SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — One look at Saturday’s Golden State practice would not have indicated that the Warriors are trailing the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.
Stephen Curry made most of his shots as usual. Klay Thompson bobbed his head to the beat of the music between shots. Draymond Green was at the other end of the room and the forwards shouted ‘Oh yeah!’ at nobody in particular.
The biggest game of their season is on Sunday. Say this much for the warriors: they don’t seem nervous about it.
The Celtics can take a 2-0 lead — and absolute lead — of the NBA Finals on Sunday when they visit the Warriors in Game 2 of the title series. Technically, it’s not a must-win period for the Warriors, but opening a streak with two losses at home would mean they’d have to do something almost unprecedented to win a championship.
“It’s really important to turn the page to one side or the other,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “If you win and get happy and your guard goes down, you’re in trouble. And if you lose and you feel sorry for yourself, then you have problems with that too. It just depends on how you react.”
Boston takes a similar approach. There was much talk of the Celtics having no finals-experienced players ahead of Thursday night’s series opener; They used a 48-18 run to pull away late and win 120-108. But shortly after the last buzzer, there was no celebration in the victorious dressing room – Just a reminder from Marcus Smart that, as Kerr said, the side had to change quickly to Sunday.
“I know it might sound arrogant, but when you play for the Celtics, the expectation is to win a championship,” said Boston’s Al Horford, who led the Celtics with 26 points in Game 1 on Thursday night and turned 36 on Friday became. “Even when I came here when I was 16, that was the expectation even then. That’s how it is in the organization. We don’t have to talk about it. We’re not even talking about that here. We’re just taking it one game at a time.”
The Celtics ended Golden State’s 13-game winning streak in Game 1 at home, and that means the Warriors are 1-0 down for the first time in this playoff.
The Warriors led by 15 points late in the third quarter of Game 1 and trailed by 15 points in the final moments. It was only the second Finals game in 25 years in which both teams were at least 15 points clear – the other being Game 5 of the 2014 Finals between San Antonio and Miami.
“It’s the first time we’re down 1-0. It’s a first for a lot of things with this particular group,” said Curry, who had a game-high 34 points in the opening game. “We’re here in the finals for a reason, because we found it out along the way. If we want to come back to this series, we have to find out again.”
Winning Game 1 of the NBA Finals almost always results in a championship for the Celtics.
Thursday’s win in the series opener marked the 15th time Boston have taken a 1-0 lead in the final. The Celtics have won the title 13 of the previous 14 times — with the exception of 1985, when the Los Angeles Lakers lost Game 1 148-114 but won four of the next five games to win the championship.
The Warriors are trailing 1-0 for only the third time in Kerr’s eight seasons as coach. They rebounded to win the 2016 Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City and then lost the 2019 NBA Finals to Toronto.
The Warriors are 7-3 in home games after a home loss this season, including wins by 15, 21 and 31 points.
Tatum bounce back
Game 1 marked only the 10th time Boston All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum has made at least 10 shots in a game and shot 20% or less. He was 3 for 17 in the series opener – but led everyone with 13 assists.
He tends to hit back well. In those situations, he averaged 23.6 points and 8.4 rebounds on 47% shooting on his next call.
BOSTON 3 PARTY
The longer that streak lasts, the greater the chance the Celtics will set a record for most 3-pointers in a single postseason.
Boston has hit 263 3s so far in these playoffs and is sixth-best in a playoff run. The only teams with more were the 2020 Miami Heat and 2019 Warriors (both with 268), this year’s Dallas Mavericks (284), the 2019 Toronto Raptors (286), and the 2016 Warriors (306).
The Warriors have 235 3s so far in this playoff, putting them on track for one of the top five postseason 3-point totals.
Golden State is a four-point favorite in Game 2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. But the Celtics are now favored to win the series, with Tatum slightly favored over Curry to win the NBA Finals MVP award.
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