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The Celtics Caught Fire In The Fourth Quarter To Steal Game 1 Against The Warriors

After a three-day hiatus following the completion of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday, the 2022 NBA Finals tipped off on Thursday evening in San Francisco. The first half was incredibly entertaining and close-fought, with the Warriors seizing control with a trademark third quarter push. However, the Celtics had the last laugh, erupting for 40 points in the fourth quarter and taking a 1-0 series lead with a 120-108 victory.

The evening appropriately began with fireworks from Stephen Curry in his home building. Starting virtually with the opening tip, Curry was locked in, eventually draining an NBA Finals record six (!) three-pointers in the first quarter on his way to 21 points. His 21-point output was the most by any player in a first quarter during the NBA Finals in more than five decades, and it was a vintage performance.

Golden State’s offense, buoyed by Curry, was stellar in the opening quarter, pushing the Warriors to a 32-28 lead. Still, Boston seemed to dodge a far worse outcome, largely on the strength of quality offense (1.16 points per possession) to keep relative pace. In fact, the Celtics kept pouring in good looks, improving to 8-of-17 from three-point range after 15 minutes of action.

However, the Warriors used an 8-0 run early in the second quarter to build their lead to double figures, putting the Celtics on their heels. Boston then responded in kind with a 10-0 run to even the score, throwing haymakers on offense and finally stringing together a slew of stops on the defensive end.

The rest of the first half was a back-and-forth affair, with Boston taking a two-point lead at the break. After the 21-point explosion in the first quarter, Curry did not score in the second period, with Golden State’s offense slowing as a result. Both teams shot north of 40 percent from three-point range in the first half, but ball security was a challenge on both sides, as the Celtics committed seven first-half turnovers and the Warriors committed eight.

Exiting the locker room, the Warriors again asserted control. Golden State rode a 12-4 run to a 66-60 lead and, while the Celtics slowed the barrage, the Warriors weren’t done. The home team later scored seven straight points, opening up a double-digit lead midway through the period.

After a patented third quarter barrage that included 38 points, six three-pointers and only two turnovers, Golden State led by as many as 14 points and held a 12-point advantage after 36 minutes of action. Boston came out of the gate in the fourth quarter unwilling to wave the white flag, and Jaylen Brown was in a groove. The Celtics, keyed by Brown, scored the first nine points and slashed the margin to 92-89 in a hurry.

Despite some solid offense from Golden State, Boston kept it going to an obscene degree. The Celtics scored 29 points in approximately seven minutes to open the fourth quarter, including a run of six three-pointers in less than four minutes. That turned Boston’s deficit into its first lead in a long while, and the Warriors suddenly faced a 109-103 deficit.

Boston scored 17 consecutive points overall, taking advantage of scalding-hot shooting from Derrick White, Al Horford and others. That spurt came with the Warriors failing to score for nearly five full minutes and, in short, the game was over by the time Golden State put a shot through the rim. All told, the Celtics started the fourth quarter with a 37-11 spurt, making nine three-pointers, and it was an all-out blitz after Boston scuffled in the third quarter.

The story of the evening was the remarkable fourth quarter swing, but Boston’s long-range shooting was tremendous. The Celtics out-scored the Warriors by a 40-16 margin in the closing period and, for the full game, Boston shot 51 percent from the floor and 21-of-41 from three-point distance. That level of shooting can serve as a great equalizer in an unfriendly road environment, and Golden State’s offense went ice-cold at an inopportune time.

Horford led the Celtics with 26 points, including six three-pointers to set a new NBA Finals record in a debut, and Brown added 24 points. Marcus Smart scored 18 points and, despite a poor individual shooting night, Jayson Tatum finished with 12 points and a game-high 13 assists. For the Warriors, Curry finished with 34 points and the team connected on 19 three-pointers, but the closing kick simply never arrived.

On a night when the two teams combined for an NBA Finals record with 40 three-pointers, the Warriors also suffered their first home loss of the postseason. That result swings home-court advantage toward Boston and, if nothing else, Golden State will face immense pressure as Game 2 arrives on Sunday in San Francisco.