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Celtics warriors score, takeaways: Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Boston steal Game 1 at Golden State

The Golden State Warriors went into the night unbeaten on their home court during the 2022 NBA Playoffs and for three quarters it looked like they would continue that trend in Game 1 of their NBA Finals series against the Boston Celtics. However, things changed significantly over the course of the final 12 minutes as the visitors entered the Chase Center and outplayed the Warriors 40-16 in the fourth quarter to walk away with a 120-108 win.

Stars from both sides came into action as Stephen Curry led all scorers with a game-high 34 points, while Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole combined for 44 points, nine rebounds and seven assists of their own. In the end, that wasn’t enough to surpass the performance of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Derrick White as the road team was able to claim home field advantage in Game 1.

Game 2 takes place in San Francisco on Sunday night.

Here are four key takeaways from the game:

1. Celtics steal it with an incredible fourth quarter

The Celtics entered the fourth quarter in serious trouble, losing 12 points to a Warriors team that was 9-0 at home in the first three rounds of the playoffs. And when the frame began with Jayson missing Tatum two easy looks to continue his brutal shooting performance, it didn’t seem like a comeback was in sight.

That’s when Jaylen Brown took control. As Tatum struggled, the Celtics put the ball in his hands and he started playing game after game. He scored or assisted on 20 of the Celtics’ first 23 points in the fourth quarter as they charged back and eventually tied the game at 5:40 on a 3-pointer from Derrick White that Brown assisted. It would be hard to say enough how important this stretch from Brown was. That was exactly the scenario where they needed him to step up and he did it in the biggest game of his career.

It looked like we were in for a frantic finish, but instead the Celtics just kept rolling. They outscored the Warriors 17-5 in the final 5:40, earning a double-digit win and a 1-0 lead in the series. The final record in the fourth quarter was 40-16 in favor of the Celtics. That 24-point lead was the largest in a fourth quarter in Finals history.

While the Celtics played well in all aspects of the game in the final frame, the key factor was their 3-point shooting. They made their first seven tries of the quarter from downtown and finished 9-of-11 in the depths of the fourth. Even more impressive was that they had five different players making a 3-pointer during this stretch.

“Just keep playing,” said Al Horford after the win. “That was our message throughout the game. They are such a good team. And for us it was just, you know, just keep playing no matter what. And our boys, we did that. It wasn’t our best game, but we kept fighting and found different ways to achieve this victory.”

2. White does it again

When the Celtics traded Josh Richardson, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2028 first-round pick to acquire Derrick White from the San Antonio Spurs, there were some who feared they were giving up too much for one man, who wouldn’t even be in their starting XI. As it turns out, they may not have given up enough.

White fitted in seamlessly when he came to deadline day and has continued to improve throughout the playoffs, particularly as Marcus Smart struggled with injuries. On Thursday night, White did it again with perhaps his best performance yet. He finished the tournament with 21 points and three assists, hitting five 3-pointers to a season-high and playing terrific defense all night. Plus-minus in a game isn’t always the best indicator, but white being a team-high plus-25 in that game is no surprise.

His ability to flit around the screens and stick with the likes of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole as they run all over the floor is the main reason he’s so important on this series. Any offense the Celtics get from him is a bonus, and they hit the jackpot in Game 1. This was only the second time he’d scored 20+ points in the playoffs, and he hit two massive 3s in the fourth quarter .

“[White was doing a] a little bit of everything,” said Celtics head coach Ime Udoka. “Obviously five against eight out of three. But play structure, shot formation and defense. They talk about how we don’t have a lot of dropoff when Marcus goes out and he comes in, his size and versatility on defense, his playmaking ability to include guys and be aggressive on offense was tremendous tonight.

3. Horford’s debut at the Finals was a smash hit

Al Horford has been in the league since 2007 and has made the playoffs in 13 of his 15 seasons. But until that run, he had never reached the NBA Finals. In fact, his 141 non-finalist playoff games was an NBA record. That drought finally ended Thursday when he stepped on the floor for Game 1.

He appeared to be feeling right at home as he drilled his first shot of the evening – a 3-pointer from Jayson Tatum’s feed. That shot foreshadowed what was to come as Horford hit a career-high six 3s en route to 26 points, six rebounds and three assists. Horford’s six 3s was not only a career high, but also the most for any player in NBA history in their first finals game.

“Just grateful for this opportunity,” Horford said after the game. “At the end of the day you just go out and play basketball. That’s it easy. Just grateful to be in this position. God put me in this position and it is something I embrace and rejoice in. I’m just excited to be able to share this stage with this group of guys. We have a lot of great guys here, guys who really believe in what we’re trying to do. It’s just fun to see how it all comes together.

Like many others, Horford was particularly great in the fourth quarter as the Celtics made their comeback. He went out on a perfect 4/4 for 11 points and hit the 3-pointer that gave them the ultimate lead with 5-10 points remaining. Much like Derrick White, defense is what the Celtics really need from Horford. When he scores like that, they’re very hard to beat, as Game 1 showed.

4. Curry makes history and then goes cold

Steph Curry made a 3-pointer for the first basket of the game that started a historic first quarter in which he made six 3s and scored 21 points. The six 3s was an NBA Finals record for the most ever scored by a player in a single quarter, and the 21 points was the most by a player in a quarterfinal since Michael Jordan in 1993.

While Curry still had to fire the shots, the Celtics’ numerous defensive errors were a big part of his early success. There were several possessions where the Celtics miscommunicated, leaving Curry wide open for a practice-level shot, and others where their bigs sat too far back in drop coverage.

As the game progressed, the Celtics adjusted defensively and did a much better job guarding Curry. His last line looks great — 34 points, five rebounds and five assists — but he’s done almost nothing after the first quarter. In fact, starting in the second quarter, he had more shots (16) than points (13). This is an encouraging sign for the Celtics.

5. Tatum becomes a playmaker

Jayson Tatum started Game 1 by bricking jumpers on each of the Celtics’ first two possessions, and his shooting night didn’t get much better from there. He finished with 12 points on 3 of 17 from the field for his least efficient play of the playoffs and second-worst efficient play of the entire season.

And yet he made a massive impact on the game, and the Celtics were plus-16 with him on the floor. Part of that, of course, was his defense. With all the other elite defenders on this team, Tatum sometimes gets overlooked, but his length and versatility make it very difficult for opponents.

The most important thing for Tatum on Thursday night, however, was his playmaking. The Warriors wouldn’t let Tatum beat them by going one-on-one. Tatum responded by making the right play over and over again. He wasn’t frustrated when his shot didn’t come off, he didn’t try to force action and get stuck in traffic, and he cared about the ball. As a result, he finished with a career-high 13 assists, which is also the most in the NBA history for a player on his Finals debut.

“Yes, I think it was kind of like that [Udoka’s] Message from day one just to challenge myself to be the best player I can be and improve other areas of my game,” Tatum said. “We’ve seen a lot of movies over the game season, just areas, things like me could improve. You know, obviously playmaking was one of them. Get a lot of attention. Just help the team as much as you can. So he’s done a great job challenging me, just the group, in that regard.”

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