The Boston Celtics used a huge fourth quarter to down the Golden State Warriors 120-108 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night in San Francisco. Boston is now just three wins away from its 18th championship, which would break a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for most by a franchise in NBA history.
The Warriors took a 12-point lead into the fourth but could not sustain their momentum after a 38-point third quarter. The Celtics made their first seven attempts from three-point range in the final quarter and finished 9-of-12 from three in the period.
Meanwhile, the Warriors went cold in the fourth quarter, making just 7-of-17 shot attempts and committing four turnovers. It resulted in a 40-16 advantage for Boston in the period, the most lopsided fourth quarter in NBA Finals history.
Jaylen Brown sparked the fourth-quarter flurry for Boston, finishing with 24 points. Al Horford hit six three-pointers and finished with 26 points in his first NBA Finals game after 15 seasons and 141 previous postseason games. Derrick White added 21 crucial points off the bench for the Celtics. Flower Mound’s Marcus Smart scored 18 points with four made threes for Boston.
“I felt like the guys kept finding me time after time. Also, Derrick White hit some tough shots there, too,” Horford said during a post-game press conference. “I was just getting the looks, knocking them down. That’s that.”
Jayson Tatum was the lone Boston starter who was inefficient on the offensive end, finishing with 12 points on 3-of-17 shooting, though he contributed 13 assists.
Stephen Curry scored 34 points for Golden State in their first time back in the NBA Finals in three years. Curry was on fire out of the gate, hitting six threes in the opening quarter, the most ever in any quarter of the NBA Finals. He had 21 points in the first period alone, the most in a single quarter of an NBA Finals game since Michael Jordan scored 22 in the fourth quarter of Game 4 vs. Phoenix in 1993.
The Warriors took a 32-28 lead into the second quarter and maintained the lead until Brown, who attended the nearby University of California, Berkeley, for one college season, made consecutive baskets that tied the game at 47 with 5:03 left before halftime. The Celtics wound up with a 56-54 halftime lead. Both teams made 20 three-pointers combined by halftime, an NBA Finals first-half record.
Golden State exploded out of halftime with a 38-point third quarter, where they led by as many as 15 points. The offensive explosion in the third put the Warriors ahead 92-80 to start the fourth and appeared to set them on the course to victory.
Boston did not surrender, as Brown scored five quick points to start the fourth, then assisted on an alley-oop dunk to Robert Williams III as the Celtics pulled back within 92-87 less than three minutes into the period. Golden State’s lead was four points midway through the fourth quarter before Boston blew the game open with a 20-2 run that made it 117-103.
The Celtics became the first team to start the fourth quarter of an NBA Finals game trailing by 10 or more points and win. They move to 8-2 on the road this postseason.
It was the first loss at home this postseason for the Warriors and puts them in an unfamiliar position. Though this is their sixth finals in eight years after making five straight trips from 2015-19 and winning three championships, they had gone 21-2 in Game 1s during that span.
Golden State was also more rested, having a week off after winning the Western Conference Finals over the Dallas Mavericks in five games. Boston defeated the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals in a Game 7 on Sunday night.
Andrew Wiggins was the second-leading scorer for the Warriors behind Curry, with 20 points. Klay Thompson added 15 points, but it was not enough to overcome Boston’s role players’ balanced scoring.
“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 till 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 back in San Francisco.