1. Yeah, that happened.
It really happened.
It wasn’t a dream.
After a back-and-forth first half, the Celtics held a 56-54 lead at the break. Then, as is prone to happen, the third quarter went off the rails.
Golden State outscored Boston 38-24 in the third quarter and built a lead as large as 15 points. Things weren’t looking great for the Celtics.
But as they are prone to do, Team Resiliency bounced back once again. And this time they did it in a major way.
The Celtics outscored the Warriors 40-16 in the fourth quarter in a dominating display of two-way basketball.
Some numbers from the fourth quarter:
· The Celtics shot 15-of-22 overall, including 9-of-12 from behind the arc
· Boston had 12 assists on 15 fourth-quarter baskets
· The Celtics had just one turnover
· Golden State shot 7-of-17 overall, including 2-of-8 on three-pointers
· The Warriors had four turnovers
· After piling up 11 offensive rebounds in the first three quarters, the Warriors had just one to close the game
Complete and utter dominance to close the game. With 5:40 to play in the game, Golden State took a 103-100 lead on Stephen Curry layup. Boston had closed the gap, but needed to get over the hump.
Boy, did they ever get over the hump.
The next time the Warriors scored, it was over five-and-a-half minutes later to break a 17-0 Celtics run. By then, the game was over, and Boston was cruising to a 1-0 Finals lead.
2. There were a lot of heroes for the Celtics, but Boston doesn’t win the game without Jaylen Brown willing them to victory to open the fourth quarter.
Brown either scored or assisted on the Celtics first 14 points of the quarter. Overall, Brown scored or assisted on 22 of the Celtics 40 points in the final period.
He got it started with this midrange step-back over Draymond Green:
A couple of trips later, Brown was in rise-and-fire mode for the three over Jordan Poole:
The next time down, Brown executed the Rob Lob perfectly:
After the Warriors called timeout, Brown helped to blow up their ATO and hit Payton Pritchard with the perfect pass for a fastbreak layup:
Because he was dialed in, it’s unlikely Brown even saw the defense here as he drilled this contested triple:
This stretch was the most dominant basketball Brown has ever played, and it came on the biggest stage possible. He simply would not be denied and impressed his will upon the game.
3. Jaylen Brown did the heavy lifting early in the quarter, and Al Horford saved his best work for last.
Horford scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, which included a stretch where he scored or assisted on 14 of Boston’s final 17 points.
This shot gave the Celtics a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. It starts with Derrick White’s drive-and-kick, followed by Payton Pritchard drawing the defense just enough to open Horford up for the three:
The Warriors called timeout following the above play. Just like earlier in the quarter, Boston blew up the ATO. This time it was Horford causing the steal before drilling the trail three-pointer:
Horford was feeling it and didn’t hesitate to drop in this midrange jumper off the pass from Jayson Tatum:
After getting killed on the offensive glass for the first 36 minutes, Horford did the damage the other way. This was a big-time offensive board before finding Marcus Smart for a dagger triple:
A couple of minutes later, Boston had some really good ball and player movement before Horford was flexing on them with the capper and-1:
26 points, six rebounds, three assists and some great defense. Pretty nice for your first ever Finals game.
4. Another big factor in the Celtics comeback was Derrick White. The new dad drilled 5-of-8 from behind the arc. This one was a nice job by White to get himself out of the way and back to the arc to give Jaylen Brown an outlet:
This one was an absurd late-clock make with Stephen Curry all over White:
21 points, three assists and some outstanding defense on Curry from White in the big win.
5. In his own words, Jayson Tatum “shot terribly”. But postgame Tatum also talked about how Ime Udoka has challenged him to impact the game in other ways when his shot isn’t falling. Tatum set a Finals-debut record with a career-high 13 assists.
Tatum did most of his stuff by either directly drawing two, or drawing the attention of extra defenders. Attacking Kevon Looney off the dribble here attracts Stephen Curry, which opens up Marcus Smart for three:
Derrick White is the guy to help off here, but if he’s wide-open, he’s been knocking them down. Tatum creates that space for White on this play:
A couple of trips later, Tatum’s gravity as a driver helps open up Daniel Theis for the corner three:
On this play, the Warriors haven’t lost the lead yet, but look at their collective reactions and shoulders slumping. It was like they knew they were in trouble:
Tatum’s final and career-high 13th assist came on a play where he showed great patience. Tatum drives here, but there’s nothing there. He calmly pulls it back out, sets it back up and finds Marcus Smart for another big three-pointer:
6. We called out the turnover battle as one to watch. And it was key to this game. Boston forced 14 Golden State Warriors, against 13 of their own. But the Celtics forced more live-ball turnovers and scored 21 points off turnovers, while the Warriors had just 10.
This will continue to be a stat to monitor throughout the series and often will be telling as to who wins the games.
7. Winning in transition is big in this series, because both defenses are generally pretty good when they can lock in. The Celtics pace was really solid and they ran when they could.
Playing some great transition defense helps too. Jaylen Brown misses the jumper to start this play. He doesn’t hang his head. He busts back for the block and then he finishes with a hammer of his own on the other end:
A little later, this is good defense by Daniel Theis at the rim to trigger the play. Good up-quick pass by Payton Pritchard to help Jayson Tatum get the and-1 layup:
Not pouting was a major theme for Boston in Game 1. Tatum misses here, but he doesn’t sulk or clap his hands. He gets up on Jordan Poole and swipes the ball before setting up Brown for the layup:
8. Boston’s ball movement was on point all game. They had a whopping 33 assists on 43 baskets. Jayson Tatum was the leader with 13 dimes, but five other Celtics had at least three assists.
This isn’t a fastbreak, but Tatum does a good job getting Al Horford the ball before the Warriors could set their defense:
Derrick White and Al Horford have developed pretty good chemistry in the pick-and-roll game:
This play is the multiple attack, drive-and-kick, drive-and-kick again stuff that Ime Udoka has preached since September:
Fake pin-down to get your big man a three? Why not?
And once again, Horford benefitted from some great passing against a scrambling defense:
9. Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Finals was Marcus Smart’s moment in many ways. Before he drilled two three-pointers to basically put Game 1 to bed, Smart did this on the biggest stage. If he missed, you shake your head. But you Love and Trust him because of stuff like this:
10. So…yeah…that happened.
But as the Celtics said, to a man, following the game: there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Boston’s defense had some major issues early in the game. The offense went in one of those third quarter slumps we’ve seen all too often. The rebounding was an issue for the first three quarters.
But that’s all stuff the Celtics will work on over the two days in between games. Ime Udoka will have a plan, because he has all year long.
For fans, this isn’t a culmination. Not even close. The job isn’t done yet.
But it was an announcement to the entire world that the Celtics are for real. They’re battle-tested. They’re tough. They’re resilient. And they aren’t going anywhere until the buzzer sounds.
Game 2 of the 2022 NBA Finals is on Sunday, June 5 in San Francisco at 8:00 PM ET on ABC.