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Defense, a little Curry magic, spark Warriors to Game 2 rout of Celtics

SAN FRANCISCO — Draymond Green broadcast the Warriors’ Game 2 strategy to the world Saturday.

“When you’re playing against a great team at this level at this point in the season, they have to feel you every possession,” Green said.

The Celtics felt the Warriors in Game 2 — and Green was in the middle of it, being Jaylen Brown to open the game. And stirring the pot a little.

“Just like I said, Steph Curry sets the tone on the offensive side of the ball, it’s my job to set the tone from the defensive side of ball,” Green said. “And I wanted to do that from the very beginning of the game.”

Golden State was physical at the point of attack, Green and Andrew Wiggins took away straight-line drives into the paint for Jayson Tatum and Brown, and the Warriors stripped the ball when the Celtics did get into the lane. Boston was still hitting its 3-pointers —10-of-19 in the first half — but they were shooting 28% inside the arc and had 11 turnovers in the first 24 minutes.

Those numbers came back to bite them in the third when the predictable Warriors avalanche came — Stephen Curry had 14 points in the frame and was hitting 3s, Klay Thomspon started to find a groove, then a struggling Jordan Poole did this.

Golden State shot 7-of-12 from 3 on its way to a 35-14 domination of the third quarter. From there, the Warriors pulled away and, unlike Game 1, never let Boston get up off the mat.

The Warriors routed the Celtics 107-88, evening the NBA Finals at 1-1.

Game 3 is in Boston on Wednesday.

At points all season — especially the first couple of months — when the Celtics were challenged physically by a defense, they tended to get tunnel vision on drives into the paint, didn’t move the ball and it led to turnovers. Those bad habits were back in Game 2.

“We had 11 turnovers for 18 points in the first half,” Ime Udoka said. “They had nine steals. Playing in the crowd way too much… But we weren’t strong with the ball overall, so it wasn’t just [Green]. Of course he’s going to come out and try to set the tone. But I think we weren’t strong with the ball a lot, searching for fouls instead of going up and making plays, especially with their lack of rim protection.”

The turnovers let the Warriors get out in transition and play with pace, which Golden State felt needed to open up its offense. Curry got going and finished with 29 points, while Kevon Looney added 12 on 6-of-6 shooting, finishing passes and putbacks at the rim. Poole, who was 4-of-13 in the Finals before his half-court shot, finished with 17 and found his stroke in the final quarter.

“I think tonight turnovers and I think sometimes letting our offense affect how we defend,” Tatum said of what set Boston back. “We were a little stagnant in the third quarter, and I feel like it translated on the defensive end.”

However, it was the Warriors who forced the Celtics to struggle.

“We were able to get them out of their rhythm,” Kevon Looney said. “We were able to get [Al] Horford off the three-point line. Get Derrick White to finish some tough shots, and I think Draymond did a great job setting the tone on Jaylen Brown with his physicality, and we were able to keep them on their heels.”

Another part of that was the return of Gary Payton II to the rotation. He stepped into minutes that had gone to Andre Iguodala in Game 1 — he was out for Game 2 — and Payton’s value as a strong on-ball defender was obvious. Payton was +15 on the night.

With Payton, Golden State reminded everyone they had the No. 2 defense in the NBA this past season.
Tatum finished with 28 points on 8-of-19 shooting, a much improved shooting night from Game 1. Jaylen Brown added 17 and Derrick White had a dozen off the bench.

“I feel like we didn’t move [the ball] enough on offense at times,” Al Horford said. “I think that for whatever reason, we got caught playing, going downhill, attacking the basket a little more. They did a good job of staying with me, for example. Obviously, I didn’t get an attempt, not even a look. So they did a good job making sure they took me away. I just have to find other ways to impact the game, and that’s something that I’ll do Game 3.”

Boston got a split on the road, which is a good thing, but the Warriors showed their championship mettle in Game 2. If the Celtics are going to be champions, they will have to match it.