NBA Finals: Warriors Clamp Down Defensively, Even Series With Game 2 Win

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NBA Finals: Warriors Clamp Down Defensively, Even Series With Game 2 Win

Chicago Bulls

The Warriors played like the seasoned veterans that we expected to see in this series on Sunday night as they coasted to a series-tying victory over the Celtics.

Warriors 107, Celtics 88

Series: TIED 1-1

The Boston Celtics couldn’t miss during the fourth quarter on Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. They scored 40 points en route to a come-from-behind victory over the Golden State Warriors, but last night, things weren’t as green for the Celtics. Boston turned the ball over and shot 36 percent from the field while posting their lowest points total in the NBA Playoffs. After hanging with the Warriors in the opening quarter by scoring 30 points, the Celtics scored 20, 14, and 24 in the final three quarters.

Despite being limited to 25 minutes by the training staff in his first game since fracturing his elbow on May 3, Gary Payton II was noticeable and effective in his return to action. His on-ball aggressiveness allowed the Warriors to switch more freely in Game 2. Payton spent time guarding Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Derrick White. White needed 13 shots to get his 12 points and shot just 30.8 percent. Tatum scored 28 points, but he did it on 42 percent from the floor.

Payton scored 7 points and logged 3 rebounds and 3 assists on 3-of-3 shooting, but his impact was felt beyond the box score as he helped Golden State stabilize and balance their defensive attack on the Celtics. With that fluidity back in play, the Warriors could shut down Jayson Tatum’s supporting cast, holding Marcus Smart, Robert Williams III, and Al Horford to just two points a piece on 3-of-11 shooting (27.2 percent). Horford, who drilled eight three-pointers on Thursday night, didn’t even attempt one last night. Marcus Smart missed all three of his attempts from three-point range. Payton called his return to action “amazing,” and I think that Warriors fans would agree.

“It was amazing,” Payton said of returning to game action. “I was itching to get out there. I was in the tunnel just walking back and forth, pacing, waiting for Coach to call me. He kind of pump-faked me at first for a little bit, got me going. But after I got on the floor, I kind of calmed down and settled in.”

Draymond Green said that most couldn’t step up for their team like Payton did on Sunday night.

“Most guys can’t step up in that situation,” Draymond Green said. “But GP, he’s tough, and he’s built the right way, and he stepped up, and he gave us some good minutes tonight.”

Payton wasn’t alone in his efforts on Sunday night; the Warriors got contributions from the usual suspects. Stephen Curry paced the team in the scoring department with 29 points. Curry was joined by Kevon Looney (12), Andrew Wiggins (11), Klay Thompson (11), and Jordan Poole (17) as five Warriors finishing with double-digit scoring totals. Jordan Poole did most of his damage late in the game after an ineffective first half led to Steve Kerr pulling him from the rotation for the remainder of the second quarter and much of the third.

Poole helped the Warriors seal the game in the final 90 seconds of the third quarter upon returning to the rotation with a drive-and-kick assist, a deep triple from the wing, and then a 42-foot buzzer-beater. Poole’s long-distance buzzer-beater put the Dubs up by 23 points and ended Boston’s night.

Poole’s buzzer-beater was the exclamation point to Steph Curry’s 14 points in the third quarter that head coach Steve Kerr called “breathtaking” after the game.

“Steph was breathtaking in that quarter,” Kerr said. “Not just the shot-making but the defensive effort. 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.”

The Warriors played the dominating brand of basketball for four quarters on Sunday night that you expect from a team that has been in the NBA Finals in six of the last eight years to even the series up with things shifting to Boston for Game 3 on Wednesday night. Now it’s Ime Udoka and the Celtics’ turn to answer the Warriors’ latest adjustments.

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


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Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is a Staff Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.