NBA Finals Game 1 Recap and Analysis: The Warriors Experience a Historic Choke-Job


Wow. What a way to start the 2022 NBA Finals. After some objectively lackluster Conference Finals matches in both conferences, the NBA Finals started off with a bang, giving the avid NBA fans a highly intense and close game, until the final few minutes. Almost everyone, from professional analysts to casual watchers believed that the Warriors' experience should play some sort of a role in these Finals, and at the start of the game, that belief seemed to be true. The Celtics stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, both airballed threes that were certainly makeable for their standards in the first couple minutes of the first quarter, and Tatum even missed two consecutive free throws around the 8-minute mark of the game.

While the stars of the Celtics were struggling a bit at the start of the game, the stars of the Warriors came out of the gate guns blazing.  Steph, in particular, had one of the best quarter performances of all time in the NBA Finals, with 21 points and six made threes on crazy efficiency. Andrew Wiggins attacked the rim with vigor and force, and Klay was also dropping in threes left and right.  The continuous off-ball movement of the Warriors seemed to be too much for the Celtics, as they have never played this type of offense in their path to the Finals. There were constant miscues on defense for the Celtics, leading to wide-open threes for the greatest shooters ever. Despite the scoring outburst from the Warriors' stars in the first quarter, the Celtics still managed to stay extremely close to the Warriors, and by the end of the first, it was only a four-point game. A huge reason for this was due to the role players of the Celtics who perfectly starred in their roles. The Warriors' defensive attention primarily focused on the Jays, and it was clear that Coach Kerr's game plan was to dare the Celtics' other players, including Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and later on, Derrick White to shoot the threes and score.  Those Celtic role players certainly made the Warriors pay, from the start all the way up till the end of the game. 

At the start of the second, the Warriors continued to make everything. Otto Porter came in back from injury and dropped a couple of threes, and even the uncle of the team, Andre Iguodala, provided some nice buckets and defensive intensity. The Warriors were up 10 at one point early in the second, but suddenly, they went cold. The Celtics, who prided themselves all season on defensive ability led by Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart and coach Ime Udoka, immediately flipped the switch and intensified their defense. All basketball players know that once you get a couple of quality defensive possessions, your offensive will come as smooth as butter, and that is exactly what happened to the Celtics, as they tied the game up at 47 apiece around the 5-minute mark. The Celtic defense was so elite during that stretch in the second quarter that Warriors players, including Wiggins and Thompson, were missing wide-open threes. Steph Curry, who went off in the first, did not have a single point in the second. By the end of the first half, the Celtics were leading 56-54. 

Once the third quarter started, it seemed as though the Warriors came out with new energy, similar to that in the first quarter. Wiggins came out the half with a couple of made threes and layups, Steph got a couple of buckets, and Looney was a menace on the offensive boards. The smooth and effortless Warriors' offense lasted for the entire quarter, all while the defense was clamping up the Celtics' superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Everything the Warriors were doing was working, exemplified by Andre Iguodala's contested three-point make. One crucial aspect of offense that people seem to forget is free throws, and though the Celtics had a dominant advantage at the line in the first half, the Warriors almost evened out that advantage, going 10 for 10 at the line in the third. Everything seemed to be going the Warriors' way, and they were up 92-80, until the fourth quarter dawned upon Chase Center. 

Though Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were held in check for essentially the entire game up till the fourth quarter while the role players were playing great, Jaylen Brown started to find his groove, giving the Warriors buckets until Steve Kerr was forced to call timeout once the 12 point Warriors advantage was shortened to 5. What was happening in the first half of the fourth seemed eerily similar to what happened in the second quarter, where the Warriors had a sizable lead just for the Celtics to come back and take the lead. It was 106-103 Celtics at the 5-minute mark, forcing Steve Kerr to call timeout once again. The play of the game for the Celtics happened after that timeout, as the Warriors committed a turnover immediately leading to a Celtics three, expanding their lead to 6 points. After that, the Warriors seemed unenergetic, which was understandable as every Celtics' three was falling, literally. The lead for the Celtics bloomed to 15 points in the fourth quarter, and at one point, the Warriors did not score a single point for four and a half minutes, while the Celtics scored 17 during that stretch. A 17-0 run against the Warriors was the worst run that ever happened in all the Warriors' Finals appearances. By the end of the game, the Celtics outscored the Warriors 40-16 in the fourth, and the final score was 120-108. What seemed like a golden opportunity for the Warriors to lead in this Finals series quickly became the first time the Warriors lost home-court advantage in the 2022 playoffs. 

Though there were some general positives from the game, such as the quality production of Andre Iguodala and Otto Porter Jr after coming back from injury, the main objective that the Warriors should take away from this game is that three is worse than one. The Warriors tried their hardest to contain Jayson Tatum, which they did very effectively, forcing him to shoot 3 for 17 for the game, but in doing so, the Celtics' role players, including Derrick White, had some of the best performances of their lives. Al Horford, out of all people, was the leading scorer for the Celtics with 26 points and a crazy 75% from three, while Derrick White had 21 with 5 made threes. Marcus Smart had 4 made threes, including the one that I believed to be the best play for the Celtics. Jaylen Brown had 24, but with poor efficiency, and Jayson Tatum had 12, with even worse efficiency, meaning that the Warriors contained the Celtic stars pretty well. The Warriors coaching staff is smart enough to know that some of the Celtics' threes were a bit lucky, while some were based on poor defensive rotation from the Warriors, and fans will trust in their ability to not overreact to this one game, but rather focus on the details, particularly on defense, that they can work on. The offense for the Warriors seemed to work fine against the Celtic defense, but once the Warriors defense could not get any stops, the offense stagnated. As stated earlier, once the defense gets a couple of quality stops, the offense will come naturally. 

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