SAN FRANCISCO (Fwrd Axis) — Boston Celtics Head Coach Ime Udoka had seen third quarter runs by the Golden State Warriors before but he also knew if there was any team that could weather the storm, it would be his.
Udoka was right as the Celtics rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Warriors 120-108 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals at the Chase Center on Thursday night. The victory by Boston saw them become the first team in Finals history to win by double-digits after entering the fourth quarter trailing by double-digits, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Golden State came into the game with 123 games of NBA Finals experience compared to Boston’s zero as they made their first NBA Finals appearance since 2008. Jason Tatum struggled, shooting just 3-for-17 and finishing with 12 points.
However, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford refused to let Boston lose as they opened the fourth quarter on a 17-0 run to take the lead.
“We pride ourselves on everybody being able to contribute on both ends,” Udoka said. “That’s rewarding, especially on a night when your best guy has an off night, others step up.”
Golden State outscored the Celtics 38-24 in the third quarter as Brown and Horford went 2-for-10 from the field. The Celtics committed five turnovers, fueling the run for the Warriors on the fast break.
“The message at the start of the fourth was, ‘We’ve been here before,'” Tatum said. “We know what it takes to overcome a deficit like that.
“Obviously that’s a great team. It’s not going to be easy. But just knowing we’ve been in that situation before and we’ve gotten ourselves out of it. We had a lot of time left, right? It wasn’t time to hang your head or be done, it was time to figure it out.”
The Celtics outscored the Warriors 40-16 in the final 12 minutes and went on a 20-2 run to build a 15-point lead of their own. Horford led the Celtics with 26 points while Brown added 24 points.
”I felt like the guys kept finding me time after time. Also Derrick White hit some tough shots there, too,” Horford said. ”I was just getting the looks, knocking them down. That’s that.”
Off the bench, White chipped in 21 points, hitting 5-of-8 three-pointers and Payton Pritchard added eight points.
Stephen Curry led the way for the Warriors, scoring 34 points in his return to the NBA’s big stage for the first time in three years. Klay Thompson added 15 points, Andrew Wiggins scored 20 points in his finals debut, and Draymond Green grabbed 11 rebounds.
”It’s not ideal but I believe in who we are and how we deal with adversity, how we responded all year, how we respond in the playoffs after a loss,” Curry said. ”So learn a lot from that fourth quarter, obviously, they made a lot of shots. It seemed like they didn’t miss ’til deep into the fourth. When you have a team that just finds a little bit of momentum like they did and they keep making shots, it’s tough to kind of regain that momentum.”
Game 2 is Sunday night in San Francisco.
As a team, Boston shot 51 percent from beyond the arc and Golden State went 42 percent from three. Both teams made a combined 40 three-pointers, an NBA Finals record.
“It just says what we’ve been doing all year,” Smart said. “We’ve been counted out all year. Rightfully so. We’ve had moments. But we continue to fight. That’s who we are.”
And “being who they are” has the Boston Celtics three wins away from an NBA championship.