BOSTON — On only two occasions during Game 3 of the NBA Finals did the Boston Celtics find themselves behind, including when the Golden State Warriors scored a layup on the first possession of the game.
The second occasion in which Boston trailed threatened to swing the pendulum of the series, on the heels of giving up a rare seven-point possession. Unlike Sunday, the Celtics responded with championship mettle to Golden State’s tsunami of threes, and now the job of winning championship No. 18 is halfway done.
Jaylen Brown (27 points, nine rebounds, five assists) put an early stamp on the game with 17 first-quarter points before he, Jayson Tatum (26 points, six rebounds, nine assists) and Marcus Smart 24 points, seven rebounds, five assists) all but alternated buckets for the entirety of the final period as the Celtics defeated the Golden State Warriors 116-100 to take a 2-1 series lead in Boston’s first home game in the Finals in 12 years. The trio all scored at least 24 points, led by Brown’s 27, and the Celtics once again punished the smaller Warriors on the boards — Boston held a 47-31 rebounding advantage, including snagging 15 offensive rebounds — in keeping their opponents at bay long enough to put the game away late.
Fueled by an electric TD Center crowd that finally witnessed an NBA Finals game after heartbreak in the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the previous five seasons, Boston built a lead as much as 18 in the second quarter. Outside of Tatum’s 4-for-10 effort from the field, all of the other seven Celtics who played in the first half shot at least 50 percent from the field as Boston ended the half shooting an astounding 57.7 percent (27-for-47), including making eight of its 18 three-point attempts.
For the second consecutive game, the Warriors made a furious third-quarter push, highlighted by a 12-0 run — with seven of those points scored on one possession — to give the Warriors just its second lead at 83-82. Stephen Curry, who once again led the Warriors in scoring with 31 points, drained a three-pointer in transition from the top of the key while being fouled by Al Horford to cut Boston’s lead to 82-76 with five minutes remaining in the third. The foul was deemed a flagrant foul for not allowing Curry space to land after the jump shot, and after Curry made the penalty free throw, Otto Porter Jr. swished an off-balance three from straightaway to complete the seven-point trip and scythe Boston’s lead down to two, 82-80.
Curry’s three-pointer a couple of possessions later saw the Warriors, who outscored Boston 35-21 in the third quarter of Game 2 to seal the game, take just its second lead of the game, an advantage that would have unnerved many despite its slim margin.
Boston kept its nerve this time around.
The Celtics scored five straight points to retake the lead for good, the first three coming on a Smart longball. Grant Williams hit a triple right before the end of the quarter to extend Boston’s lead to seven and, to begin the fourth, Boston went on a 9-2 run to reestablish control once more. Once Smart’s three-pointer swished through at the 5:07 mark to give the Celtics a 110-96 lead, the game was in the bag.
Brown, Tatum and Smart combined for 19 of Boston’s 23 points overall in the fourth quarter, and, for the game, became the first trio to each amass at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in the same NBA Finals game since the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper pulled it off against the Celtics in Game 6 of the 1984 NBA Finals.