Greetings. The NBA Finals are underway, and I plan to file a review of each game between the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors. It should be an exciting series, and my primary purpose is to track Our Town’s Jayson Tatum as he attempts to win the NBA championship for the first time in his career.
Game 1: Boston 120, Golden State 108.
What You Need To Know: The Warriors outscored the Celtics by 14 points in the third quarter to open a 92-80 lead on the Celtics. The home crowd was happy and Steph Curry and his teammates seemingly had things under control … until they didn’t. This game was suddenly turned upside down by the visiting Celtics, who destroyed the home team in the fourth quarter. Fourth-quarter scoreboard: Celtics 40, Warriors 16. Boston made 15 of 22 shots from the floor (.682) in the fourth quarter – nine from three-point distance. And the Warriors had no answer, making only 7 of 17 shots and turning the ball over four times in the final quarter.
After Boston tied the score 103-103, Golden State failed to score for nearly five minutes until Klay Thompson made a bucket with 1 minute and 9 seconds remaining. That made the score 117-105 Celtics.Too late for Golden State; Boston’s lead was safe. For the game, the Celtics made an astonishing 21 of 41 shots from three range. Al Horford, Marcus Smart and Derrick White combined for 15 of the 21 three-point baskets. Horford led the Celtics with 26 points.
Few pundits expected the Celtics to defeat the Warriors in the perimeter game – not with Curry, Thompson and Jordan Poole out there for Golden State – but that’s what happened. The Celtics were too loose in defending the perimeter but made adjustments and to gain an advantage on the three spot.
Curry had 21 points in the first quarter but only 13 points over the final three quarters. And the Celtics – not the Warriors – controlled the three-point airspace in the final quarter.
The Celtics are 9-2 on the road during the 2022 postseason. That’s hard to do.
Player Of The Game: Boston swingman Jaylen Brown. He had 24 points overall, and had a superb fourth quarter with10 points and five assists. In one stretch of the fourth quarter Brown directly impacted a 14-point run by scoring or assisting.
Jayson Tatum’s Performance: Folks will look at his shooting line and write it off as a lousy night for the St. Louisan from Chaminade Prep. And that would be incorrect. No doubt, Tatum was off form, making only 3-for-17 overall, and missing four of five from deep.
Do not rush to judgment. Tatum played a major role in Boston’s win by turning his attention to being a playmaker – which happens to be his greatest area of improvement this season. Tatum carved Golden State’s defense with 13 assists – including four in the final 7:09 of the fourth quarter when his team ran away from the Warriors. Tatum turned the ball over only twice all game, and the Celtics outscored the Warriors by 16 points with Tatum on the floor in Game 1.
Tatum’s 13 assists were the most ever by a player competing in his first NBA Finals game. The previous record was 12 assists in a first NBA Finals game, shared by three guys you may have heard of: Michael Jordan, John Stockton and Isiah Thomas. Impressive.
Tatum started dealing early, with three assists in the first quarter and seven in the first half.
Tatum didn’t score in the fourth quarter but his impact was heavy; the Celtics were a plus 27 with Tatum on the court in the fourth.
According to The Athletic, Tatum created 38 points off his passes in Game 1.
What The Coach Said About Tatum. Here’s Celtics coach Ime Udoka: “We’ve talked about it throughout the year and I’ve talked to him at length about impacting the game when he’s not having his best offensive night. So he did that tonight.
“Obviously going 3-17, that’s usually not going to happen. What he did well and did early was get others involved. Seven or nine assists pretty early in the game, finished with 13, and the shots not falling, he still attracted a good amount of attention, made the right plays.
“I love his growth and progression in those areas, where he’s still guarding on the defensive end, still getting others involved, not pouting about his shots, and trying to play through some mistakes and physicality they were playing with him. When they went box-and-one on him to try to take him out, it made it tough at times, but that’s why we’re a team. We don’t rely on one guy. You saw others step up tonight.”
What Tatum Said About Tatum: “Yeah, I think that was kind of (Udoka’s) message from day one, just to challenge me to be the best player that I can be and improve other areas of my game. We watched a lot of film throughout the course of the season of games, just areas, things I could improve on. You know, obviously, play-making was one. Drawing a lot of attention. Just help the team out as much as possible. He’s done a great job challenging myself, just the group, in that aspect.”
Tatum added: “I don’t expect to shoot that bad again. But if it means we keep winning, I’ll take it.”
Why Were The Celtics So Resilient In Game 1? Tatum explained how his team handled being down by 12 after three quarters. “The message at the start of the fourth was: We’ve been here before,” he 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 ourselves 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.”
Why This Was Such A Great Win For Tatum and the Celtics: The underdog Celtics competed in a hostile setting against an elite team that has an abundance of championship experience. And until Thursday the Warriors were 9-0 at home during the 2022 postseason. And the Celtics won this game despite Tatum and Brown combining to shoot 9-for-31 during the first three quarters. Role players took care of the shortfall, and the Celtics’ strong depth was a huge factor in the victory.
Two Questions Before Game 2 on Sunday in San Francisco: (1) Can Tatum heat up with his shooting, and (2) Can Boston sustain its three-point accuracy, or was Game 1 an outlier?
Thanks for reading …
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For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.