SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Stephen Curry lingered on the field with a towel draped over his head as the Boston Celtics celebrated a shock comeback.
What started with a Curry signature shooting night that sent Warriors fans shivers, ended with an epic fourth-quarter meltdown that left Golden State searching for answers after a 120-108 loss to the Celtics in of Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
“We learned a lot from this fourth quarter,” Curry said. “Obviously they took a lot of shots. It didn’t look like they missed until the bottom of the fourth. You find a team that has the momentum like they did and they keep shooting, it’s hard to get that momentum back.
Curry gave the Warriors a flying start, making a Finals-record six 3-pointers and scoring 21 points in the first quarter. The Warriors kept that momentum going to start the second half and bombarded Boston in the third quarter, increasing the lead to 15 as everything clicked.
But everything changed late.
The Warriors turned a 12-point lead after three quarters into a 12-point loss in a shocking turnaround that silenced a raucous crowd celebrating Golden State’s return to the Finals after a two-year absence.
“When you take shots, it’s a boost; and when you miss shots, she’s a Debbie Downer,” forward Draymond Green said. “That’s kind of what it was. They made them; we missed them. Sometimes you can allow missed shots to lower your defense. I think a bit of that happened in the fourth quarter as well.
Boston made its first seven 3-pointers of the quarter and ran away, leading to chants of “Let’s Go Celtics!” in the final seconds in a half-empty arena. Boston shot 21 for 41 of 3 for the game.
“They knocked down all the big shots in the fourth quarter,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Boston just played a brilliant quarter. They came in and got the win.
The Warriors scored just 16 points in the fourth quarter after a 38-point outburst in the third seemingly put them in control.
Boston was able to slow Curry down, limiting him to a 3-pointer and 13-pointers in the final three quarters and his teammates couldn’t provide enough help.
“I found a lot of space in the first quarter and was trying to ride that wave for as long as I could,” Curry said. “They’re obviously a good defensive team, but we created enough good looks offensively to win the game tonight, but we just couldn’t get enough saves and that lead melted away in the fourth.”
The collapse left the Warriors complaining to officials and searching for answers after their first home loss in this playoff after opening with nine straight wins.
It was the biggest squandered lead after three quarters of an NBA Finals game in 30 years as the seasoned Warriors crumbled over time instead of a Celtics squad filled with newcomers from the final. The last team to lose a Finals game while leading by at least 12 points after three quarters was Portland in 1992 in a series-ending loss to Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
The Game 1 loss was only the third in 24 playoffs for the Warriors under Kerr, with the others coming in the 2019 Finals against Toronto and the 2016 Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City.
“It’s first to four, not first to one,” goaltender Klay Thompson said. “We have all experienced situations like this. And we realize that it will be very hard. The best part about it is that we have another opportunity on Sunday.
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