BOSTON -- TD Garden was deafening on Friday night, yet the sound of silence was heard in the cramped and humid Celtics locker room after Boston lost 124-119 in double overtime to the Golden State Warriors.
It was quiet because, as Jae Crowder explained, the Celtics expect to win: "You guys probably didn't know we were gonna be there. But we knew we were gonna make it a game . . . It's frustrating for us because we felt like we were gonna win."
The Celtics are usually reticent after losses, but Friday felt different, not because of the hype leading up to the game, but the way it played out. The Celtics had the Warriors on the ropes, one haymaker away from ending the streak, but they were unable to land that final blow in a long 58-minute battle.
The stoic, process-oriented Brad Stevens was asked if there's such a thing as a "great loss," to which he even responded: "No. Not even a good one."
It's true; there is no such thing as a good loss -- every win and loss counts the same when the playoff seeds are determined -- but there are plenty of positives to takeaway from the game, which Stevens later admitted.
"I do take a lot of good stuff that we'll talk about," Stevens said. "I thought we got a lot of good performances. But it doesn't ease the pain of a loss, no matter what night it is."
Once Stevens and the coaching staff watch film, an the sting from the loss wears off, the Celtics will find that they are indeed capable of going toe-to-toe with the best of the best. Heck, that's what the basketball universe learned tonight, with all eyes focused on the game happening at TD Garden.
Stevens said "it takes a community" to guard Stephen Curry, and the Celtics did just that, led by Avery Bradley, who made life difficult for the reigning NBA MVP. Curry might've scored 38 points, but his 44.4 eFG% was his worst of the season, and his turnover ratio was significantly worse than his season average. The Celtics did a number on Curry, but he's just that damn good.
"The players that are true superstars in this league -- all you can try to do is make it tougher," Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton said after the game. "They're going to get their numbers no matter what happens, but you just try to make it tough. And Boston made it tough on Steph tonight."
The Celtics also did a terrific job of funneling the ball to Kelly Olynyk when they needed offense in the second half. The Warriors led by 11, but Olynyk went off, scoring 22 of his 28 points in his final 26:50 of the game. It's easier said than done, but the Celtics should try to find ways to get Olynyk going on a more consistent basis.
Olynyk is a matchup nightmare because of his ability to stretch the floor, and he's capable of scoring inside off drives. All it takes is a push, and Olynyk won't stop rolling.
"Once he gets going, he's hard to stop," said Evan Turner, who pitched in with 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. "He was great for us. He made some big plays and big shots. He played tough. He's been playing great the past month and it's great for his career. But it's even better for us to have a 7-footer wandering around doing what he can do."
However, one area the Celtics might want to reassess is how to defend certain small ball lineups. Crowder said the Celtics didn't do anything crazy schematically on defense, which was a good move since significant changes can disturb chemistry, but they might've benefited from pulling the plug on Amir Johnson sooner than they did.
Draymond Green used his foot speed to his advantage by exposing Johnson. Green tallied the first 5x5 performance since 2012, with 24 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, and 5 blocks. 12 of those points came in just 19 minutes with Johnson on the floor, who defended him for the majority of the time.
It's unfair to expect Johnson to defend a guy like Green, but on nights like this, going to small ball with Jonas Jerebko possibly could've helped against Green, since Jerebko can switch screens with Crowder. It's a question worth pondering more heavily for Stevens, who has already admitted he likes going small, and believes it's challenging whenever other teams do it well.
Win or lose, the best part about facing a team like the Warriors early in the season is it works as a measuring stick to discover how a team can improve. Elite teams can reveal your weaknesses, giving you a glimpse at what needs to be improved before the playoffs. But strengths can also be fortified -- like abilities of Bradley and Olynyk.
The important task now is for the Celtics to turn the page to Saturday's game against the Hornets, who are 1.5 games ahead of the Celtics and the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics must build on their positives and learn from their negatives from their sensational battle with the Warriors.