By Harvey Hoffman
Boston hit its first seven 3-pointers to open the fourth and outscored Golden State 40-16 to stun the Warriors 120-108.
In doing so, Boston became the first team in NBA Finals history to win by double-digits after entering the fourth quarter trailing by double-digits, per ESPN Stats & Information research.
And the Celts also stunned Vegas, which made them a 3 1/2-point underdog!
Boston has struggled the entire playoffs in the third quarter, and did again in Game 1, as it went up against a Warriors team that has historically dominated coming out of the halftime break.
The Celtics were outscored 38-24 in the third. They committed five turnovers. They let Golden State get going from 3-point range. And Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined to shoot 2-for-10 from the field.
“The message at the start of the fourth was, ‘We’ve been here before,'” Tatum said. “We know what it takes to overcome a deficit like that.
“Obviously that’s a great team. It’s not going to be easy. But just knowing we’ve been in that situation before and we’ve gotten our self out of it. We had a lot of time left, right? It wasn’t time to hang your head or be done, it was time to figure it out.”
The Celtics proceeded to do just that. It helps, of course, when a team comes out and buries its first seven 3-pointers, as Boston did. But it went beyond that. The Celtics finished the fourth quarter 9-for-12 from 3-point range.
Golden State, on the other hand, shot only 7-for-17 from the field. The Celtics stopped turning the ball over, putting up an absurd 12-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the fourth. Boston’s plus-24 scoring margin in the fourth quarter was the best in an NBA Finals game.
And the Celtics got contributions from up and down the roster, including Celtics coach Ime Udoka leaving the reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart on the bench for most of the fourth quarter, opting instead to ride Pritchard for the biggest moments of Boston’s season thus far.
“We pride ourselves on everybody being able to contribute on both ends,” Udoka said. “That’s rewarding, especially on a night when your best guy has an off night, others step up.”
Derrick White continued his brilliant play since the birth of his child early in the Eastern Conference finals, scoring 21 points off the bench and hitting five 3-pointers.
Al Horford, playing in his first NBA Finals game after previously being the record holder for playoff games played without a Finals appearance, had 26 points, six rebounds and three assists, including hitting all four shots he took in the fourth quarter — and set his career high with six 3-pointers.