Drew Dykowski, Editor-In-Chief
Stephen Curry (30) shoots over multiple Boston Celtics during Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
Photo//Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group.
After a demoralizing collapse in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors rebounded in a big way in Game 2 on Sunday night. The Warriors utilized a massive third quarter, outscoring the Boston Celtics 35-14, to cruise to a 107-88 victory to tie the series at one game apiece.
With all of the experience and grit the Warriors have shown throughout their current dynasty, several experts predicted that Curry and Co. would blowout the Celtics in Game 2 following their loss on Thursday. While these experts eventually proved to be right, the first half was actually just as close as Game 1.
Boston initially appeared poised to take a commanding 2-0 series lead, jumping out to a 22-13 lead near the midway point of the first quarter, with Jaylen Brown scoring an impressive 13 of those 22 points.
The Celtics soon came crashing back down to Earth, however, as a barrage of threes by Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, and Gary Payton II gave the Warriors a 31-30 advantage after one period of play.
The second quarter then proved to be perhaps the best quarter of the Finals so far. Neither team led by more than five points, and both teams traded buckets while also playing suffocating defense. The teams were proving why they each were two of the most well-rounded teams in the NBA this season.
Although Golden State held a slim 52-50 advantage at halftime on the back of Curry’s 15 points, Boston fans were feeling good because Jayson Tatum had finally arrived. Following a lackluster performance in Game 1 that saw him score just 12 points, Tatum took over and finished with 21 points in the first half alone.
With both teams firing on all cylinders, there was no question that we would see another exciting second half like we did in Game 1. Well, unfortunately for Celtics fans, the Warriors had other ideas.
Golden State came out of the gates hot and led 68-56 near the midway point of the third. Surprisingly, Boston weathered the storm and cut the lead to six points with just over four minutes to play in the quarter.
The Warriors then went on another massive run and, this time, it was too much for the Celtics to overcome. Golden State finished the frame on a 19-2 run, capped off by a 39-foot buzzer beating bomb by Poole that effectively ended the game after just three quarters.
After a meaningless fourth quarter where they were up by as many as 29 points, Golden State coasted to a 19-point victory and tied the series as it moves to Boston for Games 3 and 4.
Stephen Curry (30) and Jordan Poole led the way as the Warriors cruised to a Game 2 victory.
Photo//Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.
For all those doubters that criticize Stephen Curry for not earning his first three championships, not showing up when it matters most, or not yet winning a Finals MVP award, he has politely told you all to be quiet after the first two games of this series.
Curry followed his 34-point Game 1 with another monster performance. In just three quarters of play, the two-time NBA MVP finished with 29 points (9-21 FGs, 5-12 3PM), 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals. If only Boston would have kept it close, then we could have seen Curry go for 40 or even 50 points in the fourth.
In contrast to Curry, Jordan Poole was miserable in Game 1, and the moment seemed to be a little too big for the third-year player. However, he shook off the nerves in Game 2 and was a perfect sidekick behind Curry. In addition to his buzzer-beating three to end the third, Poole had 17 points (6-14 FGs, 5-9 3PM), 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals.
Draymond Green (9 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block) and Kevon Looney (12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, 1 block) had solid all-around performances for the Dubs as well.
The other standout performance for Golden State was their defense. After the Celtics shot the lights out in Game 1, the Warriors held them to just 37.5% shooting from the field and 40.5% from behind the arc. The Dubs also had active hands and suffocated the Celts all night, forcing them into 18 turnovers and scoring 33 points off those turnovers.
While they were unable to contain Jayson Tatum like they did in Game 1, Golden State essentially took every other Celtic out of the game. Jaylen Brown scored four points after the first quarter and shot an abysmal 29.4% from the field. Game 1 heroes Al Horford and Marcus Smart combined for just four points as well.
If Poole and Curry can continue to supply the offense while the defense remains impenetrable, Golden State should have no trouble winning at least one game on the road in Boston.
Jayson Tatum is really the only player worth mentioning on what was an otherwise miserable night for the Celtics. The All-NBA forward finished with 28 points (8-19 FGs, 6-9 3PM), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and one steal in three quarters. Perhaps the only sliver of hope Boston can take away from this game is the fact that Tatum now appears ready for the Finals following his brutal Game 1 performance.
Despite not impacting the game much after the first quarter, Jaylen Brown had a solid statline of 17 points (5-17 FGs, 3-9 3PM), 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. Derrick White was again decent off the bench, contributing 12 points (4-13 FGs, 2-4 3PM), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and one steal.
Aside from Tatum, Brown, and White, nobody else on the Celtics roster eclipsed six points or really impacted the game in any positive manner. This will need to change if the Celtics are to prove that Game 1 was not a fluke.
Looking Ahead to Game 3
Draymond Green (23) and Jaylen Brown scuffle during Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
Photo//Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group.
Although losing a game at home is always a difficult pill to swallow, the Warriors should still leave for Boston feeling like they are the best team in this series. If it was not for a 40-16 run by the Celtics in Game 1, Golden State would easily be up 2-0.
Defensively, they look as good as ever. Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, and Gary Payton II lead a unit that is forcing turnovers, applying pressure, and simply making the young Celtics’ lives as difficult as possible. Even Stephen Curry, not known for his defense, has looked solid on that side of the ball.
Green has been especially effective at getting into Boston’s head through his trademark trash talking and physical play. He will need to be careful, however, because he had one technical foul in Game 2 and almost got another one when he confronted Jaylen Brown after a play.
The main concern for Golden State is their offense. It may be unfair to criticize the Dubs for only scoring 107 points since they essentially took the fourth quarter off, but, outside of Curry, no Warrior has looked amazing against the strong Boston defense in either of the first two games.
Players like Payton II, Looney, Otto Porter Jr., and Andrew Wiggins have been solid in their roles in the offense, but it is likely too much to ask any of them to be the top scoring option behind Curry.
It ultimately comes down to Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson to step up, especially if Curry has an off-game which he has been known to do in his previous Finals appearances.
Poole finally showed signs of life in the second half of Game 2 and proved he could be a true Splash Brother in these Finals. However, he was horrendous in Game 1, was largely nonexistent in Game 2 until the end of the third quarter, and has averaged 3.5 turnovers across the first two games. Sunday night may be the beginning of a monster series for Poole, but the Michigan alum could also just as easily regress back to his poor play. His consistency may be a determining factor in who wins this series.
For Thompson, he has been the definition of mediocre during this series and for the entire season following his devastating injuries. He has shown flashes of the superstar he once was throughout the playoffs, but he has been mediocre to start the Finals and is averaging just 13 points so far in the series.
Game 2 was more concerning for Klay because, in an effort to get him going, Warriors coach Steve Kerr left him in the game for most of the fourth quarter against Boston’s bench players. Despite this presumed talent gap, Thompson still struggled and could not get anything going offensively. He finished with 11 points (4-19 FGs, 1-8 3PM), 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and one assist.
Thompson appears rushed on the court and can never seem to find any sort of rhythm. He is also relying more on post-ups and isolation plays rather than his traditional cutting and rolling to find open threes. A return to basics for the Splash Brother could possibly help him find his old form.
In order for the Warriors to win this series, they are going to need at least one of Thompson or Poole to step up offensively and provide Curry with some support. If they do not, then Golden State fans are going to have to hope Curry continues this hot stretch and that Boston fails to figure out the Dubs defense.
Speaking of Boston, it was a complete reverse of what we saw in Game 1. While Jayson Tatum was the only Celtic to not play well on Thursday, he was the only Celtic that performed on Sunday.
Tatum’s performance is promising, but he is still not without concerns as the series returns to Boston. He has been extremely inconsistent throughout the playoffs and it is always a concern for the Celts over which Tatum will show up each night. Regardless, he was the lone bright spot during Game 2 and could easily go on a tear the rest of the series.
Jaylen Brown was also solid and has thrived in his secondary role behind Tatum so far this series. While he was nonexistent the final three quarters of Game 2, he has played well defensively and has shown his ability to take over offensively in both games.
Brown mainly just needs to maintain his composure, something he failed to do during his scuffle against Draymond Green in Game 2. It was evident after this altercation that Brown was rattled and his stats showed as much.
The real problem for the Celtics is their role players. As good as Al Horford, Marcus Smart, and Derrick White looked in Game 1, they were just as bad in Game 2. Horford looked old and slow, while Smart still appeared to be nursing his injured ankle and had an horrendous 5 turnovers.
White was the lone role player to not completely fall off, as he was the only Celtic not named Tatum or Brown to have double digit points. He also had two threes, two blocks, and was decent defensively. The problem with White, however, was that he shot just 31% from the field after shooting 55% in Game 1.
To add more insult to injury, Robert Williams appeared to have reaggravated his knee injury and continues to look hobbled while on the court. This is notable because, without a somewhat healthy Williams, the Warriors hold a significant advantage in the paint with Green and Looney. Daniel Theis filled in for Williams, but he was average at best in Game 2.
There are a few bright spots for Boston fans, however. For any team in any series in professional sports, the goal when you start a series on the road is to split the games and not go down 2-0. The Celtics accomplished that and now will return to play in front of a raucous TD Garden crowd hosting their first Finals game since 2010.
The arena will be rocking and the Celtics will need to capitalize on this home court advantage, something they have not always done so far this postseason.
The other thing going in Boston’s favor is their defense. They still had the occasional lapses, allowed wide open shots, and came out flat to start the second half in each game, but they still have managed to hold the Warriors to an average of 107.5 points this series.
The 107.5 number may be slightly skewed because the Warriors rested most of their starters in the fourth quarter of Game 2, yet this number is still impressive considering the Celtics were playing on the road and Curry was cooking.
If the Celtics can find a way to slow down Curry in the slightest and prevent Golden State’s massive third quarter runs, they could realistically win both games in Boston considering how well they have contained the rest of the Warriors.
For Boston, it ultimately comes down to the consistency of Tatum, the relevance of their role players, and if the defense can weather enough Golden State runs to keep them in the game.
After a dominating Game 2 victory, it can be easy to write this series off as an easy win for the Warriors. However, the Warriors have clear vulnerabilities, and if the Celtics can clean up their mistakes and pounce on Golden State’s weaknesses, this still has the potential to be a very long series.
Game 3 tips off in Boston at 9 p.m. on Wednesday night.
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