balls. Green’s aggression was especially necessary after a sloppy beginning to the game that saw them fall behind 13-5 early, turning the ball over twice and getting two shots sent away in the paint. It was 16-9 when Draymond did what veteran teams do when things are bogging down in the playoffs: Get fouled. He drew a foul on Horford on a layup, and after he missed the free throw and the rebound went out of bounds to the Warriors, he baited Tatum into fouling him on the inbounds pass.

Neither of those fouls turned into points, but with Brown on fire and Boston up 22-13, Green got fouled by Derrick White and hit both free throws. Brown’s foul on Payton put the Warriors in the bonus, and when Grant Williams fouled Curry to stop a fast break, the bonus meant Curry shot free throws. When the threes started to fall later - three straight from Curry, Poole, and Payton - the only one he’d attempt - the Warriors were in position to take the lead on Curry’s buzzer-beater.

GPII was stellar in his return to the playoffs, with seven points, three rebounds, and three assists in a surprising 25 minutes of play. He got a standing ovation from the Chase Center crowd when he checked in with 5:49 to play in the first. Payton was opportunistic as usual when it came to scoring, but his speed and defensive instincts were a huge reason the Warriors shut down Boston’s players outside of Tatum and Brown. With GPII, they contained dribble penetration better and did less of the scrambling and over-helping that Boston exploited in Game One. And they mixed it up on Boston, with Payton taking turns on Tatum, Brown, and Derrick White. The Celtics still shot well from three-point range - 15/37 for 40.5% shooting - but while they’re a great shooting and passing team, they’re not a great dribbling team. When the Warriors guarded the point of attack, the result was 18 Celtics turnovers.

Nemanja Bjelica also returned to the rotation with Andre Iguodala out, providing some valuable second quarter points. Andrew Wiggins also had seven points in the quarter, in a very good game from him that the box score didn’t quite pick up. He had trouble scoring inside, but he went ⅔ from three-point range and grabbed three offensive rebounds, and was very solid defensively, finishing with 11 points and six rebounds and a +19 plus/minus. Otto Porter Jr. had one of the best three-point games imaginable, supplementing his lone corner three (on his only shot) with three steals, three boards, and the team’s best defensive rating. It’s no shock that when Boston closed to six points, the Warriors got the ball to Porter.

After Game One, Draymond Green seemed unconcerned in the postgame press conference, going over the stat sheet and noting that Marcus Smart, Derrick White, and Horford had combined for 15-23 from distance. In Game Two, that trio went 2-7 from three-point range, and Horford didn’t take a shot until the third quarter. Tatum and Brown went for 45 points; the rest of Boston’s starters combined for six. Only White scored in double digits, putting up 12 points on 13 shots. For the first half, the team was a scorching 10-19 from three-point range, but shot only 7-25 on two-pointers. When they cooled down and shot 2-8 from deep in the third, it’s not surprising that they only got to 14 points.

Still, this game was won by Steph Curry’s brilliance on both ends of the court. After the game, Kerr credited his superstar: “Steph was breathtaking in that quarter. Not just the shot making but the defensive effort. He doesn’t get enough credit for his level of conditioning, physicality and defense.”

It’ll be different in front of the raging Boston crowd in Game Three, and Ime Udoka will surely have some countermeasures for the Warriors’ moves. But it’s pretty clear that Steph Curry is the best player on the court in these Finals, and as long as that’s the case, the Warriors are in good shape. After all, there’s never been a playoff series where Curry didn’t win at least one road game.