It was all going so well for the Golden State Warriors, but they did not account for a barnstorming fourth quarter fightback as the Boston Celtics stole Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Finals on the road.
The Celtics won by a comfortable margin, 120-108 by the final buzzer, after blitzing the Warriors in the final frame at Chase Center.
The Warriors have been noted for their third-quarter runs during their dynastic run and so it proved here. They outscored the Celtics 38-24 in the third to turn a two-point half-time deficit into a 12-point lead. But Boston fought back, and they did so with gusto, reducing it to three by the midway point in the fourth.
Then Derrick White nailed a three to tie it before Al Horford, who led the Celtics with 26 points, hit from range twice – either side of a timeout – to give them a six-point lead.
It was the start of a remarkable 17-0 Celtics run to take command of the series opener, and it came after they had to withstand a barrage in the first quarter from Stephen Curry.
Curry exploded in the first frame in San Francisco for 21 points. In doing so, Curry set a new NBA Finals record for 3-pointers made in a single quarter, eclipsing the previous record of five shared by the Warriors superstar, Ray Allen and Kenny Smith.
He finished with 34 points in the end to lead the Dubs, who dropped their first game at home this postseason.
The Celtics’ chief scoring option Jayson Tatum operated more as a facilitator, finishing with 12 points, 13 assists and just two turnovers but shot just 3-for-17 from the field. The other Jay, Jaylen Brown, helped take on the scoring load instead, with 24 points – including five quick points early in the fourth to reduce the gap – as well as seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block in an all-action display.
White also made a massive contribution from the bench, scoring 21 points including 5-of-8 from distance.
Marcus Smart scored 18 points with four threes for Boston. The Celtics point guard and Defensive Player of the Year took criticism from Steve Kerr for what the Golden State coach called “a dangerous play” lunging at Curry’s left foot on March 16 in a 110-88 Boston rout that sidelined the 2021 scoring champion for a month before his return in Game 1 of the first round facing Denver.
Andrew Wiggins had 20 points and Klay Thompson had 15 for the Warriors, who completely lost their way in the fourth despite boasting much more experience than their opponents. The Celtics didn’t have a single player who has appeared in the NBA Finals before in their lineup.
It was the most experienced member of Boston’s young squad, Horford, who led the way as their remarkable fourth-quarter surge was enough to take Game 1.
The Celtics are looking to capture their record-breaking 18th title, which would move them past the Lakers, and now are just three wins away from doing it.
The Warriors, who are looking for a fourth title in eight years, will have to win this one from behind after being 21-2 in their previous Game 1s under coach 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 said. “Boston played a brilliant quarter. They came in and earned the win.”
The series is now fascinatingly poised heading into Game 2 this weekend with the pressure now very much on Golden State to respond.