BOSTON — The Boston Celtics’ playoff mettle will be tested this week with matchups against two of the NBA’s very best.
The first came Sunday, and although they led the Western Conference-leading Golden State Warriors for the vast majority of the evening, the Celtics were unable to pull out a victory. The Warriors rallied to win 106-101, snapping Boston’s three-game win streak.
Raise your hand if you expected to see the Warriors trailing by 26 points in this game. We didn’t think so.
That’s exactly what happened, though, as the Celtics came out firing in the first half. Evan Turner got things started with a steady dose of mid-range jumpers, but Boston really kicked it into high gear when (who else) Isaiah Thomas checked into the game. Thomas scored seven points in the final 68 seconds of the first half to give the Celtics a total of 38 points in the frame, then kept right on shooting.
By the 8:17 mark of the second quarter, the point guard already had racked up 15 points.
The Celtics’ bench was strong yet again, outscoring the Warriors’ reserves 28-3 over the first 24 minutes, and Boston also helped itself by turning the ball over just once in the first half. Golden State held Boston to just two field goals over the final 5:28 of the second but still went into halftime trailing 65-49.
Sixty-five points in a half is impressive against any opponent, but particularly so against a Warriors team that leads the NBA in defensive efficiency.
Brandon Bass had a monster game down low, notching his third double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds. The highlight of that performance came late in the third quarter, when Bass put Warriors big man Andrew Bogut with this authoritative slam:
Bass was one of six Celtics to score in double figures in the contest.
Nobody expected a team of Golden State’s caliber to go away quietly, and the Warriors certainly did not. They whittled down Boston’s 26-point advantage over the third and fourth quarters and snatched the lead back with 3:26 to play, 96-94. Spurring this rally was the Warriors’ devastating backcourt duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined to score 57 despite the fact that neither attempted a free throw until the game’s final minute.
Marcus Smart put the Celtics back up by one with a 3-pointer from way downtown with 1:37 to play, but Harrison Barnes responded with jumper at the other end to give the lead back to the Warriors. A three by Jae Crowder on the ensuing Celtics possession rimmed out, and Boston never led again.
Crowder (nine points) narrowly missed joining Bass in the double-double club, but he had a banner day on the glass, finishing with a career-high 17 rebounds.
For the first time in five games for the Celtics, Thomas was much better in the first half than the second. He scored just five points over the final two quarters to finish with 20 on 8-of-21 shooting (3-of-11 from deep).
Up next: This week gets no easier for the C’s, who now travel to Cleveland on Tuesday to take on LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images