IN A NUTSHELL
This is it. The big one. Considered a feasible NBA Finals preview at the beginning of this season, now a battle between the indisputable giant of the Golden State Warriors and…a considerably less predictable (though definitely good) team in the Boston Celtics. Both teams are on win streaks—nine in a row for the Dubs, six straight for the Cs—and rounding into the forms we’ve expected of them from Opening Night onward.
It was a hell of a game by any standard. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant played something of a duel, with Irving making a few truly excellent defensive plays on KD (yes, Kyrie successfully defending Durant, I am not being silly). As ‘Sheed would say, both teams played hard, but they also played well up and down the roster. Golden State’s talent and a series of boneheaded errors in the clutch led to a Celtics loss, but an extremely close one—115-111 in the Dubs’ favor.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Aside from one notably ugly stretch in the third in which they barely scored, Boston matched the offense of Golden State almost shot for shot. (Remember: These teams have been extraordinarily well matched over the last several years—splitting the season series 1-1 usually, including one of the Dubs’ nine losses in the 73-win 2016 campaign.)
- Kyrie played an outstanding game on both ends, finishing with 32-6-10. His stellar passing is no longer an outlier but a key facet of his game.
- Al Horford also played one of his best and most well-rounded games of the year, defending DeMarcus Cousins capably in several moments—no easy feat—and ending the night with 22 points, 13 boards, 3 dimes, a steal and 2 blocks. (Unfortunately he also had 5 turnovers, but it’d be a stretch to say those outweigh the line he put up.)
- Jayson Tatum delivered in many ways (20-5-3 plus a block) and was one of only two starters to never turn the ball over (the other being Mook Morris). He relied a great deal on strong drives to the basket and threes rather than the Kobeball shots he’d taken out of frustration or desperation in low moments earlier in the season.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Golden State is Golden State. Their scorching runs are a fait accompli at this point. They went on a mini-run in the second quarter due to deadeye Curry shots from beyond the arc (four in a row, goddamn). Then another one very early in the third, plus the implicit run that occurred when Boston couldn’t buy a bloody shot if they had solid gold bullion.
But in all honesty, the Cs didn’t make that many mistakes…well, until they did. And they were at the worst possible time, many of them turnovers on sloppy passes. Good lord don’t even get me started on that blown rebound off of Draymond Green’s two missed free throws. That dickhead had one of his worst games in a Dubs uniform up until that point…and then pulled a SMARF and made a play to redeem his atrocious misses and seal the Celtics’ fate. Such a simple thing being what catches the Celtics slipping is extremely frustrating and they deserve criticism for it.
WHAT THE HELL
Some of these foul calls were comically ridiculous. Including some of the ones called against Boogie Cousins, to be honest, but those weren’t quite as ticky-tack as the nearly consecutive calls against Horford and Smart. They barely touched Boogie and Klay, respectively.
GREEN FIRE HIGHLIGHTS
Kyrie on his pure Uncle Drew steez:
HORFORD SMASH! (Aided by some excellent coverage.)
Tatum embarrassed Green on this one: