SAN FRANCISCO — It was exactly the kind of release the fans at the Chase Center had been seeking — some reason to jump up out of their seats in a delirious celebration of this team they couldn’t believe had lost Game 1.
It happened at the end of the third quarter. Jordan Poole took a few steps past midcourt, pulled up and launched a 39-foot shot that swished through the net. Poole hopped back the other way on his left foot and raised both his eyebrows while seemingly every Golden State fan leaped to their feet and started screaming with joy and perhaps a little relief.
That shot gave the Warriors a 23-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, and finished the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the NBA finals. Golden State won, 107-88, to tie the series at one game each. Game 3 is Wednesday night in Boston.
The Celtics had a habit this postseason of playing well when they had to win and playing with less urgency when they could afford to lose. That worked for them in the first three rounds, but it meant that their second- and third-round series each went to seven games.
Boston Coach Ime Udoka addressed that with his team before Game 2 of the finals.
“It’s time to be greedy and go for two,” Udoka said.
He had also addressed Golden State’s penchant for making big third-quarter runs, a major problem for a Celtics team that had made a habit this season of third-quarter struggles.
In Game 1, Boston was able to overcome being outscored by 14 points in the third quarter because it dominated the fourth, outscoring Golden State 40-16.
In Game 2, Golden State didn’t allow a recovery. Instead that was when the dam broke.
The Warriors outscored the Celtics by 21 points in the third quarter on Sunday, and pushed their lead to 29 early in the fourth.
In Game 1, Stephen Curry unleashed a quick barrage of 3-pointers early, scoring 21 points in the first quarter. In Game 2, Curry remained threatening to the Celtics, and scored 29 points, 14 of them in the third quarter.
Celtics forward Jayson Tatum temporarily recovered from his Game 1 slump, but was eventually stymied in the third quarter.
Tatum shot 3 of 17 from the field in Game 1, and rebuffed suggestions that his shooting may have affected the rest of his game. As for moving beyond the one-game slump, he was confident he would be able to do that.
“You don’t let it creep into your mind,” Tatum said before Saturday’s practice. “I can’t do nothing about what happened last game.”
He responded by scoring 21 points in the first half of Game 2, making 7 of 16 shots. But he took only two shots from the field in the third quarter, despite playing all 12 minutes.
Al Horford, who led the Celtics with 26 points in Game 1, and blew a kiss to the Chase Center crowd when the game ended, took only four shots and scored 2 points in Game 2.
The game was close early, and the Celtics even had a 9-point lead at one point in the first quarter. But Golden State never let Boston sustain any lead. Despite 21 points from Tatum and 15 from Jaylen Brown in the first half, Golden State led by 2 at halftime.
By early in the fourth quarter, the game was so well in hand that most of Golden State’s starters rested for at least some of the final frame.
Streamers and confetti fell from the rafters after time expired, and Curry, who sat for the fourth quarter, looked up at them briefly. He had ensured that the series would return to San Francisco and last at least until a Game 5.