The Golden State Warriors rallied around a 29-point Stephen Curry for a series-leveling 107-88 NBA Finals win over the Boston Celtics Sunday.
Curry spearheaded a deadly display of Golden State shooting in San Francisco while a superb Warriors defensive effort shut down Boston’s key offensive weapons.
The Warriors, who squandered a 12-point fourth-quarter lead in game one, were in no mood to allow lightning to strike twice as they cut loose to build a double-digit advantage in the third quarter to tie the best-of-seven series at 1-1.
Curry led the scoring for Golden State, with Jordan Poole (17 points), Andrew Wiggins (11), Kevon Looney (12) and Klay Thompson (11) also making double figures.
Jayson Tatum topped the Boston scorers with 28 points, but crucially 21 of those came in a hard-fought first half.
Only two other Boston players – Jaylen Brown with 17 points and Derrick White with 12 – cracked double digits.
The Warriors’ defense, marshaled brilliantly by Draymond Green, suffocated Boston in the second half, with two high-scoring Celtics heroes from game one – Al Horford and Marcus Smart – held to just four points combined.
The series now moves to Boston with game three scheduled for Wednesday and game four on Friday.
“We said we needed to play with desperation and that’s what we did,” said Curry. “It’s a good feeling to get back on track and now we’ve got to take it on the road.
“We got off to a better start defensively where we made an imprint on the game and they felt us more than they did in game one. Our third quarter was great and we got a bit more separation that made the fourth quarter easier tonight.”
The Warriors put themselves in a winning position after outscoring Boston 35-14 in the third quarter to take an 87-64 lead into the fourth quarter.
Poole electrified San Francisco’s packed Chase Center after launching a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from near halfway at the end of the third to cap a devastating passage of play from the home team.
The Warriors kept up the pressure in the early part of the fourth quarter, extending their lead to 29 points as the Celtics scrambled to regroup before closing out a blowout win.
“I thought everybody was more engaged,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “It was pretty obvious, just our level of strength and physicality was ramped up quite a bit, and it had to be.
“What Boston did in the fourth quarter the other night, we knew we had to come with a much better focus and sense of aggression, and I thought that started right from the beginning.”
Boston, who erupted for 40 points in the final quarter to win game one, picked up where they left off on Sunday, jumping out to an early 13-5 lead with Brown leading the way.
A Brown 3-pointer took Boston into a 22-13 lead early in the first quarter before a sustained Warriors rally led by Curry saw the hosts get back to within one point.
A Curry layup on the buzzer gave Golden State a 31-30 lead heading into the second quarter.
Again though Boston found another gear, with Tatum nailing a 3-pointer to put the Celtics 33-31 ahead. The Celtics took a five-point lead at 40-35 with a White 3-pointer.
The Warriors responded with a 10-0 lead to go up 45-40 and there was little to separate the two teams in the closing stages of the half. Wiggins scored from an offensive rebound to give the Warriors a slender 52-50 halftime lead.
Boston looked the more dangerous team for long periods of the first half, and made 10-of-19 from 3-point range, including five from Tatum while Brown finished the half with 15 points.
But the Warriors – who made only six from beyond the arc in the first half – erupted after the break to seal the game.
The Celtics meanwhile coughed up 18 turnovers as the Warriors’ defense took charge.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka was left ruing his team’s failure to build on a bright start.
“The third quarter was disappointing but the first half was just as disappointing,” Udoka said.
“Had our opportunities. Came out, jumped out up nine early. Then turnovers started happening. Let them back in the game.”