By KYLE HIGHTOWER
BOSTON (AP) — During the postseason, the Boston Celtics had played their best outdoor basketball.
Jaylen Brown scored 27 points, Jayson Tatum added 26 and the Celtics rode on the energy of a raucous TD Garden crowd to beat another Golden State attack in the third quarter in a 116-100 win Wednesday night that gave them a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
Marcus Smart added 24 points and helped fuel a defensive effort that kept the Warriors at 11 points in the fourth quarter — the third-lowest in a shot clock era final game.
“Game 2, they brought the heat to us,” said Smart. “For us that left a bad taste in our mouths because what we’re hanging our hats on is effort on defense and being a physical team. It definitely shook us up a bit.”
Tatum said the fact that the Celtics didn’t hang their heads after the Warriors blossomed in the third quarter is something they didn’t always do in the regular season.
“I think we are at our best when we react to difficult situations. We react to teams running and things like that,” he said. “I think we did that several times tonight.”
Boston improved to 6-4 at home, compared to 8-3 on the road this postseason. The Celtics have not lost two games in a row since the end of March.
Stephen Curry led Golden State with 31 points and six three-pointers. He had 15 points in a 33-25 third quarter for the Warriors, but was injured late in the fourth after Al Horford rolled in his leg on a loose ball. It was similar to a regular season play where Smart dove into Curry’s legs while chasing a loose ball.
Klay Thompson broke out of a final slump, finishing with 25 points and five 3s. But the Warriors’ shooting couldn’t save them on a night when the more athletic Celtics outsmarted them for a rebounding advantage of 47-31.
“When you allow a team to feel comfortable, especially at home — in front of the home crowd, it’s hard,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green.
Robert Williams III, who has worked his way back from knee surgery, finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
“We’ve talked about it quite a bit, our group is resilient and able to fight through a lot of things and at times when it’s most needed to lock down the defense,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. “We did that in the fourth quarter”,
Game 4 is Friday in Boston.
Despite Curry’s noticeable limp after the game with Horford, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that wasn’t the reason why he pulled him out of the game in the closing minutes.
“The injury didn’t force him out of the game, but I knocked him out at 14 with two minutes to go because we weren’t going to catch up,” Kerr said. “We’ll know more tomorrow.”
The previous 39 times teams have split the first two games of the Finals, the winner of Game 3 won the series 82% of the time.
Feeding on the energy of a Garden mob that booed Green on his miserable night in the first NBA Finals game in Boston since 2010, the Celtics got off to a quick start, leading by a whopping 18 points in the first half.
After a loss in Game 2 in which Boston turned the ball 19 times, the Celtics’ ball movement was much sharper at half-court, leading to open perimeter shots, favorable 1-on-1 matchups and lanes.
It caused the Warriors to scramble at times, contributing to three foul calls on Curry in the first 24 minutes.
But just as Boston played, its early lead in the third quarter was erased by a Warriors possession of seven points, including a four-point play from Curry when he made a blatant 1 foul on Horford and a three-pointer from Otto Porter Jr. to place Golden State 83-82.
Boston recovered to take a 93-89 lead in the fourth, then beat Golden State to a better score of 23-11 in the quarter.
The Celtics led 56-39 before an 8-0 spurt in just 37 seconds by the Warriors narrowed the lead to 56-49 on a layup by Curry with 3:32 left in the half. Boston gained momentum towards the end of the half, taking a 68-56 lead at halftime.
Warriors: Shot 8 of 23 in the first period. … Were surpassed 52-26 in the paint.
Celtics: Shot 57% in the first half (27 of 47. Including 8 of 18 out of 3. … With two three-pointers from Brown in the first quarter, he and Tatum became the first pair of teammates in Celtics history to make 50 3- punts in a single postseason.
Green was involved in fights with Brown and Grant Williams in Game 2 – one that ended in a technical foul on Green.
He had a brief second-quarter encounter with Williams on Wednesday when Williams knocked Green down in the midcourt.
A foul was called for Williams, but he and Green were given a brief face-off before being quickly separated by officials.
In the third quarter, Green landed on the ground, fighting for a loose ball with Brown. This time, Green was called for the foul.
The Celtics hit three of their first four shots and scored 10 straight runs to jump to a 10-2 lead.
Boston’s lead grew to 18-9 when a quick break ended when Curry picked up his second foul trying to contest Smart’s layup with 5:44 left in the quarter.
Curry stayed in the game and Golden State switched to zone, but it did little to slow Boston down, extending his lead to 15 points. The Celtics took a 33-22 lead in the second period.
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