SAN FRANCISCO — Stephen Curry led Golden State to another electric third quarter outburst Sunday night in front of a sold-out Chase Center crowd. But unlike their embarrassing collapse in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Warriors held strong and fended off the Celtics in Game 2 for a 107-88 win.
Curry scored 14 of his 29 points in the third, helping the Warriors outscore the Celtics 35-14 to take a 23-point lead heading into the final 12 minutes.
After coughing up a double-digit fourth quarter lead in Game 1 in an epic fourth quarter meltdown, the Warriors were able to sustain their third quarter momentum on Sunday, cruising throughout a comfortable fourth to tie the series 1-1.
The Warriors didn’t make many strategic changes heading into Game 2, according to coach Steve Kerr.
“The preparation was mostly about our intensity and physicality. It was obviously ramped up tonight, and it needed to be, given what Boston did in Game 1,” Kerr said. “That’s the name of the game in the Finals. It’s hard to get an open shot out there, and it’s supposed to be difficult. Game 1 was too easy for Boston with the looks they were getting in that fourth quarter.”
The Celtics hit back-to-back 3-pointers with 4:32 remaining in the third quarter to pull within six of the Warriors, but that was the closest they would get to Golden State for the rest of the game. Curry, the main focus of Boston’s league-best defense, nailed two 3-pointers during an 11-0 run that extended the Warriors’ lead to 79-62 with 1:54 left in the third quarter.
“Steph was breathtaking in that quarter — not just the shot making but the defensive effort,” Kerr said. “He just doesn’t get enough credit for his level of conditioning, physicality and defense.
“People go at him to try to wear him down because they know how important he is to us offensively, and it’s pretty dramatic the difference in Steph’s strength and physicality in his body now than from eight years ago when I first got here. So the guy’s amazing, he just keeps working on his game, his strength, his conditioning year after year, and it’s a pleasure to watch him play every night.”
A poor first half performance kept Jordan Poole out of the game until the last 1:19 of the third quarter, but he made the most of that final 79 seconds. Poole handed out an assist on a Kevon Looney layup and hit two 3-pointers, including a highlight worthy pull-up shot from 39-feet to beat the buzzer.
Poole finished with five 3-pointers and 17 points off the bench.
Boston made five straight shots to start the game, including a pair of 3-pointers, to jump out to a nine-point lead, but the Celtics’ sharpshooting went cold and the Warriors held a 52-50 advantage at halftime.
Poole emerged in the second half, but Andrew Wiggins finished with 11 points and Klay Thompson had a postseason low 11 on what was a shoddy night of shooting for the two starters.
Meanwhile, Draymond Green’s impact went far beyond the box score. He finished with nine points, seven assists and five rebounds but was the heart of the Warriors’ attack Sunday. He set the tone on defense and was a menace to the Celtics.
“We knew our backs were against the wall, we couldn’t go into Boston being down 2-0,” Gary Payton II said. Green “lit the fire under us, as this whole season. He lights it and everybody else follows, and tonight was one of those big nights that everybody responded.”
The Warriors were without Andre Iguodala after his knee flare up with swelling following Saturday’s practice, but Payton made his return after being out for a month with a broken elbow. He took turns guarding Jayson Tatum, who finished with a team-high 28 points for Boston. After missing a pair of free throws, Payton put to rest any doubts of whether his elbow would hinder his shooting, making all three of his shots for seven points.
The Warriors improved to 10-1 in the playoffs at Chase Center, while the Celtics are now 8-3 on the road this postseason. The best-of-seven series moves to Boston for the next two games.
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Author: Madeline Kenney