SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Stephen Curry lingered on the court with a towel draped over his head as the Boston Celtics celebrated a shocking comeback.
What started with a signature Curry shooting night that had the Warriors fans rocking, ended with an epic fourth-quarter collapse that leaves Golden State searching for answers following a 120-108 loss to the Celtics in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
“We learned a lot from that fourth quarter,” Curry said. “Obviously they made a lot of shots. It didn’t seem like they missed until deep into the fourth. You find a team that has momentum like they did and they keep making shots, it’s tough to regain that momentum.”
Curry got the Warriors off to a blistering start, making a Finals record six 3-pointers and scoring 21 points in the first quarter. The Warriors carried that momentum over to start the second half and blitzed Boston in the third quarter, building the lead up to 15 as everything was clicking.
But that all changed late.
The Warriors turned a 12-point lead after three quarters into an 12-point loss in a shocking turnaround that silenced a boisterous crowd that had been celebrating Golden State’s return to the Finals after a two-year absence.
“When you’re making shots, that’s a boost; and when you’re missing shots, it’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 drag your defense down. I think a little 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 closing seconds in a half-empty arena. Boston shot 21 for 41 from 3 for the game.
“They knocked down every big shot in the fourth quarter,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Boston just played a brilliant quarter. They came in and earned the win.”
The Warriors scored just 16 points in the fourth quarter after a 38-point explosion in the third had put them seemingly in control.
Boston managed to slow Curry down, limiting him to one 3-pointer and 13 points 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 as long as I could,” Curry said. “They obviously are a good defensive team but we created enough good looks offensively to win the game tonight but just couldn’t get enough stops and that lead melted away in the fourth.”
The meltdown left the Warriors complaining to officials and searching for answers after their first home loss in these playoffs after opening with nine straight wins.
It was the biggest blown lead after three quarters of an NBA Finals game in 30 years as the experienced Warriors fell apart down the stretch instead of a Celtics team filled with Finals newcomers. The last team to lose a Finals game when leading by at least 12 points after three quarters was Portland in 1992 in a Game 6 series-ending loss to Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
The Game 1 loss was just the third in 24 playoff series 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,” guard Klay Thompson said. “We all have been through situations like this. And we realize that it’s going to be very hard. Best part about it is we have another opportunity Sunday.”