The first matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics was a grindy affair that nonetheless turned into a barnburner, ending in a narrow Celtics win. Who knew what this would have in store? As it turned out, it was another excellent game for the duration. It ended in a less favorable conclusion for our heroes than last time, but unlike a lot of recent Celtics losses, the game tape Brad Stevens shows after will be more about what they did right than what they did wrong.
THE GAME FLOW
Logic would dictate that a Dubs-Celtics game would be unstoppable force/immovable object stuff, given the well-documented offensive supremacy of the former and the defensive acumen the latter has shown this season.
But this contest’s first quarter was an unmitigated shootout: Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford popping off with both efficiency and ease, contested by Steph Curry shooting fire from the field as expected. But his frontcourt compatriots Kevin Durant and Draymond Green (not to mention the utterly useless Zaza Pachulia) provided little backup, and Klay Thompson didn’t offer much help either. Boston closed the quarter with a run that put them 10 ahead of Golden State, 37-27.
The Dubs don’t like being trucked that hard in the face for starters, and nor should they. They retaliated hard with a 10-0 run largely driven by that squad’s ability to force turnovers and bad shots and turn them into beaucoup offense. But Boston wasn’t in any mood to be driven back without throwing a haymaker in return, and bench mob stalwarts Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier came into the fray and infused the Cs with much-needed energy and shotmaking. This, in turn, helped keep Kyrie going, and mitigated the damage that could’ve otherwise been caused by Durant and Green getting their shots to fall. Green in particular pushed hard, but couldn’t drive the Dubs to a lead, with the score hitting 54-50 at the half.
Curry and Durant went on a retaliatory tear to start the second half, with the former racking up 7 points in barely more than a minute and taking the lead from the Celtics. Horford and Irving hit back to briefly retake the lead…but the dreaded third-quarter Warriors effect is dreaded for a reason, because it’s an extremely effective mechanism of basketball destruction. Steph got 18 in Q3 out of 34 for the whole game up to that point. At a certain point, one must ask the question that everyone does regarding the Dubs: “What the hell do you even do?”
Brad Stevens is never going to actually say that, because he is a god of deadpan and refuses to admit defeat until the final buzzer, but I can imagine he’s thought it once or twice. As the final frame of the game got rolling, Stevens again brought in the bench and received further contributions from Morris and Rozier, as well as in-a-pinch offense from Shane Larkin and reasonable defensive assistance from Daniel Theis. Kyrie, meanwhile, kept up his absolutely incredible shooting (85 percent for 32 points at the 4:10 mark) as did Jaylen with 67 percent and 20 points. Horford having one of his best rebounding games of the season thus far also helped.
Steph gonna Steph though, sadly: The dude nailed a 30-foot trey and immediately followed it with a flawless driving layup. The team didn’t step off the throttle for a second, even with only 10 seconds left on the clock. Rozier got a trey off an inbounds pass and created just enough breathing room for them to play the foul-game for the final moments, with the Warriors riding Curry’s marksmanship at the charity stripe (and everywhere else, before that) to a narrow 109-105 defeat of our Celtics.
HOT ISH: Kyrie being Kyrie at a level of efficiency that would make Bill James proud; Jaylen’s excellent performance against the league’s toughest opponent; Horford playing an all-around great game to make up for a meh shooting night; the bench’s overall strength.
NOT ISH: The squad’s third-quarter woes (not quite a collapse, but still bad); Morris’s overly eager trigger finger; Marcus Smart not being in the game for defensive purposes due to a stupid-ass injury.
Your regular dose of Kyrie wizardry:
Rozier in the clutch for a basket that’s worth celebrating, regardless of the game’s final result: