BOSTON — The Celtics have prided themselves over the last three seasons on fighting to the final whistle, rarely suffering blowouts or throwing in the towel.
Well, Isaiah Thomas believes the latter is exactly what happened Friday night at TD Garden.
Boston held its own against the mighty Warriors in the first half before Golden State broke things open in the second, outscoring the C’s 31-9 in the third quarter en route to a 104-88 win. The Warriors’ monster run was punctuated by Zaza Pachulia’s bizarre celebration after a making a shot that put his team up by 28 points.
Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown called Pachulia’s antics “disrespectful.” Thomas, however, directed his ire internally.
“At that point the game was turned around, and I guess we gave up — the coaching staff, as well,” Thomas said after the game. “We started subbing. It was bad. Especially — I only played 27 minutes. We gave up.”
Boston did make a late run, outscoring the Warriors 31-18 in the fourth quarter to trim the visitors’ 29-point lead to 16. But those buckets largely came in garbage time, as Thomas played just over 12 minutes in the entire second half with the game seemingly out of hand.
The 5-foot-9 point guard, who scored a season-low 18 points in 28 minutes, apparently thought the Celtics waved the white flag too quickly.
“We panicked too fast,” Thomas said. “Any game is winnable. As much as you get up, as fast as you can get up, the faster you can make a comeback. We have a game (Saturday) and we’ve got to turn the page, but we’ve got to be more consistent as players and as coaches.”
The C’s play Saturday night in Detroit, so it’s understandable that head coach Brad Stevens would want to give some of his players some rest on the front end of a back-to-back just 11 games into the season. Don’t tell that to Thomas, though.
“I believe we gave up,” he added, “and for whatever reason, they hit us and we didn’t hit back.”
Let’s hit a few other notes from Celtics-Warriors:
— Marcus Smart exited the game in the third quarter with a left ankle contusion and didn’t return. That’s the same ankle that he injured during preseason and kept him out of Boston’s first three games. But the Celtics guard will travel with the team to Detroit, and Stevens is hoping his ailment isn’t too serious.
“I asked (head trainer) Eddie (Lacerte), ‘What does that mean for (Friday night), (Saturday)?’” Stevens said. “He said, ‘He’s out (Friday), but he’ll be re-evaluated (Saturday) morning.’ But it didn’t sound like he thought it was going to be a long-term thing.”
— Jae Crowder was quite disappointed he couldn’t play against the Warriors due to his ankle injury. It was Crowder, after all, who was incensed that Durant chose Golden State in free agency over Boston. The Celtics forward said before the game he hasn’t interacted with Durant since his decision.
“We would have had a hell of an interaction (Friday night) if I could suit up,” Crowder added with a smile.
— Steve Kerr has fond memories of TD Garden that extend beyond Friday night. Before the game, the Warriors coach told a cool story of one his first NBA starts, which came in Boston while he was playing for the Cavaliers.
“I was in Cleveland my second year and I went out to jump center circle, and Larry Bird was out there,” Kerr said. “And he gave me a little fist bump and said, ‘Good luck, Steve.’ And I was like ‘Oh my God, Larry knows my name. This is awesome.’
“It really was one of the best moments of my young career at that point because I really felt like I was actually there. I was on the biggest stage against the best team and the MVP, and he knew who I was. It was pretty cool.”
— TD Garden’s fire alarm went off shortly after the game ended, making for a hectic postgame scene as many fans and stadium employees rushed to the exits. It appears there was no actual fire, but Stevens used the opportunity to drop a wisecrack.
“I pulled that thing on the way in,” he said.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images