The anatomy of the Celtics’ fourth-quarter comeback in Game 1 of the NBA Finals
Famous for playing with the energy and confidence that fuels their third-quarter runs, the Warriors did just that in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. They snagged 38 points on the league’s top-ranked defense while holding the Celtics to 24.
As a result, Golden State, a team yet to lose at home in the playoffs, entered the final frame with a 12-point lead. Boston scored the final points of the third quarter, thanks to a pair of free throws from Derrick White, but a comeback required urgency and there was little room for error. Otherwise, the Celtics would spend the days leading up to Game 2 kicking each other for how they came out of halftime.
Instead, they met the moment, clinching a hay in the fourth quarter, beating the Warriors 40-13 before the hosts added a three after both teams emptied their benches.
Jaylen Brown was at the center of that fourth-quarter takeover, giving them the quick start they needed, factoring in Boston’s first seven points.
The play below, a three for Brown, also highlights the Celtics chasing Jordan Poole, whom they will relentlessly target throughout these Finals.
The next possession demonstrates a problem Golden State had throughout Thursday’s loss and will continue to struggle with this series. The Warriors lack high-level perimeter defenders.
As for the next clip, Otto Porter, who performed well throughout the first game, is at a point in his career where it’s hard for him to keep up with Jaylen Brown. The result is Brown driving alongside him, getting into the paint, occupying Klay Thompson’s attention, and while Draymond Green knows what’s coming, he can’t stop that alley-oop at Robert Williams.
Shortly after, White attacked Klay Thompson off the dribble, driving deep into the paint. When White pivots, Porter sees him looking to the left slot, persuading him to break that way before realizing the ball is going to Brown. And with White leading Brown further to the corner, Brown gets a clean, rhythmic look at a three that barely grazes the net.
The Celtics’ comeback was not, and could not have been, strictly the product of what they accomplished offensively. At the other end, Boston got smaller and started changing more frequently. The Celtics big men also raised their starting point, meeting Stephen Curry higher on the floor as he came off the screens.
Here, Al Horford awaits Curry above the three-point line, a shadow below Kevon Looney’s pick. Horford and Jayson Tatum surround Curry, White tags the roll, Looney and Horford uses his length to stay connected to Curry and Looney. Perhaps the latter could have passed to the other side of the rim with more urgency, but the pass could still prove difficult. Instead, Curry gets up for a floater as Tatum drops on his face to contest the shot.
As for the impact of Boston returning to its preferred method of pick-and-roll defense, which is to turn on the screens, one of the benefits was getting the ball out of Curry’s hands.
In the game below, the Celtics don’t change the off-ball screen, which is really just Green catching his defender, Tatum. But when Curry breaks free from White, Tatum has no choice but to jump in to challenge his potential shot. This translates to Curry swinging the ball at Andrew Wiggins, who is fully capable of making that three, but the Celtics will live with that shot.
And while Boston’s defense limited Curry to four points in the final frame, his offense continued to penetrate the paint, move the ball and cut the deficit.
Here, Brown comes out of the corner and into the paint, prompting Porter to help wall his training as his man, White, drifts past the arc. Brown is strong with the ball and throws it down a line to White, who drills a three from the right wing to bring the Celtics within one.
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White, who scored 21 points and was outstanding in that game, continued to play a vital role in Boston’s comeback, cashing in a three with Curry in his jersey, tying the score at 103 with 5:40 remaining.
Next time on the floor, the Warriors are slow to adapt in transition. Tatum feeds the ball to White, who chases the baseline from the catch, keeping Porter close to the basket. It also forces Wiggins to zone two, representing Payton Pritchard and Horford.
The pass to Horford would have been more difficult, but Wiggins splits the difference between his two responsibilities, and he’s too far to break the basic pass. Pritchard then tosses the ball to Horford, who is unfazed by Thompson’s arrival and raising his hand, sweeping a three to put the Celtics ahead 106-103.
Another defining aspect of Boston’s comeback victory was that Golden State lived up to its reputation for not taking care of the ball. In the fourth quarter, the Warriors committed four turnovers, two of which were live-pitch type, leading to ten points for the Celtics.
And while overall the hosts were more effective at crushing the offensive glass, producing 26 second-chance points to Boston’s 15, none of those came in the fourth quarter before both teams emptied. their benches. Conversely, as the Celtics rallied, they tacked on six runs after earning an offensive rebound.
And with just under a minute to play, Tatum overtook a double team, giving Boston a four-on-three, where Brown drove the baseline and found a cutting Horford, which provided the exclamation mark. on the Celtics’ 120-108 victory in the game. 1 of the NBA Finals.
Tatum played most of the fourth quarter but didn’t score, which made the win all the more impressive. And while his shot didn’t fall, it didn’t negatively affect him defensively, and he did impact the result with his facilitation.
Tatum finished with 13 assists. Nine of them were on Boston’s 21 mark from beyond the arc, setting the record for most by any player in a Finals game. It illustrated the resilience of the Celtics and their ability to figure out what they need to get a win.
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