|5 things we learned as Celtics nearly stun Warriors||03.01.15 at 8:24 pm ET|
The Celtics are holding their own against the NBA’s elite.
Less than three weeks after beating the Eastern Conference-leading Hawks, the Celtics gave the West-leading Warriors all they could handle, establishing a 26-point first-half lead in front of a raucous home crowd before Golden State chipped away and crumbled their hosts, 106-101.
Once again, Isaiah Thomas ignited the C’s scoring effort with 20 points — missing a 3-pointer that would have tied the game in the final seconds — to go along with five assists in 29 minutes off the bench. Tyler Zeller’s 17 points led all five Celtics starters in double figures, followed by Brandon Bass (15 points, 12 rebounds), Avery Bradley (12 points), Marcus Smart (10 points) and Evan Turner (10 points). Jae Crowder added 17 rebounds and nine points off the bench.
Still, it wasn’t enough to overcome a Warriors team that owns the league’s best record (46-11) and features MVP favorite Stephen Curry, who netted 37 points to lead all scorers. Meanwhile, the Celtics drop to 23-34 and remain on the outside looking in on the East’s eighth and final playoff seed.
For a complete box score, click here.
THE RUN THAT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO COME
Since taking a 5-4 lead 1:55 into the game, the Celtics held the Warriors at bay longer than anyone expected, but it was only a matter of time since the league’s top-scoring team got back in the game. Over the course of 12 minutes from the end of the third quarter to late in the fourth — as Shaun Livingston gave them a spark off the bench, Green heated up and Curry remained on fire — Golden State outscored the Celtics 32-15 to grab their first lead since the opening minutes.
DEFENDING THEIR LIVES
If the Celtics have any hope of making the playoffs, it’ll be their improvement on the defensive end that will make the difference between a first-round series and a lottery pick. Six games after holding the Hawks to 42.3 percent shooting, the C’s held the Warriors to 42.1 percent — not an easy task two of the game’s most prolific shooters. Curry and Klay Thompson (20 points) were always going to get their points, but the C’s built their lead by holding Golden State’s frontcourt — Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, David Lee and Andre Iguodala — to combined 4-of-20 shooting in the opening 24 minutes. That’s especially impressive considering the Celtics are sans Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk.
ISAIAH THOMAS IS AN ELITE SCORER
Quite simply, Thomas has been a dominant offensive force during his Celtics tenure, anchoring a unit that scored 117.9 points per 100 possessions during his first four games in Boston. Even more impressive, he owns a usage rate of 35.4 percent, meaning more than a third of the C’s possessions are running through Thomas when he’s on the floor. His 58.2 true shooting percentage during that four-game stretch would rank among the NBA’s best guard over a full season. Sunday night was no different, as his 15 points before the break led a 65-point first-half for the Celtics. He cooled off in the second half, finishing just 8-of-21 from the field and missing eight of his 11 3-point attempts, but his presence remains a revelation.
|Fast Break: Warriors wallop punchless Celtics||03.05.14 at 9:47 pm ET|
As the Warriors’ lead ballooned to 30 by the end of the third quarter, Celtics fans grew restless at the Garden. They chanted “Let’s go Tupac” after a lookalike of the rapper appeared on the Jumbotron, and then followed with a “Scal-a-bri-ne” chorus for old time’s sake (Brian Scalabrine is now an assistant coach on Mark Jackson‘s staff).
Indeed, the season has come to this. Golden State delivered a 108-88 knockout blow that felt even worse, and the Celtics (20-41) held onto the NBA’s fourth-worst record. (Might as well plug the latest weekly NBA Draft Watch.)
Only because it’s customary, here are Wednesday’s double-digit scorers for the Celtics: Kelly Olynyk (team-high 19 points), Rajon Rondo (14 points, 7 assists), Brandon Bass (11 points, 8 assists), Jared Sullinger (11 points) and Jerryd Bayless (10 points).
WHAT WENT WRONG
Turnovers: After Andre Iguodola‘s block of Jeff Green led to a rare two-handed Stephen Curry dunk midway through the first quarter, the Celtics threw two straight passes to the Warriors that would have become three consecutive fast-breaks dunks had it not been for an even more rare Kris Humphries chase-down block. The turnovers kept on coming, reaching a dozen by halftime, when the Warriors owned a 61-40 lead.
Iggy vs. Green: Speaking of that small forward matchup, Green (4 points, 2-7 FG) struggled mightily opposite the Warriors’ defensive anchor. Meanwhile, Iguodola’s early bunnies contributed to Golden State’s 58 points in the paint. Needless to say, their plus/minus numbers soared into the twenties in opposite directions.
General apathy: One second-quarter possession pretty much summed up what turned out to be one of the most lackluster performances of this lackluster Celtics season. In the span of 16 seconds, Jerryd Bayless missed a layup, Draymond Green blocked Kelly Olynyk‘s layup and Jermaine O’Neal (yes, that guy) blocked Kris Humphries‘ layup. For those of you counting at home, that’s three straight misses at the rim. By the end of the third quarter, the Celtics had 17 field goals and 17 turnovers. And trailed 84-54. Oh, it was ugly.
|Better Media Day Photo? Scal vs. Sheed||10.03.13 at 11:55 am ET|
|Avery Bradley: ‘I want to shut down everybody’||03.02.13 at 1:27 am ET|
“He’s a very good player,” said Bradley. “I just tried to make everything hard on him tonight and tire him down.”
In the opening 10:18, Curry missed his only shot and turned the ball over twice. Meanwhile, the Celtics established a 26-15 lead and never trailed again in their 94-86 victory.
“I thought Avery set the tone for us early,” said Kevin Garnett. “Any time you’ve got a guy who’s coming off scoring a lot of points, our backcourt, our guards, they were ready for tonight’s challenge, and Avery set the tone.”
Curry scored 25 points on the night but finished just 6-of-22 from the floor.
“I thought Avery did a good job of wearing out Curry,” added Celtics captain Paul Pierce.
Yet, Bradley claimed his approach on Friday is no different than any other night. Just a different opponent.
“I want to shut down everybody every single night. If you notice, every game I play the same way. Every single game on the defensive end. That’s just my mindset. That’s how I play. That’s how I always play my whole life.”
Really? There’s not even a little part of Bradley that gets up for a guy like Curry coming off 54 points?
“I play the same every single game,” he said. “I play as hard as I can when I’m out there on both ends of the court.”
Bradley picked up his fourth and fifth personal fouls in the first four minutes of the third quarter. Thankfully, Courtney Lee picked up where his fellow “pitbull” left off, because Bradley thought he only had three fouls.
“You’ve got to just keep playing,” he said. “I got in some foul trouble, but I fought through it and just kept trying to make everything hard on him despite the calls. … I just tried to continue to be aggressive on the defensive end. I know that’s what my team needed me to do. If I fouled out the game, I was going to be fine with that, because I was just going to play as hard as I can. That’s my goal going into the game.”
|Paul Pierce gets attitude adjustment and Celtics pull away||03.01.13 at 11:53 pm ET|
The Celtics captain was sulking in the third quarter as the Warriors came out fast and took the lead after Boston controlled most of the first half.
Both knew it had to change and fast.
‘Yeah, I think I was the one that kind of brought the body tone down a little bit, because I made some bad turnovers there to start the third quarter, kind of got me down,” Pierce said. “So it was up to me to kind of get it back, get the team back on. That’s what I try to do, I cant have any lapses like that because it really affect the team and I realize that, so I have to do a better job in that department.’
“He started out playing great and then when I subbed him and brought him back in, I don’t know what happened. We were turning the ball over and he was struggling,” Rivers said. “It was funny, in the third quater, the only thing I told him was I don’t care that you’re not playing well in this stretch or we’re not, I just hate our body language right now. And I give Paul a lot of credit, he basically said, ‘That’s on me. That’s my fault.’
“I thought we were hanging our heads a lot in the third quarter. We were turning the ball over and we were missing shots. The end of the world is not going to happen. We just have to keep playing. I didn’t like the way we responded to that and I thought Paul did a good job in the timeout right after that of getting the guys back.”
Pierce finished with a game-high 26 points in Boston’s 94-86 win over Stephen Curry and the Warriors Friday night at TD Garden.
‘It was good,” Pierce said. “You play a quality ball club who’s playoff-bound who’s very dangerous in the West, capable of beating anybody. Sometimes that first game at home feels like a road game, your body is readjusting. You know you haven’t been in this building in a couple of weeks, so sometimes its difficult. We were a little sloppy with the ball, but it’s a good win nevertheless.”
The Celtics actually went into a zone defense when Avery Bradley went out with his fifth foul with eight minutes left in the third quarter.
‘I think it really bothered them,” Pierce said. “They’re a great one-on-one team who really thrives on taking you off the dribble, making an extra pass, shooting the three-ball’¦.I think it altered their offense a little bit once we got into the zone. It was really effective, especially in the second half.’
Jeff Green took a hard spill on his left side midway through the third and when he returned, the Celtics went on a 9-0 run to pull away for good late in the third.
‘He was awesome tonight,” Pierce said of Green, who finished with 18 points. “He really carried us in that fourth quarter, took it upon himself to be aggressive. You know, he’s coming into his own, after a slow start, which you can expect. Its tough when you take a year off from basketball and try to get back in the game, but I think since January he’s just been phenomenal, very consistent doing what we ask on both ends of the court, and he’s getting better and better as time goes on.’
Paul Pierce (26 points) and Jeff Green (18 points) were the only Celtics in double figures, but they earned payback for a 101-83 loss to the Warriors two months ago, holding off Golden State for a 94-86 victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bradley vs. Curry: Avery Bradley set the tone against Warriors counterpart Stephen Curry, coming off his 54-point effort against the Knicks. Bradley limited Curry to 0-for-1 shooting and forced a pair of turnovers in the opening 10:12. The C’s pit bull was so far up in Curry’s grill he must’ve known what the Warriors guard ate pregame. Of course, Curry found ways to get his points (25), particularly at the free throw line, and forced Bradley into five fouls in 21 minutes, but the message was sent in a game that saw the Warriors shoot 34 percent.
Old man Pierce: The Celtics captain broke out just about every move in his bag of veteran tricks, baiting defenders into fouling him on jumpers and carving through defenders in slow motion. Pinched nerve be damned, Pierce contorted his way into a handful of improbable layups. He finished the first half with a game-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go along with four assists and three rebounds. Needless to say, the C’s led 50-46 at the break.
Mean Jeff Green: After falling hard on his left arm and remaining on the floor during a few scary minutes midway through the third quarter, Green climbed to his feet and walked to the Celtics bench, where he shook off the pain and covered it in a padded sleeve. He proceeded to convert his next four shots, including three jumpers, to help turn a 60-60 game late in the third into a double-digit lead early in the fourth.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Everything Crawford: The only air Jordan Crawford got was the breeze he felt when Stephen Curry blew past his saloon-door defense. He played three feet off Harrison Barnes five feet from the basket. In other words, Crawford’s defense came as advertised: Practically non-existent. And his offense wasn’t much better, as he finished 2-of-6 in 17 minutes, including a couple ill-advised pull-up jumpers in transition.
Terry-ble: As soon as it appears Jason Terry might be getting comfortable in the Celtics offense, he submits a game like Friday night, when he missed 9-of-11 attempts in 30 minutes. When Rajon Rondo suffered his season-ending ACL injury, Terry insinuated he might benefit from a less Rondominated offense. Not so much.
KG’s shot: A week ago, when he rested Kevin Garnett against the Suns, Celtics coach Doc Rivers claimed KG hasn’t been the same since the triple-overtime Nemo blizzard victory against the Nuggets. After solid performances against the Blazers and Jazz, Garnett grabbed his share of rebounds and met his quota for profanity-laced outbursts against the Warriors, but his shot wasn’t falling. Garnett finished 2-for-10 from the floor.
Paul Pierce scored 26 points and Jeff Green added 18 off the bench as the Celtics overcame foul trouble from Avery Bradley to beat the Golden State Warriors, 94-86, Friday night at TD Garden. Kevin Garnett was just 2-for-10 from the field but finished with a team-high 13 rebounds. The Celtics avenged their ugly 101-83 loss from late December in Oakland. Pierce and Green were the only Boston players to score in double figures.
Stephen Curry scored 54 points earlier in the week in New York against the Knicks, a season-high in the NBA this season. He had scored 94 points in his previous two games but was held to 25 points on Friday night on just 6-of-22 shooting, as the Celtics (31-27) won their eighth straight home game. David Lee had 10 points and a game-best 19 rebounds for the Warriors, who fall to 33-26.
The Celtics used hot shooting early to build a 13-point first-quarter lead. Pierce led the way with 13 points in the opening period. Pierce finished with 18 in the first half. The Warriors, mostly behind the scoring of Curry, worked their way back into the game in the second quarter. Curry drew three fouls on Bradley in the first half and scored 10 points in the second quarter as the Warriors cut Boston’s lead to 50-46 at the half.
The Warriors scored the first two baskets of the third quarter and tied the game. The tide seemed to be turning heavily against the Celtics when Bradley – the player assigned to defend Curry – picked up his fourth and fifth fouls of the game in a 27-second span of the third quarter and had to check out with 8:01 left in the quarter after his fifth foul.
Courtney Lee stepped in and shutdown Curry as the star scored just two points against Lee and the Celtics in the period. The Celtics had another scare when Green landed hard on his left elbow midway through the third and stayed on the ground for several minutes. After coming off the floor on his own power, Green was given a white protective sleeve and returned with just over two minutes left in the quarter.
With Green back and Bradley in foul trouble, the Celtics took command of the game for good, going on a 9-0 run to break a 60-60 tie and take a 69-62 lead into the fourth.
The Celtics are off until Tuesday when they play in Philadelphia. For more from the team of Mike Petraglia and Ben Rohrbach from the Garden, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
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