Celtics make costly mistakes late, fall 115-111 to Warriors
The Boston Celtics fell to the reigning champion Golden State Warriors 115-11 in a matchup of the two teams that many people picked to face off in the NBA Finals. Despite a championship level effort for most of the game, a few late mistakes cost the C's the game. This loss snaps a five-game winning streak and a 10-game home winning streak for Boston.
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 33 points, Steph Curry had 24 points and Klay Thompson added 21. Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 32 points, 10 rebounds, and sic assists, while Al Horford added 22 points and 13 rebounds.
The atmosphere was electric to start the game, and the hype surrounding this matchup (a late January matchup, nonetheless) was somehow totally on par. And the two teams did not disappoint early on. The pace of play, and just the sheer talent level across all 10 players was through the roof. Thompson scored eight of the team's first 12 points, and Irving knocked down his first two three pointers to go along with three early assists. Both teams were getting open looks, but the Celtics found some early success by putting Demarcus Cousins in the action on the defensive end. Cousins is an elite offensive player and a solid defensive center around the rim, but his lack of speed led to plenty of open lanes.
Horford, taking advantage of many of the Cousins' defensive mishaps, let the national audience know that he is fully back from his knee injury. He was all over the court, with seven points, five rebounds, two assists, and a steal in the first eight minutes of the game.
While Horford, Irving and Co. were doing their thing, Durant was single-handedly keeping Golden State close. He had 14 first quarter points, and 12 straight down the stretch in the opening frame. A late three from Draymond Green gave the Warriors a 29-26 lead heading into the second quarter.
Although the stats might not have shown it, neither team was too effective from the field or putting up a 40-point quarter, the pace of play, intensity, and shot making ability from both sides was intoxicating. The skill level with which these teams play is incredible, and the first quarter of this primetime matchup was everything we expected.
After going scoreless in the first quarter, Curry decided it was time to start being himself again and promptly knocked down four straight three pointers in the first four minutes of the second quarter. Golden State stretched the lead out to seven with eight minutes to go and an all bench unit plus Marcus Morris on the floor for Boston.
With Curry cooking from deep, the Celtics started to trap the action any time he had the ball, and some sloppy defensive rotations led to a number of open lanes and easy dunks. Transition defense was also an issue, as Curry and Thompson both got a number of open looks off of their fast break offense.
The Warriors stretched their lead to eight with four minutes to play in the half on the back of 17 second quarter points from Curry. And just as you thought Golden State was going to go nuclear and open up an insurmountable lead, the Celtics went on a 12-5 run to pull the game within two going into the halftime break.
#Warriors lead #Celtics 61-59 at half. Irving 19, Brown 10, Horford 9; Curry 17, Durant 16, Thompson 10.
Jayson Tatum, who had a quiet first half, scored 11 quick points to open the second half, including three three pointers. Horford continued to be effective in all areas of the floor and the offense started to pick up as the third quarter went on. Cousins picked up his fourth and fifth fouls early in the quarter, and the Celtics took a 77-75 lead after a Morris three pointer with just under seven minutes to play. The back-and-forth nature of the game, and especially the start of the second half, provided for an incredibly entertaining game. It sounds like a broken record, but the shot making ability of these teams is, at times, unbelievable.
Boston also used the offensive glass to their advantage, especially when Cousins was on the bench. Eleven offensive rebounds led to 13 second chance points, and made up for the fact that the Celtics' shooting percentage had dropped to 43 percent late in the third quarter. A near five minute scoreless stretch from the Celtics to close out the third quarter put a damper on an otherwise effective stretch of play. With Irving on the bench, and Gordon Hayward/Terry Rozier having very rough nights, Boston wasn't able to get or convert on any good looks. Luckily, the Celtics' defense was able to limit the Warriors by forcing some turnovers and not allowing Durant to have a stretch with the bench unit like he did earlier in the game. Heading into the fourth quarter the Celtics trailed 90-84.
With Horford and Irving in to start the fourth quarter, the Celtics picked up their offense and put together a 12-4 run to take a 96-94 lead. Horford's play cannot be understated since shedding his minutes restriction. He has been noticeably aggressive on the offensive end and his two-man game with Irving cannot be replicated.
Kyrie and Horford both on the court to start the fourth. And Playoff Al continues.
Cousins, playing with five fouls since the middle of the third, started to impose his will on the game throughout the fourth quarter. With Boston crashing the offensive glass so hard (23 second chance points), Warriors head coach Steve Kerr went with a bigger lineup of Cousins and Kevon Looney in the front court, which gave Horford and the Celtics some trouble.
Boogie's had some really good moments here in this stretch, but I wouldn't post him up on Horford if I also had Curry and KD on my team.
Six straight points from Irving gave the Celtics a one-point lead, but the back-and-forth nature of the game continued, as both teams traded buckets and leads down the stretch. Marcus Smart hit a huge there with just over a minute to go to tie the game 111-111, but Thompson came down, drew a foul, and knocked down two free throws to give Golden State back the lead. Back-to-back turnovers from the Warriors after defensive stops gave the Celtics multiple opportunities to tie the game, but none of the shots would fall. Green missed two free throws, but Golden State grabbed the offensive rebound and Curry gave them a four-point lead, and the win, with just six seconds to play.
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