The NBA got its wish — a Finals series now tied and a potentially long battle in the offing.
Warriors superstar Stephen Curry put on a third-quarter long-distance fireworks show until the new man on the block, Jordan Poole, tried to top it with his own 3-point party.
And the officials weren’t going to ruin this bash — making sure not to issue an automatic ejection to the Warriors’ best defender, Draymond Green, though he deserved it.
In the final minute of a 35-14 blowout of a third period, Poole’s buzzer-beater sailed in from the Bay Bridge. The Warriors were up 87-64 after three quarters and the new Chase Arena was bedlam as the Warriors seized their first-ever Finals win in San Francisco, 107-88, over Boston.
Poole’s bomb measured at 38 feet. Curry’s face reads up. He hugged Poole like they had just won another title. That’s three wins away, as they actually go to Boston having lost their home-court advantage.
The Finals is deadlocked. The longer this show goes on, the better for NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s coffers. It was another blowout game in an endless postseason of blowouts — an issue nobody can quite explain.
Curry made certain the series headed back to Boston at 1-1 because of his 13-point third quarter, lofting 3-point dart after 3-point dart.
Curry shredded the Boston’s vaunted switch-on-every-pick-and-roll defense. He finished with 29 points in 32 minutes to make up for his Game 1 late fade.
“We said we had to play with desperation,” Curry said. “That’s what we did.”
The Warriors needed a vintage Curry performance and a vintage night from Green. They got both and they got lucky, too.
As NBA Finals history shows, Green can’t help himself, and he nearly got ejected late in the second quarter. Give the officiating crew led by Tony Brown the biggest assist of Game 2.
The toughest job as Warriors head coach for Steve Kerr over the years, his friends say, is keeping a poker-face when Green acts out. Sunday, Green picked up a technical for shoving Grant Williams after the whistle in the first period.
Green should have picked up another T in an altercation with Boston star Jaylen Brown. The referees, perhaps knowing a Green ejection would be crippling, did not issue Green his second technical.
It’s a dirty business sometimes, and commentator Jeff Van Gundy applauded the look-the-other-way move as “great officiating.”
“No I wasn’t surprised there was a double technical called due to the circumstances.” Boston coach Ime Udoka said wryly afterward.
During the third quarter onslaught, Udoka said his piece. After two straight non-calls on consecutive possessions when Green and Kevon Looney got away with obvious fouls, Udoka pulled down his mask and let loose with a stream of invectives at the officials, drawing his own technical.
Udoka, the rookie who has done the most exemplary job of any coach this season, said it was a built-up explosion.
“I let them know how I felt throughout the game in an demonstrative way on purpose to get a technical,” Udoka said.
Green was spared, but that won’t always be the case the rest of June. Green’s temper needs to be in check in Boston. He was a terrific, energizer on defense. In addition to notching seven assists, he held Al Horford to just two points after he was the Game 1 hero with 26.
“We knew our backs were against the wall,” Warriors reserve Gary Payton II said. “We knew we could go 0-2 back to Boston. [Green] reads a fire for us.”
“He took Game 1 personally,” Curry said.
When Marv Albert, one of Kerr’s close friends, was asked earlier in the playoffs if the Warriors can win the title, he said it all hinges on whether Green doesn’t implode. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out where that sentiment is coming from.
Green was lackluster in Game 1—2-for-12 and letting Horford bust out in his first Finals game. Sunday, Green made Horford look all of his 36 years.
Indeed, the entire Celtics offense were just sickly and sloppy—seven turnovers in the first quarter otherwise they would’ve built on their 12-5 early lead.
The Celtics, who finished with 19 turnovers, weren’t 3-point machines on this night either — hitting 15 compared to 21 in Game 1.
“We weren’t strong with the ball,” Udoka said. “We were searching for many instead of making plays.”
That mentality wasn’t going to work in San Francisco on Sunday with the Warriors needing a win to get Silver’s Finals back on track. And now the Warriors need Green to stay out of trouble in Beantown.