August 20, 2022

BOSTON – Once again, the Boston Celtics found themselves beaten by the Golden State Warriors in the third quarter.

And, as Stephen Curry’s 3-pointer fell into the basket with 3 minutes and 45 seconds left in the third quarter of Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night, capping a 10-0 run at Golden State and going 83-82 Warriors, there was a collective groan from the sold-out crowd inside TD Garden:

Here we go again.

Only the Celtics – for the second time in this series – found a way to respond to a Warriors punch to the jaw in the third quarter with their own haymaker in the fourth, limiting Golden State to just 11 points in the fourth quarter as Boston won 116-100, taking the C’s to a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series.

“I felt like our team had really stayed balanced in those times,” Al Horford said. “As you know, earlier in the year it could have gone downhill quickly.

“But we stuck with it and just locked ourselves in and didn’t panic and just kept playing.”

As Horford mentioned, Boston hasn’t been a team able to do that all season. But since the Celtics reversed their season for good in late January, they’ve proven to be incredibly resilient. Wednesday’s Game 3 win saw Boston improve to 7-0 in this postseason after a loss, and the Celtics are yet to drop a straight playoff game.

Since Jan. 23, the Celtics have gone 13-1 in games after a loss.

“I think that’s kind of when we changed our season, when we hit that milestone,” Jayson Tatum said. “Earlier in the season we would have lost leads and lost games like this, whereas now – things happen, don’t they. They’re a great team. They have great players. They’re going to do shots. They’ll go on the runs. But it all depends on how you react.

“We didn’t lower our heads or anything. We called a time out, we regrouped, we understood and made winning plays. I was definitely proud of the group for that.”

The Celtics had to because, again, they failed to get any traction in the third quarter. Golden State has now trailed Boston by 43 points through three third quarters so far in this series as the Warriors have repeatedly managed to twist the Celtics in defensive knots.

That, of course, is driven by Stephen Curry, who finished with 31 points on 12-for-22 shooting in 37 minutes, and generated a 7-point possession by hitting a 3 while blatantly fouled by Horford, allowing to then Curry hit the free throw followed by Otto Porter Jr. knocking down 3 more.

A minute later, that Curry 3 put Golden State in place and put Boston back on their heels.

But rather than crumble, the Celtics responded. They went 11-6 in the closing minutes of the third quarter to regain the lead going into the fourth. From there, the Celtics beat Golden State 23-11, limiting the Warriors to just one field goal in the first three minutes as Boston went on a quick 9-2 run to rebound their lead to double digits.

“For me, it was just being ready,” Marcus Smart said. “Keep calm. We’ve been here before. They’re a very good team. They’re going to run, but so are we. We just have to pull ourselves together and keep on running.”

The fact that Boston had the painting patrolled by Robert Williams III helped. While Tatum, Smart and Jaylen Brown all tallied more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists – becoming the first trio of teammates to accomplish this feat in an NBA Finals game since Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul- Jabbar and Michael Cooper did. for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Celtics in 1984 – it was Williams who was the team’s best plus-21 in 25 minutes, and finished with 8 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocked shots and a mountain of bustle games.

“He’s a game-changer,” Horford said. “Rob is a real game-changer. We’re very lucky to have a guy like that impacting the win the way he does, because it’s beyond the numbers with him. he brings, being in the right I was so impressed with Rob, just by his ability to keep improving and learning.

“He’s learning. We talk to him, I feel like we can ask a lot of him and he always understands, understands and that’s better. But his stuff goes beyond the box score, the impact he has on the Game.”

Williams has seen that impact fluctuate from game to game throughout these playoffs, as he has struggled with his left knee for more than two months. He underwent meniscus surgery on that knee at the end of March, which knocked him out for the end of the regular season and the start of Boston’s first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets.

He then suffered a bone bruise on the same knee in Boston’s second-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, which caused him to miss the final three games of that series, as well as Game 3 of the Boston Conference Finals. the East against the Miami Heat. Since then, Williams has been questionable in every game – only to be cleared in the hours before the whistleblower.

“It’s been tough,” Williams said of dealing with her knee. “To throw everything at it. Usually it’s more painful the day after the game, obviously the adrenaline goes down. But we did different things today, we got on the bike a bit earlier before the game. J took advantage of it.”

That he felt good was clear. Williams was all over the field, constantly looking for loose balls, flying across the lane to contest shots and constantly finding himself in the center of the action.

“I talk to Rob constantly, just for the simple fact that I know what he’s going through,” Smart said. “He’s in pain, and even though he’s injured, he still wants to come out and help his team. But at the same time, he’s thinking about his career. Like I just told him, ‘You know your body. You know what what you can handle and what you can’t. But just know that we have a chance to do something special. There’s no guarantee we’ll be back here. If you can go, we’ll take 20% off. ‘between you better than any of you.’

“He figured that out, and he decided to go out there and put on his big boy pants and suck it off and go crazy.”

The Celtics spent the three days between their awful loss in Game 2 and Game 3 talking about the need to play with more energy and effort. That message was evident from the opening tip, as Boston immediately set the tone with their physical play at both ends. Boston won the rebound battle by 16, including 15 offensive rebounds, and didn’t allow Golden State to speed things up, committing just 12 turnovers — including just one in the fourth.

Suddenly, Boston is now two wins from a championship. And, having once again bounced back from a loss – as well as a blow from the Warriors during the game itself – the Celtics must now do what they have so consistently failed to do in this playoff: meet thus to a win.

“Another rebound from us,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “My message to the group was, ‘We did this after losses, react in the right way after a win now. “”