Jaylen Brown fueled a comeback charge and scored 24 points, Al Horford hit six three-pointers and the Boston Celtics rode the most lopsided fourth quarter in NBA Finals history to a 120-108 victory over the Golden State Warriors in game one.
Horford finished with 26 points and the Celtics outscored the Warriors 40-16 in the final 12 minutes after trailing by 15 points late in the third quarter.
Boston made its first seven tries from long distance in the fourth and wound up 9-of-12 beyond the arc over the final 12 minutes as almost everybody got involved in the 3-point flurry. Jayson Tatum was the lone Celtics regular who struggled offensively, finishing 3-of-17.
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Stephen Curry scored 34 points in his return to the NBA’s big stage for the first time in three years, but the Warriors couldn’t sustain momentum from a 38-point third quarter that put them ahead 92-80 going into the final 12 minutes.
Game two in the best-of-seven series is Monday AEST back at Chase Center.
The Celtics’ comeback was the biggest in the finals after three quarters since Michael Jordan’s Bulls overcame a 15-point deficit to beat the Trail Blazers in game six in 1992.
Derrick White’s three-pointer over Curry with 5:40 remaining tied the game at 103, then Horford hit from deep the next time down as the Celtics took their first lead since halftime.
The Celtics are looking to capture their record-breaking 18th title, which would move them past the Lakers, and now are just three wins away from doing it.
Brown, who starred at nearby California for one college season, made consecutive baskets that tied the game at 47 with 5:03 left before halftime and the Celtics led 56-54 at the break. Golden State then used a signature third-quarter spurt, pouring in 38 points to build a big lead.
Brown then scored five quick points early in the fourth and assisted on an alley-oop dunk to Robert Williams III as the Celtics pulled back within 92-87 with 9:35 remaining. Brown’s three at 8:22 made it 94-92 before Klay Thompson answered with a three of his own.
Andrew Wiggins scored six of Golden State’s first 14 points and wound up with 20 in his finals debut, Draymond Green grabbed 11 rebounds before fouling out with 48.3 seconds left. Thompson contributed 15 points as the Warriors began their sixth finals in eight years after making five straight trips from 2015-19 and winning three championships.
They’ll have to win this one from behind after being 21-2 in their previous series-openers under Steve Kerr.
“It’s a different feeling. You obviously go into game two with more of a sense of desperation. That’s all part of this stuff. We’ve been in this position before,” Kerr said. “Boston played a brilliant quarter. They came in and earned the win.”
Curry scored a smooth 21 points in the opening period on 7-of-8 shooting, including 6-of-8 made threes — missing a half-court heave at the buzzer. And Boston struggled to keep up with the Warriors’ snappy ball movement and shooters at every spot on the floor.
Otto Porter Jr. returned from a two-game absence to score 12 points off the bench for the well-rested Warriors. Golden State ended its Western Conference final in game five against Dallas a week earlier at home, while Boston was pushed to the limit with a game seven at Miami last week.
Golden State dropped to 9-1 this postseason at home, where a sellout crowd in yellow finals T-shirts chanted “MVP!” for Curry at every chance.
Marcus Smart scored 18 points with four threes for Boston. The Celtics star took criticism from Kerr for what the Golden State coach called “a dangerous play” lunging at Curry’s left foot on March 16 in a 110-88 Boston rout that sidelined the 2021 scoring champion for a month before his return in game one of the first round facing Denver.
Now the hard work starts for a Warriors team that went a league-worst 15-50 during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season two years ago and lost to Memphis in the play-in game last year before eliminating the Grizzlies in the first round this season.
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