If the Warriors are tanking until Steph Curry and Klay Thompson return, they’re doing a great job hiding it. Despite 14 losses in 15 games coming into Thursday’s tilt to cap January against the Celtics, they came back to threaten Boston twice after nearly fading away by over 20 points.
The Celtics obliged by committing 20 turnovers and truly looked capable of blowing the game in the second quarter. Jayson Tatum’s impending minutes restriction would’ve arrived shortly after the Warriors pulled within 93-82 early in the fourth quarter. Then, Marcus Smart slammed the door with a diving steal along the sideline, a block on Draymond Green and back-to-back threes.
Smart pulled the C’s away, 108-90, midway through the quarter with his fifth three. He finished 8-for-16, 5-for-10 from three, with 21 points in a night where all of Boston’s wings scored at least 18 points. It marked the Celtics’ fifth win in six games since the Lakers blowout and first time over that stretch with their full complement of wings.
Boston trailed 9-4 after two minutes, allowing Green, D’Angelo Russell and Marquese Chriss to the rim. Gordon Hayward, who scored at least 22 points for the fourth consecutive game, righted the offense again with two strong drives to the rim to pull within one point.
He blocked Chriss on a second-chance try inside, then drilled a three and a slashing dunk on the baseline. Smart and Grant Williams combined for three straight makes around the rim to build an eight-point lead.
After Hayward’s 15 points in the first, Semi Ojeleye and Kemba Walker extended the lead to 11 early in the second. Tatum converted a slam and put-back, then Walker followed with a pair of makes that put Golden State on the brink of another blowout loss through 17 minutes.
Then the turnovers flowed, allowing Chriss and Glenn Robinson III buckets seconds apart. Alec Burks hit a three and the Warriors turned an 18-point deficit to 10 within two minutes. Daniel Theis put the Celtics back up nine with a tip-in on Smart’s driving miss, but Russell’s 6-0 burst before halftime kept Golden State around down 60-50.
Walker, Brown and Tatum drilled consecutive shots before and after halftime to swing the game drastically again. Then the Celtics gave it right back. Russell hit a turnaround, Chriss slammed home a dunk in transition after Robinson blocked Walker and Robinson took a Damion Lee’s steal the length of the court for a layup. Golden State constantly threatened within 10 points, but never made a successful run at a lead.
Smart’s streaks proved more fruitful, two spot-up threes and nine points late in the third quarter cemented the Celtics’ double-figure lead into the fourth. The Warriors pushed within 11 one more time, then Walker and Smart hit three straight shots to advance ahead 105-87 with 6:22 remaining.
Golden State lost its fifth straight game, remaining at the bottom of the west despite 22 points, five assists and three steals from Russell. Boston received five double-figure efforts, led by Hayward with 25 points on 8-for-15. Tatum scored 20 in 23 minutes in his return from a groin strain.
The Celtics move on to the 76ers on Saturday to avoid the season sweep.