The Celtics were riding high on energy to open up Sunday night's meeting against the league's best, and the Garden was absolutely rocking when Golden State found themselves trailing by as many as 26 points in the second quarter. However, there are 48 minutes in a game and at this level, no lead is ever "safe." Behind a vintage 37-point performance by MVP candidate Stephen Curry, Golden State outscored Boston 57-36 in the second half and reminded everyone why their name is at the top of the standings.
Steve Kerr's Warriors started to flip the switch late in the second frame, but their defensive mentality was completely elevated after intermission. Despite the hot start, sparked by Isaiah Thomas scoring 13 points within the first eight minutes he was on the floor, Boston chose to live by jumpers in the second half and finished the game with a 36.7% shooting clip as a result. The Celtics played tough and physical basketball, taking care of the ball and even gobbling up 60 rebounds (17 from Jae Crowder), but just because they didn't turn the ball over it doesn't mean that they played 48 minutes of intelligent basketball.
Steph Curry's hot hand and Golden State's swarming second half defensive stand ultimately stole the game
Tuesday night's trip to The Q was one-sided from the jump. When LeBron James is playing at that level, there is nothing anyone can really do and it didn't help that the Celtics were never able to find any kind of offensive rhythm throughout the entirety of the game. Boston chose to die by the jumper, often late in the shot clock after failing to execute set after set, and the team played as though they were defeated for the majority of the game. Nobody wearing or supporting the green had much fun on Tuesday night.
Let's just stop talking about it, alright?
Gordon Hayward did all he could to try to stick it to his former coach by burying a go-ahead bucket with 1.7 seconds to go, but he was reminded of Brad Stevens' out-of-timeout expertise. As a result of a beautifully spread-out misdirection set, Tyler Zeller dove to the rim and got a chance to be the hero for the first time in his pro career. After catching the inbounds lob over the top of a smaller defender, he set himself up perfectly with an abrupt shot fake that ultimately paved the way for a clean uncontested look directly at the rim.
That was one heck of a way to respond after Tuesday night's mental collapse. Not only did the Celtics come out and compete with a high energy level from start to finish, unlike the night before, they earned a franchise record by only committing three turnovers.
The length of Utah's front line is something that you cannot take lightly, which was a big part of the reason why the game was played at such a methodical pace, but Isaiah Thomas helped lead the charge with his always relentless approach to attacking off the dribble. Boston's starting unit had a difficult time finding rhythm, but Thomas and Crowder combined for 39 points off the bench to completely change the game. In fact, they made the majority of the big plays and clutch shots down the stretch of the fourth quarter, as well.
Why doesn't Isaiah Thomas start, you ask? That's why.
Both Boston and New Orleans entered Friday night's matchup at the Smoothie King Center with hopes of climbing up a spot in the standings as each side battles for the eighth seed in their respective conferences. Anthony Davis gave the men in green all they could handle, tallying 29 points and 14 boards in "just another day at the office" fashion, but the Celtics were more than prepared.
If you ask me, this was Boston's best game of the week in terms of overall offensive execution. They didn't settle, they didn't panic, they trusted one another and outside of a few questionable pull-up jumpers in transition, they took excellent shots for the majority of the game. In terms of decision making with the ball, this game was about as good as you're going to get from Evan Turner. It guess it also helps when the team buries 10 threes, as well.
The Celtics started to fall asleep late in the third quarter, but Isaiah Thomas wasn't having that. Mr. Fourth Quarter stepped in and not only gave the Celtics life when they needed it, he knocked down three triples and scored 14 points in the final frame on his way to another outstanding 27-point performance on the road.
CELTICS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
19.8 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 4.4 APG, 44% FG, 36% 3FG, 86% FT
The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the week followed up his award-winning week beautifully, scoring approximately 20 points per game and as usual, playing absolutely dynamite basketball down the stretch of games. The little fella may not be on the floor during jump ball, but there's no chance he'll be riding the bench to finish games and this week was just another friendly reminder of that.
Thomas has gotten to the line for eight free throws in each of the last two games, and the importance of that cannot be stressed enough. He only stands 5'9" but he never stops coming. When he gets knocked down, he tells you that he's coming back... then he does. The Celtics needed that so badly, and watching it unfold is as refreshing as a glass of ice cold water.
The Celtics continue to play solid basketball, and Thomas is as big of a reason for that as anything or anyone else. The Golden State game can be considered this week's "great white buffalo," but the C's still managed to play .500 ball and they stand just two games out of the playoff picture.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Celtics will be making the rounds down in Florida, as they'll visit Orlando at 6:00 pm ET tonight before the second night of a back-to-back in a battle for playoff positioning in Miami tomorrow night. The green will head back to Boston on Wednesday night, where they better eat their Wheaties before hosting the big, bad Memphis Grizzlies. After a day off, the Celtics will meet up with Orlando for the second time this week, this time at the Garden, before closing out this week's five-game schedule in Indiana on Saturday night.
This week's schedule could ultimately make or break Boston's playoff hopes, in the end. We've got some big, big games coming up, Celtic Nation. Get your popcorn ready!