Boston Celtics

Jun 2, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) reacts after a play against the Golden State Warriors during the second half of game one of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

  • A back-and-forth start. A real ugly stretch towards the middle. A historically dominant finish.

    That would be a fitting description of Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Finals, or the Celtics’ 2021-2022 season as a whole. Just when it seemed like the book was closed, the Celtics put together a monstrous run to prove the prognosticators wrong.

    In Game 1, the first quarter felt uglier than it actually was. Steph Curry scored 21 points while shooting 6-of-8 from three (with a number of open looks), but the Celtics trailed by only four. They climbed back in the second quarter, and ended up with a four point lead at halftime.

    Coming out of the break though, that lead quickly evaporated. The Celtics were outscored 38-24 in the third quarter. Andre Igoudala hit what felt like a dagger three with 6.3 seconds to go in the frame, which put Golden State up a game-high 15 points.

    Just like they did in the big picture of the regular season though, the Celtics came storming back just in time. They had two separate big runs in the fourth quarter, a 9-0 run to close the gap and a few minutes later a 17-0 run that put the game away. Overall, the C’s outscored the Warriors 40-16 in the fourth – and there could be a real debate about which one of those two numbers is more impressive.

  • “That’s kind of who we’ve been all year. Tough grinders, resilient group that we can always know we can rely on our defense to kind of buckle down when needed,” head coach Ime Udoka said after the game when asked about his team’s fourth quarter comeback. “We weren’t playing our best in the first quarter. Curry got loose, didn’t score in the second quarter, and we held them to 22, got ourselves back in the game. They had another big third quarter due to some of our mistakes, lack of physicality on our part. Then we locked down again and played great in the fourth.”

    Speaking to his team before that pivotal fourth quarter Udoka reminded his team of the adversity they’d faced so far this season, according to Jayson Tatum.

    “The message at the start of the fourth was, we’ve been here before. We know what it takes to overcome a deficit like that,” Tatum recalled. “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 ourself 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.”

  • “We’re battle-tested. We’ve been through a lot. We’ve been through a lot of experiences, a lot of losses. We know what it takes to win,” Jaylen Brown added. “I give credit to every guy in that locker room from top to bottom. We got a great, resilient group.”

    Al Horford, who also played a big role in that fourth quarter with 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting and a plus-19 rating, credited Brown for getting things started. “I think that for us the key was Jaylen Brown, start of the fourth quarter, with the way he came out and played, with his energy and scoring, but also then Rob Williams gets a lob dunk,” Horford noted postgame. “I just think that that was the start for us of something there. It started with that fourth quarter group that started the fourth quarter, gave us that boost, that confidence. We just continued to plug away.”

    In total, from that Igoudala three at the end of the third to both teams emptying their benches late in the fourth, the Celtics put together a 42-13 run against the generational roster in the Golden State Warriors. It allowed them to finish the job and come out on top after digging themselves into quite a hole. They capped the game comeback to take a 1-0 lead in the series, and put themselves in good position to cap the season-long comeback with three more wins in the coming weeks – the team that wins Game 1 of the Finals has gone on to win the title 70.7 percent of the time.