NBA Finals: Dominant Fourth Quarter Performance Gives the Celtics an Early Lead Over the Warriors

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NBA Finals: Dominant Fourth Quarter Performance Gives the Celtics an Early Lead Over the Warriors

Chicago Bulls

The seasoned Golden State Warriors came out firing on all cylinders in Game One, with Stephen Curry scoring 21 points in the opening quarter, but the Boston Celtics had the final say in the opening game of the NBA Finals.

Celtics 120, Warriors 108

Series: BOS leads 1-0

The Warriors entered Game One with a commanding lead on the Celtics — in NBA Finals games played. Golden State’s roster collectively had 123 Finals games on their resumes; Boston’s had exactly zero. And they played like it for three quarters, but the Celtics closed with a performance for the history books.

Boston trailed 92-80 entering the fourth quarter, and it seemed like they were in line for an 0-1 deficit in the Finals. They climbed back to within three with 6:05 to play (103-100); they then held the Warriors scoreless for 4:56 down the stretch while they went on a massive 17-0 run to take a commanding lead over Golden State. By the time Klay Thompson sank a layup with 1:09 to play, the Celtics had a cushy 12-point 117-105 lead.

The Celtics outscored the Warriors 40-16 in the fourth to become the first team in Finals history to win by double digits after opening the fourth quarter behind by 10 points or more.

That Al Horford play put this one on ice. It was fitting that it was Horford who scored the bucket, too. He waited 15 seasons to have his Finals moment, and wasted no time in Game 1 of his first NBA Finals. The veteran big man scored 26 points, knocked down a career-high six three-pointers on eight attempts, and shot 75 percent from the floor. Eleven of Horford’s 26 points came in the fourth quarter.

Horford wasn’t alone in the fourth quarter. Boston got 10 points from Jaylen Brown, who nailed a pair of triples, shot 4-of-6 from the floor, and tallied five assists in the come from behind victory. Brown and the Celtics hit 21 triples on Thursday night.

While Jayson Tatum was held scoreless in the fourth and had just 12 points in the game, the Celtics star did his fair share of the work on Thursday night. He picked up 13 assists in his NBA Finals debut, finished one ahead of John Stockton, Isiah Thomas and Jordan for the NBA record. Four of Tatum’s 13 assists in the fourth quarter as Brown and Horford did the heavy lifting in the scoring department.

After the game, Tatum said the message heading into the fourth quarter was simple: “We’ve been here before; we know what it takes.”

“The message at the start of the fourth was: We’ve been here before. 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.”

Curry was held to just four points in the fourth quarter Thursday night after scoring 21 of his 34 in the opening frame. Curry credited the Celtics, but said while the Warriors’ one-game deficit isn’t ideal, but he believes they have what it takes to respond on Sunday night after losing on their home floor for the first time in these NBA Playoffs.

“It’s not ideal, but [we] believe in who we are and how we deal with adversity,” Curry said after the loss to Boston. “How we’ve responded all year. How we responded after a loss in the playoffs. We’ll learn a lot from that fourth quarter. Obviously, they made a lot of shots; I think they didn’t miss until deep into the fourth. When you have a team that finds a little bit of momentum like they did and they just keep making shots, it’s tough to kind of regain that momentum,” … “We know that they’re a good team, so we’ve gotta respond on Sunday.”

The Warriors dominated the game for the first 41-42 minutes, but the Celtics rallied to steal a game from the Warriors on the road last night. But this series is far from over. Game Two will be back at the Chase Center on Sunday evening.

Here are the highlights from last night’s game courtesy of’s YouTube channel:

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.