SAN FRANCISCO — With time running down on another disastrous third quarter for the Celtics, Warriors guard Jordan Poole gathered the ball just inside midcourt and fired it toward the rim. In most other cases, it would have no chance. In this case, it seemed there was no chance that it would miss.
Sure enough, the ball slid through the net at the buzzer, the final moments of the 12-minute avalanche. The Warriors outscored Boston by 21 points in the third quarter, setting an NBA Finals franchise record and leaving no room for a powerful comeback as they rolled to a 107-88 win that tied the series at 1.
Game 3 will be played at TD Garden on Wednesday night.
Jayson Tatum had 28 points on 8 of 19 shooting for Boston. Jaylen Brown added 17, but 9 came in the first two and a half minutes; he was just 2 for 14 after that. Seventy-five seconds into the fourth quarter, they, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford all went to the bench for the rest of the night.
Stephen Curry had 29 points to pace Golden State, which made 15 of 37 3-pointers as a team. The Warriors scored 33 points off of 19 Boston turnovers.
Observations from the game:
⋅ The Celtics were overcome getting walloped in the third quarter in Game 1, but the Warriors’ third-quarter dominance Sunday was so severe that it wiped out any hope for a similar comeback.
Part of it was just elite shot-making. Curry and Poole both put on a show from beyond the arc, capped by Poole’s buzzer-beater. But the Celtics just generally unraveled and lost focus, a puzzling repeat. Tatum attempted just two shots in the quarter, and Boston made just four. Plenty of possessions ended with the shot clock running down and someone forced to create something out of nothing.
It didn’t work.
⋅ Gary Payton II, sidelined since suffering a left elbow fracture in Game 2 of the conference semifinals last month, received a standing ovation when he checked in midway through the first quarter.
Payton was officially cleared to play in Game 1, but did not make an appearance, and coach Steve Kerr later acknowledged that he was not quite ready. At recent practices, Payton, a lefty, was never seen even taking part in shooting drills, raising questions about how he could contribute at that end.
His primary value is as a defensive stopper, of course. He missed an easy layup after some slight contact from Brown and then missed both free throws badly. But a couple of minutes later drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner. It was notable that Kerr turned to Payton ahead of Poole in the third.
⋅ Draymond Green seemed determined to give his team an emotional jolt at the start. He forced a jump-ball on Boston’s first possession and tried to rattle the Celtics with some chirping. He and Tatum were separated after barking at each other a bit, and on the ensuing inbounds Green drew a foul on Tatum. A couple of minutes later, Green picked up a technical. It seemed like he was focused on getting under the Celtics’ skin.
Warriors fans held their breath during a review of a mild altercation between Brown and Green late in the second quarter. Green fouled Brown on a 3-pointer, and the two tumbled to the ground. Brown stood up and stood over Green before Green took offense to it. A double technical would have been disastrous for the Warriors, because Green would have been ejected, but nothing was called after the review.
The right decision for a very mild moment in the Finals.
⋅ Tatum seemed determined to push aside his 3 for 17 shooting performance in Game 1, and was especially aggressive at the offensive end to start. It didn’t work that well for him initially, as he missed a few jumpers and started flailing with rip-through moves while searching for contact. But the Warriors somehow left him wide open for a 3-pointer late in the quarter and he quickly added another. His four makes in the first quarter were more than his total from Game 1.
⋅ In the first quarter of Game 1, Curry hit six 3-pointers and erupted for 21 points. On a few of those jumpers, Boston had inexcusable miscommunication, but the start Sunday was much better. Smart stayed plastered to Curry, and communication on screens was excellent. He attempted just three 3-pointers, sinking one.
⋅ The Celtics coughed up an early nine-point first-quarter lead and trailed by one at the end, but considering they committed eight fouls and seven turnovers in the quarter, they had to feel OK about it.
⋅ In Game 1, the Warriors were fine allowing Boston’s secondary options to fire away from long range, but that approach came back to bite them. The return of Payton, an elite on-ball defender, probably helped, but in the first half Sunday Golden State seemed content to trust its defense in more one-on-one sets against the Celtics’ top weapons.
Although Tatum hit five first-half 3-pointers and had 21 points, he and Brown combined to go 11 for 28 overall. Al Horford, meanwhile, did not attempt a shot.
⋅ When the Celtics have gotten into trouble this postseason, turnovers have been a primary culprit. Boston committed 16 through three quarters, and its offense was a bit isolation-heavy. Tatum had four.
⋅ Unusual: In the first half, the Celtics made 52.6 percent of their 3-pointers (10 for 19) and 28 percent of their two-pointers (7 for 25).
⋅ Robert Williams’s knee continues to be an important storyline of these playoffs. He looked like he’d regained some burst in Game 1 following three days off, but on Sunday night it was mostly gone again.
Boston made its massive fourth-quarter comeback in Game 1 with Williams on the bench, and at some point Udoka will have to consider the benefits of playing small against this Golden State team, particularly if Williams is not himself. He was slow to get up after taking a fall in the third quarter, checked out with 7:37 left, and didn’t return with the game decided.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.