The Boston Celtics were rolling at home in Game 3 on Wednesday.
But the Golden State Warriors – as they’ve done throughout the NBA Finals – turned the momentum in their favor with a third-quarter surge. They got a big boost from Stephen Curry, who led a seven-point possession aided by a flagrant foul on Al Horford.
With 5:07 remaining in the quarter, Curry pulled up for a 3-pointer at the top of the arc. Horford reached out to defend the shot and bumped into Curry as he landed. Curry’s shot dropped, and the whistle blew. Curry counted out four points on his hands. His calculation was three short.
Horford’s foul upgraded to flagrant
Officials initially rung Horford up for a personal foul to send Curry to the line for one free throw. But they reviewed the foul, and referee Scott Foster announced that it was upgraded to a Flagrant 1 for “not allowing the shooter to land safely.”
Horford planted his left foot under Curry’s body as he landed, a flagrant by the book because of the potential for injury. The flagrant added up to a free throw for Curry and possession for the Warriors. Golden State made the most of it as Otto Porter Jr. connected on a 3-pointer after Curry sank his free throw. A possession that started with the Celtics leading 82-73 saw Golden State cut its deficit to 82-80 – a big momentum shift in a game that Boston previously controlled.
The Warriors are arguably to thank for this rule being in place to begin with. During the 2017 Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia didn’t give Kawhi Leonard room to land on a jump shot. Leonard landed on Pachulia’s foot and injured his left ankle.
The NBA later updated its flagrant foul rules to include not giving shooters room to land safely.