The Celtics muddied up the waters in the second quarter last night, holding the Warriors to 20 points as they skated into halftime with a 45-43 lead. There was a sense that the Celtics didn't completely capitalize on the Warriors off night in the first half. The Warriors turned the ball over 13 times. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 11 points on 4-13 shooting. If there was ever a night where the opposing team should have a big lead in Oakland, it was last night. Yet the Celtics took an extremely precarious two point lead into the break. You can't keep the Warriors down for that long. Not at home. Not with an undefeated season at the Oracle on the line.
And then the third quarter started. Bang! Curry cans a three on their first possession. Avery Bradley fails to answer on the other end. The next trip down? Another three for Curry. That precarious two point lead had turned into a four point deficit one minute into the frame. With 10:56 to go in the third Brad Stevens called timeout.
Not sure what happened in that timeout, but the Celtics responded. Isaiah Thomas, held scoreless in the first half, took it hard to the hoop off an assist from Avery Bradley. From that point forward, the Warriors never held a lead larger than two. Which is saying something, because Steph Curry went positively bananas in the third quarter.
The reigning MVP put up 21 points. He went 6-6 from beyond the arc, and his other points came via foul shots earned on a contested three. He hit a 34-footer. He broke Terry Rozier's ankles on a pump fake and then splashed a three. He had a back breaking second-chance three pointer. Curry emptied out his long distance bag of tricks in that third quarter.
But when the dust settled, the Celtics were right there with the Champs. The Celts actually extended their halftime lead by a point to take a 82-79 lead into the final frame.
The reason why? Well, Isaiah Thomas was certainly one. The pint-sized point guard rallied in the third quarter to the tune of 18 points on 7-9 shooting. Blinding drives in transition. Right-handed finishes. Hook shots over seven footers. Three pointers. Trips to the foul line. Isaiah Thomas did it all. So much so that Thomas and Curry squaring off reminded us of another legendary duel:
Shades of Larry vs. Dominique in that Steph-Isaiah third quarter.— CelticsLife.com (@CelticsLife) April 2, 2016
As for the reason why Thomas turned it around to such a dramatic degree, maybe it was Stevens' timeout, maybe it was the halftime break, maybe it was the shoes?
Isaiah Thomas didn't score in the 1st half, but after he changed into Kobe All-Star shoes, he couldn't be stopped. https://t.co/ywieOiDKZZ— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 2, 2016
But it wasn't just Thomas. The Celtics responded as a team, never letting the Warriors go on one of their 10, 12 point runs. They answered on offense, with Kelly Olynyk knocking down a particularly big three halfway through the quarter in direct response to one of Curry's bombs. They answered on defense, with Avery Bradley making Curry work to get good looks and Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier crashing the boards and coming up with big bounds in traffic. And Evan Turner (21 points on 8-13 shooting on the night and a team-best +9) was huge, hitting mid-range jumpers (and a three!) when the team needed it most. Brad Stevens was happy with it:
Stevens cracked a smile when recalling third quarter: "It was high-level basketball, that's what it was."— Jay King (@ByJayKing) April 2, 2016
All in all, it was a full team effort and one that showed the rest of the league that this Celtics team can play with anyone. Hopefully Kevin Durant was watching. This Celtics team can flat out compete. One guy we know was watching, Jae Crowder, will back in the lineup tomorrow night against the Lakers. Hopefully the C's can ride this wave all the way to third seed in the Eastern Conference.
Photo Credit Kyle Terada USA Today Sports Paul Colahan 4/02/2016 07:19:00 PM Tweet Edit