The Boston Celtics stole Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Finals in San Francisco Thursday evening, outscoring the Golden State Warriors by the margin of 40-16 in the final stanza.
It was an absolutely stunning end result to a game that saw the Warriors lead by 15 at one point in the second half.
Heading into Game 2 Sunday evening at Chase Center, the Warriors are in win-now mode. They can’t afford to fall behind 2-0 with the NBA Finals heading to Boston for Game 3 Wednesday evening.
Like we did for the opener, here are four bold predictions for Game 2 of the 2022 NBA Finals.
Jayson Tatum rebounds from horrible Game 1 shooting performance
Despite putting up 13 assists in the opener, Tatum shot a mere 3-of-17 from the field. It was the worst shooting performance of his playoff career.
It’s been like clockwork for Tatum. He has responded after terrible shooting performances throughout his postseason career. Back in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the forward shot 3-of-14 in a loss to the Miami Heat. He responded the following game by scoring 31 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Earlier in the playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tatum shot 4-of-19 in a game. He followed that up by averaging 33.3 points on 48% shooting over the next three games to help close out the defending champs.
The expectation here is that Tatum will come out aggressive in Game 2. He’ll end up dropping north of 30 points for a Celtics team that’s riding a high after Wednesday night’s win.
Gary Payton II will see more minutes than Jordan Poole
Despite his ascension to stardom on offense, Poole doesn’t provide a whole lot on the other end of the court. When he’s not scoring and facilitating, the 22-year-old guard is a net negative for Golden State.
This was the game in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Poole shot 2-of-7 from the field with four turnovers. Golden State was minus-19 in the 25 minutes he played. Meanwhile, Boston’s perimeter offense got it going big time (21-of-41 from 3-point range).
If the Warriors are going to even this series up at one, they must play better perimeter defense. That’s where Payton II comes into play. Despite being cleared for Game 1, he failed to see the court.
“It’s frustrating, but I think coach is going to call me when it’s the right time,” Payton said ahead of Game 2. Sunday night now appears to be the right time.
Having not played since he suffered a fractured elbow in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, the defensive stopper is ready to go. He matches up better defensively and has helped Golden State to strong showings with him on the court this postseason (plus-14). Look for Payton II to take over for Poole should the latter continue to struggle early in Game 2.
Klay Thompson drop 35 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals
Golden State needs pre-injury Klay to show up consistently if it is going to take the NBA Finals. We’ve only seen that a few times during the playoffs.
In Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals against Memphis with the Warriors needing a home win to avoid Game 7, Thompson dropped 30 points on 8-of-14 shooting from distance. In the conference finals’ close-out game against Dallas, Thompson went for another 32 point 8-of-16 from three-point range.
The moral of this story? Big Game Klay isn’t just a narrative. He comes to play when it matters the most. With Golden State pretty much facing a must win in Game 2, we expect Klay to come up big again.
Boston Celtics steal Game 2 of the NBA Finals
Simply put, Boston presents a matchup issue for Golden State that we didn’t see during the Western Conference Playoffs. Both Denver (Nikola Jokic) and Dallas (Maxi Kleber) had bigs who can shoot. But neither presents the same problem as Al Horford in that the Celtics have other consistent threats from the perimeter who make it more difficult to guard Horford.
The Warriors can’t afford to sit Kevon Looney simply based on this matchup. He’s been too good. How is Golden State going to defend Horford? Will it be able to hold up against Boston’s group of wings?
Unless the Warriors’ game plan improved a great deal over the past two days, defending Boston is going to be an issue here. Klay can go off for 35. Stephen Curry can have his typical 30-point performance. But none of this will matter if the Celtics aren’t contained on offense.
This leads us to boldly predict that Boston will steal Game 2 of the NBA Finals, taking a 2-0 series lead heading back to Boston and putting the “dynastic” Warriors up to their biggest test of this eight-year run.