My Thoughts and Views of Game 2 of the NBA Finals
On Thursday June 2, the Warriors kicked off their 6th finals in 8 years by blowing a 12 point lead in the 4th quarter, and eventually losing by a score of 120–108. The series was now 1–0 in favor of the Celtics with this matchup being only the third time that the Dubs lost Game 1 (the others being the first round win over the Nuggets in 2013 and the crushing 6 game defeat at the hands of the Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals). So despite the Warriors assurance that they could regroup, I was still slightly worried at the prospect of them raising their fourth banner in the past decade. Naturally the Warriors collapse left me frustrated for a couple of hours, a feeling that I hoped would not continue when I arrived in San Francisco for Game 2.
In October, my uncle had jokingly said, “If the Warriors make the Finals this year, I’ll take you out to see a game.” At that point the pre-season rankings had the Warriors as a playoff team, though they were seen as a tier below the supposed powerhouses of Phoenix and Brooklyn, and the two star-laden LA teams. Despite his joking nature, I told him “Ok, you’ve got a deal.”
The Dubs incredibly started off the season 30–11, before coasting to the third seed with a record of 53–29. In the postseason, they would easily dispatch the Nuggets in 5 due to a Poole Party, the Grizzlies in 6 due to the everlasting grittiness of Steph and Klay, and the Mavericks in 5 due to their championship experience and clutch shot-making. That led them to an NBA finals showdown against Jayson Tatum, and the Boston Celtics who had just come off of two grueling 7 game series against the Bucks, and Jimmy Butler (seriously, no one else on the Heat stepped up). Which leads us back to the present, Warriors down 1–0, facing a Game 2 that they most likely need to win as there was no way that they would steal both game 3 and game 4 at the TD Garden.
Saturday morning, a day and a half after Game 1, I took a 5 hour flight to San Francisco to watch the Warriors face off against the Celtics in person thanks to my uncle in partnership with some friends, was able to snag two amazing tickets. As we were driving to Chase Center, I told him my post-game ritual if the Warriors lost a game, especially one as important and demoralizing as the opener was. “When the Warriors lose, it stays with me for days, it can shape the direction of my entire day. I don’t read any articles about the previous match, instead visualizing Curry and Thompson making their usual shots, and Green providing his usual trash-talk and hard-nosed defense.” See being a fan of a sports team can sometimes cloud your judgement. You forget that it’s just a game, that the outcome is out of your control, and no matter how much you yell at the computer, the Warriors will continue to make mind-numbing turnovers. He completely agreed with me and as we walked to our seats, I came up with 3 issues with Game 1 that had to switch if the Warriors were intent on evening this up. 1) Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson could not combine for 24 points, at least one of them would need to bring energy to the building and help Curry put the Celtics away. 2) Draymond Green needed to shoot less (2–12 won’t cut it) and instead focus on what he does best: bringing extreme intensity, and jump-starting the Warriors offense. 3) Al Horford and Derrick White can not combine for 47 points on 15/27 shooting, that’s 55.5% between two role players! And Draymond had this to say after that game “15–23 from those guys (referencing Marcus Smart as well) so, we’ll be fine.” While he did make some sense, you still cannot leave these shooters wide open and expect them to miss every shot that is handed to them. Give your A+ effort and see where that leads you.
The excitement and energy at Chase Center was insane from tipoff until the end of the game, especially in that dominating third quarter. The Warriors offense started off slow with Klay Thompson unsuccessfully trying to shoot himself out of a slump, yet were up by 1 after the first. That trend continued in the second quarter as their O was only able to muster 21 points, yet survived the first half leading 52–50, as Boston was missing make-able shots. Then came halftime I am convinced that the Celtics secretly switched games with ones from the JV Trevor Day School team as they were outscored by 21 points, leading the way to a typical Warriors blowout. Curry woke up, scoring 14 of his 29 points in that frame, and in turn, ignited Jordan Poole who hit two deep threes including a buzzer beater from just beyond half court. The crowd erupted with chants of “Boston sucks,” and “Warriors in 6” being heard long after the Warriors finally secured a win in the 2022 Finals. When looking at the box score, my 3 keys of the game all went the Warriors way. While Klay and Poole did not have amazing games (Klay shot 4–19!), Poole did have a couple important threes at the start of the 4th quarter which forced Ime Udoka to raise the white flag and put in his subs. Draymond had a vintage game with 9, 5, and 7. He received a tech early which was his way of stating warning the Celtics he and Golden State would control the rest of the game. As the primary defender on Jaylen Brown, he forced Brown to 17, largely meaningless points, on an inefficient 5–17 shooting. And the terrifying trio of Smart, Horford, and White? They combined for 16 points and were a virtual no-show once the Warriors onslaught began.
As we headed back home, listening to the Warriors postgame analysis, I realized that this was now a series. If the Warriors could continue their amazing streak of 26 consecutive series with a road win, then they would reclaim home court advantage, and be in the driver’s seat for their 4th championship in the past eight years. It would not be easy and players not named Stephen Curry would have to rise up to the occasion, however now I knew that the blueprint too beating the Celtics was actually there.