Gary Payton II walked off the bench and to the scorer's table, but he had to wait before joining the NBA Finals.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr "pump-faked" Payton, he joked.
A couple more seconds didn't hurt a month and two days after injuring his elbow in Memphis. He felt ready for Thursday's Game 1, but Kerr only wanted to use him in an emergency.
Payton stated it was frustrating he couldn't support his teammates. "The injury has been frustrating." Last week I was near, so I was anxious and ready to go.
Payton is a Warriors necessity. They make up for a lack of pure scorers with energetic, dynamic wings. Payton was so eager he missed a layup because his body was moving too fast.
A Jaylen Brown touch foul saved his perfect shooting night, which included a corner three that surprised the Celtics bench.
"It's nice, no?" Payton questioned his shot.
"I was worried about him being able to stretch his arm and shoot," Kerr added. "He needed the extra days to be ready, and I thought he was fantastic. It boosts our defence, physicality, and transition speed.
Given his injuries, he could be hesitant to take long shots, and shooting isn't one of his best skills.
Fearlessness is the first word in his bio, therefore he would be brave after shooting 35 percent from three in 71 games.
He suffered a heart-stopping fall on the same elbow that had some wondering if he'd join Andre Iguodala on the "back for a day then back to IR" list. No code breaking was discussed postgame thanks to Dillon Brooks' absence.
Payton: "I tried to tuck and roll."
He speaks gradually, his charm in the space he leaves through stillness. Nothing like his Hall of Famer father.
The Warriors saw his value in one preseason game before choosing him over Avery Bradley. Payton is the league's finest one-on-one defender because of his hard work.
He's owed a raise after overplaying his $1.9 million salary this season. He's an immediate intangible.
Payton: "We were soft the first game." "That was our focus heading into this game: being aggressive, playing Warriors basketball, and being on defence, locked on our assignments and knowing our personnel."
His aggression and activity allow him to call Game 1's play "soft" without disrespecting his veterans. This styles-make-fights series will need his best.
Celtics' sloppiness with the ball gives the Warriors easy threes and quick timeouts.
Even though he's 6-foot-3, Payton will hide under Brown and Tatum. Maybe the Warriors will put him on Marcus Smart to aggravate him.
Payton is more important against the Celtics' explosive offence than defending Luka Doncic last round.
He's up for the challenge.