Hidden secret fuels Warriors’ NBA Finals Game 2 success vs. Celtics

SAN FRANCISCO — Highlighted by a half-court rainbow swishing through the net, there was one hidden secret to the Warriors’ success in their 107-88 beatdown of the Boston Celtics on Sunday night at Chase Center in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

They ended each of the first three quarters on a high note, riding momentum and a 23-point lead going into the fourth quarter of what essentially was a must-win game. The same can’t fully be said for the way they closed out quarters in their Game 1 collapse.

In that loss two nights prior, their desire to carry over energy into the next period started off on a strong note with Steph Curry hitting a 26-foot 3-pointer to give the Warriors a 32-28 lead with 26 seconds to go. He then double-dipped with a steal off an errant Derrick White pass in the final three seconds, and the Warriors were riding high off Curry’s 21-point first quarter.

The end of the second quarter Thursday night didn’t go as smoothly. Following Jaylen Brown being called for traveling with 1:55 remaining and the Warriors up by one, they could have pounced. Instead, Curry was called for an offensive foul and an Al Horford countered with a 3-pointer to give the Celtics the lead. Andrew Wiggins countered with a floater to tie it up, however, a Curry foul shortly thereafter sent Jayson Tatum to the line, giving the Celtics the two-point lead they held going into halftime.

The final minute of the first half featured a turnover from Otto Porter Jr. stepping out of bounds, and a final possession that ended on a 30-foot stepback from Poole that bounced along the top of the backboard. Not ideal.

Yes, the Warriors did what they do in the third quarter, scoring 38 points to have a 12-point lead going into the fourth, but some head-scratching mistakes in the final minute-and-a-half didn’t do them any favors. Poole inexplicably was swiped by Tatum as he tried to bring the ball up the court, cutting a 15-point lead to 13 points. And while Andre Iguodala hit a big 3-pointer with 6.3 seconds remaining in the quarter, he fouled White in the final two seconds and the Celtics guard hit both free throws.

Momentum gone. The Celtics started the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run, at one point had a 17-0 run and historically outscored the Warriors by 24 points in the final frame.

This time around, the Warriors made sure they didn’t commit the same mistakes.

Over the final two-plus minutes of the first quarter on Sunday night, the Warriors forced three turnovers and made three 3-pointers. The quarter was capped off by a steal from Otto Porter Jr. and two-point bank-shot from Curry. The first box was checked.

Wiggins gave the Warriors a 50-48 lead with just over one minute to go in the first half before a spat between Brown and Draymond Green turned into two points for Boston at the charity stripe, tying it up ahead of both teams trading misses. Curry tried to give the Warriors the lead with a 25-footer and only 14 seconds left, but Wiggins sprang into action, grabbing the offensive rebound and putting it back in for a two-point lead that the Warriors held at halftime after a strong defensive stop on the final possession.

Another box checked. The first-time All-Star scoring seven points to go with four rebounds in the second quarter made a big difference for Golden State.

Then, of course, the Poole Party arrived in the final minute-plus of another dominant third quarter from the Warriors.

Poole mightily struggled in the first half after a rough Game 1 performance. In the first two quarters, he scored three points and went 1-for-5 from the field. It looked like the rising star’s night might be over, until Steve Kerr turned to him at the 1:19 mark and Tatum at the line. Poole seized his opportunity and didn’t look back.

Through the first six quarters, he wasn’t able to penetrate Boston’s defense that swallows offensive players by the bunches. After watching from the sidelines, he attacked under control the first time the ball was in his hands, forcing the defense to react before hitting Kevon Looney with a perfectly-placed bounce pass for an easy two points. The Warriors then swarmed the Celtics into a shot clock violation, and Poole responded with a corner 3-pointer eight seconds later.

Then came the fireworks, with Curry looking on like a proud father to his teammate 12 years younger than him.

“It’s kind of funny, we talk about how we finish quarters and how that momentum can carry over,” Curry said after the win. “That was obviously a big shot to get the crowd into it. Put kind of a dagger on that great third quarter that we had.”

From the time that Poole entered the game at the end of the third quarter, the Warriors outscored the Celtics 8-0 with him scoring six points and assisting on the other two points. Poole’s game completely flipped in an instant.

RELATED: Poole showed up for Dubs in Game 2, but can he stick around?

His buzzer-beater traveled 39 feet, good for the second-longest made shot in Finals history. Curry and Poole joked the other day at practice they knew someone was going to hit a shot from the logo or even further. Now, Poole has the lead in the Warriors’ friendly team wager.

“He’s capable of that,” Curry said of Poole’s flurry. “We shoot half-court shots every practice, shootaround. We have a little competition going.

“So we count — if you make one during the game, we count it. So he took the lead tonight.”

Check, check, check. Three boxes down, and this time the fourth quarter was smooth sailing.

The Warriors opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run, giving them their biggest lead of the night at 29 points. They didn’t look back, and now head to Boston all tied up.

Internally, ending quarters on a strong note is an even bigger point of emphasis than Curry shared externally. They checked all the boxes there, never letting the Celtics carry the momentum they badly were searching for. It doesn’t show up on the box score, but the end-of-the-quarter impact was felt on the court and all throughout Chase Center in the Warriors’ Game 2 win.

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