BOSTON -- There were a few close calls, but the Celtics have swung the 2022 NBA Finals pendulum back in their favor.
The Celtics defeated the Golden State Warriors 116-100 in Game 3 at TD Garden on Wednesday night, improving to an NBA-record 7-0 following a loss this postseason.
Boston's core trio of Jayson Tatum (26 points, six rebounds, nine assists), Jaylen Brown (27 points, nine rebounds, five assists) and Marcus Smart (24 points, seven rebounds, five assists) came up huge in this one, helping to fend off a third-quarter Warriors surge.
Stephen Curry (31 points) and Klay Thompson (25 points) did plenty of damage, but the C's kept Golden State's role players in check to take a 2-1 series lead.
Game 4 is set for Friday night at TD Garden, as the Celtics will aim to hand the Warriors back-to-back losses for the first time this season and take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Our takeaways from Boston's Game 3 victory:
Jaylen Brown ignites the offense
Brown set the tone for the second straight game, scoring 10 of Boston's first 18 points and racking up 17 in the first quarter alone.
The 25-year-old initiated the Celtics' offense for much of the quarter and also thrived as a playmaker, handing out three assists with just one turnover.
Brown's aggressiveness helped the C's jump out to a quick double-digit lead and take a 33-22 advantage into the second quarter. It also energized the TD Garden crowd, which was in full throat all game and seemed to have the Warriors on their heels early.
Third-quarter woes (almost) derail Celtics
The Warriors outscored the Celtics by a combined 35 points in the third quarter of Games 1 and 2, and a similar script started to unfold in Game 3.
Boston saw its 12-point lead evaporate in a barrage of Curry 3-pointers, as the Warriors star exploded for 15 points and three 3-pointers in the frame.
The Warriors actually took a one-point lead, but the Celtics showed impressive resolve later in the quarter, with Smart and Grant Williams both hitting 3-pointers late in the frame to give Boston a four-point lead entering the fourth.
Third quarters continue to be a massive issue for the Celtics, who are a minus-42 in the quarter through three games. But their ability to hold their ground and stymie Golden State's surge was a big reason why they emerged with the W.
Celtics win key rebounding battle
The C's may not have escaped with a win if it wasn't for their work on the glass.
Boston outrebounded Golden State 47-31 in Game 3 and snatched 15 offensive rebounds to the Warriors' six. That advantage helped the Celtics rack up 20 second-chance points, including this key Grant Williams putback in the fourth quarter.
Head coach Ime Udoka actually went "small" with mostly one-big-man lineups in Game 3, but Boston's wings and guards stepped up, with six players grabbing five rebounds or more.
The Warriors are a very small team outside center Kevon Looney, and the Celtics took advantage Wednesday with a combination of muscle and hustle that played a key role in their victory.
Marcus Smart steps up
While Tatum and Brown led the way with a combined 53 points, Smart's 24 points were just as crucial.
Smart followed up a two-point, 1 for 6 showing in Game 2 by tying his 2022 postseason high with 24 points on 8 of 17 shooting. He also committed five turnovers, but he made some key buckets in the second half to keep the Warriors at bay.
Smart has scored 20-plus points six times this postseason; unsurprisingly, the Celtics are 6-0 in those contests.
Robert Williams turns back the clock
Robert Williams seemed hobbled by his left knee injury in San Francisco, but Time Lord looked more like his old self Wednesday night.
The C's big man stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, 10 rebounds, three steals and a game-high four blocks. He made a significant impact on the defensive end by altering (and occasionally erasing) Golden State's shots.
Williams' 26 minutes were the most he's played in this series to date. The teams have just one day off before Game 4 on Friday, so it remains to be seen how his knee holds up to his increased workload. Game 3 proved just how much of a difference he can make, however.
Is Klay Thompson back?
The Warriors are at their most dangerous when Curry and Thompson are both hitting 3-pointers, and the second "Splash Brother" appears to have found his stroke.
After an abysmal shooting display in Games 1 and 2 (10 for 33; 4 for 15 from three) Thompson showed out with 25 points on 7 of 17 shooting while hitting 5 of 13 threes.
Thompson can singlehandedly alter games when his shot is falling, so the C's will need to guard him closely in Game 4 to keep him from gaining any more momentum.