• Full coverage: The 2022 NBA Finals
San Francisco – It was exactly the opening statement you might have imagined for the 2022 NBA Finals, but not the way it was done and maybe not the team that did either.
Here are five notes from the Boston Celtics’ 120-108 win in Game One, which immediately put the Golden State Warriors and the Finals on alert:
1. Experience… exaggerated?
There’s only one guarantee about the remainder of this series: You won’t hear any further talk of the Celtics also being, ahem, green in the Finals.
The Celtics got here with a bit of a break, they were going against a previously unbeaten team in this building in the playoffs, they were under 12 to start the fourth quarter, and they were staring at Stephen Curry, where Jason Tatum couldn’t get any buckets…and went on Warriors punched in the mouth. They are the first team to win a World Cup Finals game with a double digit after falling behind by two digits to start in the fourth game.
This is not a symbol of a group that has never consumed champagne in a tournament before. In this case, in this particular game, against the Warriors on a first-name basis with the Basketball of the Month for June, weren’t the Celtics supposed to collapse, cave, take their medicine and consider…inexperience?
What I saw was the blazing response of a team that was actually experienced under bright lights. A team coming out of a seven-game streak, winning a pair of knockout road games along the way, wasn’t afraid or interested in “trying” the Finals because, between the lines, that’s just another game after the season, coach Aimee Odoka confirmed.
“The message at the beginning of Message 4 was, ‘We’ve been here before,’” Jaylene Brown said. “We know what it takes to overcome a deficit like this.”
Around that fourth quarter (where Boston beat Golden State 40-16): Brown took charge from Tatum and Boston was decisively dominant on both ends, and this method of destruction left the Warriors in a shambles, because…
2. The Celtics beat the Warriors at their own game
Wait, come again? Did the Celtics really outsmart the young warriors and also shoot them from the depths? I definitely did, and I managed to throw the Finals and Warriors in for a loop.
The usual turns were reversed and the result was delivered in an unexpected way: the Celtics shot 51% of the game’s depth and made seven 3 seconds to start fourth. against the Warriors. Against Carey and Klay Thompson. This was a case of stolen identity. The tables turned and the heads of the warriors still turned from them. us too.
The Celtics took their toll at the moment of truth with Brown, Marcus Smart, Peyton Pritchard, Derek White… who shot 7 for 10 from the deep in fourth.
It probably isn’t reasonable to think the Celtics would ever shoot again, or even get that level of production from their role players en masse. BUT: They did just that for a match in the Finals, they stole it. It usually takes one stolen game to win the title.
“The rewarding thing is that we know we can play a lot better,” said Odoka. “We pride ourselves on being able to contribute to both parties.”
3. It wasn’t all bad for the warriors
Hey, Curry is on a mission to not only win the 4th Championship, but also her first Finals MVP Award. Wasn’t that evident by the way he started the game, and how he partially ended?
Curry doesn’t have a catalog of great Finals performances, which is why he also doesn’t have the MVP trophy. He scored 21 points in the first quarter when the Celtics, for some reason, played low coverage and went under the screens, leaving Curry looking open. He was on his way to finally getting 40 in this postseason (it came with a short six, though).
There was more: The Warriors were upbeat on the boards, with Kevon Looney, once again, keeping possessions alive with offensive bounces (six). Also, Otto Porter Jr. came back from injury to get 12 points off the bench and, along with Curry, was the only three-point shooter (4-5 3pm).
So this is really a bad fourth quarter for the Warriors. Until they prove otherwise, Jordan would give Paul more than nine points, and Thompson’s figure would be a better version too.
“We’re all going to play better in Game 2,” Curry said. “We have done it before and have great confidence in doing it again. This streak is just getting started.”
4. You can call him hungry
How is the old NBA saying go? Do not underestimate the heart of a first-time champion?
The Al Horford Comeback Tour is busy spreading pixie dust again, this time feeding the 36-year-old on Friday, here in the finals, where he hasn’t yet. After what he did against Bucks and Heat in the previous rounds, the big entry in the Finals shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Horford was at times the best player on the ground in the second half on Thursday, which was a bit surprising, given that he was on the field with two-time Kia’s former best player and young stars in their prime; Horford is not.
For the first time in this post-season, Horford (26 points) led the Celtics in scoring, but it was efficiency (9-12 FGs, 6-8 3PM) that topped every other points in his group. The way Horford plunged 3 seconds in time in the fourth quarter, he used traps defensively, essentially proving that the leadership the Celtics have valued since returning this season has been invaluable.
“I am grateful to be in this position,” he said. “Go out and play basketball well. That’s what it is.”
Here’s what he didn’t say: Horford probably thinks, deep down, he might never get another chance with that gold again, so he should take advantage now. And even if this isn’t necessarily true, perhaps the right mindset allows this drive – or desperation – to instill a sense of urgency within the aging player. If you’ve been catastrophic in Philadelphia next to Joel Embiid and then put on ice in Oklahoma City before heading back to Boston, you might understand why he feels a certain way.
5. The ball didn’t hit Tatum’s right
But if his playoff pattern stays true, the ball will bounce back to come Sunday.
This is what should worry the warriors. Not only did they lose a game with Tatum’s failures (3-17 FGs), but they should expect a solid response from Game 2. Tatum has been mostly fantastic in this post-season, although he had a few losers: a 5 for 16 shot at One match against the Nets, 4 for 19 in another match against the Bucks, 3 for 14 once against Miami.
Next game? He scored 39, 30 and 31, respectively.
The trapped and mutant warriors apparently tried to force Tatum to sacrifice the ball, which he did, mostly to achieve solid results. Tatum made plays for others, as his 13 assists proved… he couldn’t make plays for himself. He forced some shots, missed others while opening wide, and the Warriors would make that trade-off.
They didn’t expect White, a role player and 27% 3-point shooter during the playoffs, to score 21 off the bench and essentially cover Tatum. White might not be that effective again in the finals, but same thing, Tatum might not be that cool either.
All of this puts Boston in a great place. If Tatum bounces around in a big way in Game 2 – the Celtics usually win when they do – this series will quickly heat up.
“I don’t expect to be shot that badly again,” he said. “But if it means we keep winning, I’ll take it.”
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Sean Powell has covered the NBA for over 25 years. You can email him Here, find his archive here and follow him Twitter.
The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect those of the National Basketball Association, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.