This postseason has been like a perverse Choice Your Own Adventure gone wrong for Sixers fans. First, Jimmy Butler screamed “Tobias Harris over me!?” after sending Philadelphia home for the summer, then played an incredible Eastern Conference Finals in pushing the Boston Celtics to the final seconds of Game 7. As if one Ghost of Sixers Past wasn’t enough, though, now Al Horford has taken center stage, scoring a team-high 26 points on 6-of-8 shooting from 3 in Boston’s 120-108 Game 1 victory. Yes, the same Al Horford who averaged seven points per game and hit a grand total of zero three-pointers in his lone postseason series with the Sixers. Oh, and former Sixers assistant coach Ime Udoka is getting plenty of much-deserved shine for helming the mid-season turnaround for a team that is now three wins away from a title. Egad.
Nevertheless, Sixers-related pain aside, these Finals are shaping up to be an entertaining affair. Boston fought back from double-digit deficits in both the first and second halves of Game 1, eventually surging ahead on the strength of a 40-16 fourth quarter. The Celtics’ supporting cast stepped up in a big way, with Horford, Marcus Smart, and new-dad-powered Derrick White combining to shoot 15-of-23 from behind the arc. With Boston strangely opting to begin the game in drop coverage, Steph Curry was incendiary in the first quarter, hitting 6-of-8 threes for 21 points. He cooled off from there, however, hitting only one more three and scoring 13 points across the final three quarters.
Falling behind 0-2 and heading to Boston would almost be a death knell for the Warriors. They are 4.5-point favorites tonight in what’s essentially a must-win contest. Can Golden State do a better job defending Boston’s five-out lineup with Horford at center that served as the catalyst for the Celtics’ big fourth-quarter run? Will the Warriors survive better during the non-Curry, Jordan Poole-led minutes? How will Jayson Tatum respond after a strange Game 1 where he led all players in assists with 13, but shot just 3-of-17 from the field? If the Warriors again concentrate so heavily on turning Tatum into a passer, they will certainly need to close out better when he kicks the ball out to open teammates. Will simply “better execution” of that plan be enough?
There’s a lot to unpack tonight as these teams begin the chess match of adjustments and counter-adjustments that is an NBA Finals. Watch tonight and follow along with the action here in our open thread as we see what Game 2 has in store.