SAN FRANCISCO — Jaylen Brown made a 3-pointer and then another. Payton Pritchard made one, then Derrick White made two 3s in a row, followed by two Al Horford 3s.
The Celtics made seven consecutive 3s to start the fourth quarter, flipping a double-digit deficit at the beginning of the quarter into a lead they turned into a victory.
Boston stunned Golden State 120-108 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, and the Celtics pummeled the Warriors in the final quarter the same way the Warriors have buried so many teams over the years in the playoffs: with brilliant shooting and quality defense.
It was an unconventional win for the Celtics, too, with their best player, Jayson Tatum, scoring just 12 points on 3-for-17 shooting. Boston’s offensive versatility was on display.
“We pride ourselves on everybody being able to contribute on both ends,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “That’s rewarding, especially on a night when your best guy has an off night.”
The Celtics made 21 3s, the second-most in Finals history. Five players scored in double figures and three scored at least 20 points as the Celtics outscored the Warriors 40-16 in the fourth quarter when Tatum didn’t score a point.
Horford had 26 points, Brown 24, White 21 and Marcus Smart 18, and Tatum compensated for his shooting with 13 assists.
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The 3s were a problem for the Warriors. Boston’s ball movement was spectacular, accumulating 33 assists on 43 made shots.
“It was the way that we were moving the ball on offense, just being in those positions,” Horford said.
The tenor of this series changed with Boston’s victory, their eighth road win of the playoffs. It just wasn’t any road win either. It was against a team used to winning at home and in these situations.
One pre-Finals narrative evaporated over the course of Game 1. All the talk about Golden State’s players and coach Steve Kerr having oodles of Finals experience, and Boston players and Udoka having none, became an outdated talking point in the matter of four quarters.
“Our young guys have had a lot of success so far getting to the Eastern Conference finals multiple times,” Udoka said. “So for us, try to simplify it, not overcomplicate it. Business as usual, basketball as usual. The things we did to be successful coming here, we’ll try to do more of the same.”
The moment wasn’t too big at all. Golden State led 92-80 heading into the fourth quarter.
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“We know what it takes to overcome a deficit like that,” Tatum said. “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.”
Boston’s offense dominated the conversation, but it played defense in the fourth when necessary. Though Steph Curry had 34 points, he had just four in the fourth. Klay Thompson had a quiet 15 points. Jordan Poole scored nine, just half of what he averages in the postseason. Draymond Green missed 10 of 12 shots.
“We’ve seen the teams that rely on guys in the playoffs, whether it was Brooklyn the first round with (Kevin) Durant, Milwaukee with (Giannis) Antetokounmpo and Miami with (Jimmy) Butler,” Udoka said. “We know if you take those guys out, teams are going to struggle.”
There’s no sense in making dramatic conclusions regarding the winner of the series. It’s just one game.
“It’s not ideal, but I believe in who we are and how we deal with adversity, how we responded all year, how we’ve responded in the playoffs after a loss,” Curry said.
But the Celtics made it clear they can win this series. It’s not a happy-to-be-here moment for them.
Udoka offered this interesting statement, too.
“It’s a confidence builder,” he said, “because we didn’t play our best at all.”
The Celtics played and are acting like a team that’s been here before.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.