First off, WHAT. A. GAME. In front of a packed house that included Patriots players Julian Edelman, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola, the Boston Celtics proved that they are an elite team with their performance tonight against Golden State. I know that neither Klay Thompson nor Harrison Barnes played, but Golden State won a title last season playing teams that were shorthanded. I also know the C’s lost, but they played Golden State better than any team has this year. They followed our keys to the game and almost, almost came out on top. The 124-119 double overtime loss is both a confidence builder and a confidence crusher for reasons I’ll get into later. But this was no doubt a fantastic performance by the Boston Celtics.
Before I dive into the review, I drew some criticism following the keys to the game article from a couple people. I already got one apology, just waiting on a couple others. Granted I predicted a win, but the people who I talked to actually laughed at me and said it would be a blowout. This was a game the Celtics seriously should have won.
I didn’t get much of a chance to see the first quarter due to some technical difficulties, but with the highlights I saw from the quarter, Avery Bradley was cooking. He scored 15 of the first 18 for Boston and was hounding Curry everywhere he went, one of the keys to the game. Bradley held Curry to 9/27, by far his worst shooting percentage on the year. Curry would finish with 38 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Looks good on the stat sheet, but Avery Bradley played excellent before fouling out later in the game.
Boston kept it close throughout the first half and the biggest lead on each side was five. Bradley didn’t score in the second quarter, but he was picked up in a major way by the bench.
The third quarter was just terrible for the Celtics. Boston managed to get Steph in foul trouble on a bad call that actually should have been called on Draymond Green. Green became just the third player in NBA history have at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five steals and five blocks in a game. The C’s didn’t have any rhythm on the offensive end and to make matters worse, the rare good look they got didn’t fall. Even after a porous third quarter, the Celtics were only down by seven going into the fourth.
In the fourth, the beast of Kelly Olynyk woke up. Olynyk would be the focal point of the Boston offense in the fourth quarter and overtime. He hit a couple of clutch baskets, including a game tying three and a game tying layup in crunch time. With under a minute left, Curry hit a three to give Golden State a two point lead. Then Isaiah Thomas came right back down the court to tie the game at 103. Isaiah would score 18 and dish out 10 assists in the loss. After a stop, the Celtics had the last possession in regulation and it was Isaiah’s turn to shine, or get blocked by Shaun Livingston, his choice. After a botched inbound play by Golden State, the Celtics had .7 seconds to get off a game winner but Olynyk’s fade away jumpshot didn’t come close.
In OT, with Boston down two, Kelly Olynyk hit a tying layup to tie it at 110, and that’s how it stood going into the second overtime.
The second overtime was an up and down affair, with Andre Iguodala coming up huge for the Dubs, scoring six over his 13 in the second OT. In the final 20 seconds, Jae Crowder made it a one point game. Then after Steph Curry was fouled and hit two shots to make it a three point game, Crowder found himself open in the corner for the tie, but missed it and Iguodala was ice cold at the line and put the game away for the Warriors.
This was a game I truly thought the Celtics would have.
Going back to the keys to the game for the Celtics, Avery Bradley locking up Steph Curry was a huge help for Boston. He was physical and made it tough for Steph to get any clean looks. When Avery fouled out, Evan Turner came off the bench and was also an effective defender against Curry, blocking two of his shots, one very emphatically.
Another key to the game was control the glass. In any game you want to win the rebounding margin, but the Celtics lost that battle 67-51. Four Warriors finished with double figures in rebounding, and Andrew Bogut chipped in nine to go with Curry’s eight. Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 13. I was surprised that Amir Johnson didn’t get more minutes, but with the way that Kelly Olynyk played, no complaints there.
The final key was to use depth to your advantage, which Boston absolutely did. The three players who were highlighted off the bench were Evan Turner, David Lee and Olynyk. They combined for 51 points, 19 rebounds and 13 assists off the bench. James Young even got some good minutes, with 20.
Boston forced 18 turnovers, most of them were unforced. The Shamrocks only had seven steals on the day, but had eight blocks. Curry had eight turnovers and stepped out of bounds at least three times. The Celtics had 15 turnovers themselves, but their turnovers were in key situations. You never want to turn the ball over, many times when Boston could have tied or taken the lead, they would dribble into a double team or just not be on the same page as one another.
Another reason the Celtics couldn’t pull this one off is that they don’t have a true go to scorer. Color commentator brought this up during the broadcast and I could not agree more. A few years ago when the Celtics were a perennial threat to win it all, they had three guys who had the “it” factor. They could get you a bucket in crunch time. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and of course, Paul Pierce could all be relied in close games to put the nail in the coffin. We saw Isaiah take two attempts to win the game and neither of them were really close to going in. Not a knock on Isaiah, but he doesn’t have the ice in his veins like the Big Three did.
But the true reason the Celtics didn’t pull off this win was the free throw shooting. Every close game comes down to two things; 1) execution down the stretch and 2) making your free throws. Boston shot a paltry 9/16, or 56% from the charity stripe, headlined by Sullinger shooting 1/4 from the line. Golden State shot 31/39 from the line, good for 79%. You can look at those numbers and say if the Celtics got to the line more or got more calls (there were a few iffy if not downright horrible calls) they would have won. But the bottom-line is that you need to hit the ones you get. I can assure that head coach Brad Stevens is ripping into his squad about their performance at the line.
The Boston Celtics showed the NBA that they can’t be taken lightly. In a packed Eastern Conference, where the number one seed and the eight seed are separated by just 2.5 games, Boston can still grab any seed they desire. This a game the Celtics had every opportunity to win. Just a few minor adjustments and instead of talking about how lucky Golden State got, people would be talking about how good the Celtics are. Next up is the surprisingly good Charlotte Hornets who are second in the East. I already explained that I’m a believer in the Celtics, now maybe after this very impressive performance against the undefeated world champion Warriors other people will start to believe.