In the wake of their six-game loss in the NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics have developed something of a boogeyman in the Golden State Warriors. Presented with the opportunity for some small measure of revenge for their postseason fate, the Celtics suffered a blowout loss on the road against the Warriors in early December — a deflating loss that derailed some of their early-season momentum, sparking a run of five losses in six games for Boston.
This evening, the Celtics got another chance. The boogeyman came to town, and the Celtics finally vanquished them, flipping the script on a game that initially looked far too familiar to score a remarkable 121-118 win in overtime.
Jayson Tatum stuffed the stat sheet, recording 34 points, 19 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals, but he once again struggled to score efficiently against the Golden State defense, shooting 9-of-27 from the field. Jaylen Brown, meanwhile, struggled in his return from an adductor strain, scoring just 16 points on 6-of-18 shooting, but connected on the game-tying three-pointer to send the game to overtime. The Warriors were led by their customary trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole, who combined to score 77 points on the evening, but couldn’t keep the Celtics at bay down the stretch.
The re-rematch began with a strange offensive tenor. Neither team looked particularly coordinated on that end of the floor in the opening quarter, as both opened the game shooting worse than 40% from the field. They essentially shot the inverse of one another, with the Celtics forcing the issue in the paint but bricking their jumpers, while the Warriors scored their first 12 points from behind the three-point arc until Poole slammed home a dunk with just over six minutes to play in the quarter. The Golden State threes won the quarter, narrowly, and the Celtics trailed entering the second, 26-25.
Boston’s shooting slump didn’t prolong itself this time, thankfully. After making just one three in the first quarter, they connected on three in the early minutes of the second. The Celtics rode their resurgent shooting to a 13-2 run to give themselves a moderate lead, but the play of a surging Thompson (20 first-half points) kept them from creating any distance. With seconds remaining in the first half, Thompson poked a ball loose from Tatum on the dribble, and Curry cashed in on a half-court heave at the buzzer to keep the Warriors ahead at the half, 55-54.
With the Warriors downsizing their starting lineup, benching Kevon Looney in favor of Poole, the Celtics enjoyed a size advantage this evening and worked to exploit it. Horford and Williams III both produced at a high level for much of the night, with the former doing some increasingly rare work in the paint and the latter crashing the offensive glass and piling up second-chance points. Horford scored 20 points and blocked three shots, Williams III posted a 14-11-2 statline, and the duo grabbed a combined 10 offensive rebounds on the night.
The second half brought a quick shift in the Warriors’ favor. The starting lineup continued to produce, while Tatum’s and Brown’s struggles saw no signs of easing. Led by their starting lineup (the bench scored just 10 points), the Warriors steadily pushed their lead forward, leading by as many as 11 points as the quarter carried on. Aided along by an increasingly dysfunctional Boston offense, the Warriors entered the final quarter with a seven-point edge, 89-82.
If the Celtics were going to make a comeback in the final quarter of this game, it was going to have to start with the offense. Early returns as the fourth began were... uncertain. They continued to look out of sorts, but the Warriors weren’t able to extend their advantage at all. Malcolm Brogdon connected on a three-pointer with just over six minutes remaining in regulation, and suddenly the Celtics trailed by just two possessions, 97-92.
After a timeout, that five-point lead became just three, as Brown created a one-man fast break off of a steal to record just his third made basket of the night. The Celtics forced another steal and Tatum got to the free throw line, and after converting on both, Boston trailed by just a single point. With the game teetering on the balance, the Warriors responded with a three-pointer from Draymond Green to take a four-point lead, and the two teams traded baskets in a frenetic sequence over the next few minutes. The Warriors lead remained at four with just over a minute to play in regulation, 104-100.
The closing sequence of the game kicked off with a three-pointer from Horford, who followed it up with a block on the other end, though the Celtics couldn’t capitalize. Tatum coughed up a turnover to Poole on the ensuing possession, which scored the Warriors a layup from Curry on the other end. With 18 seconds to play, Brown hit his fourth shot of the game: a three-pointer from the wing to tie the game at 106. Curry missed a three-pointer over tight coverage from Horford as time expired, and the game went to overtime.
The Celtics opened the overtime period by scoring the first four points, but the Warriors quickly responded with five of their own, as another ludicrous Curry three-pointer put them ahead 111-110. Brown had an answer, connecting on a two-pointer to put Boston back ahead and prompt a Golden State timeout with 2:14 remaining in the extra frame. From there, Thompson coughed up a turnover off a pass from Wiggins, and the Celtics pounced — Horford hit another crucial three, and the Celtics 115-111 with two minutes to play.
In fitting fashion, it was Tatum who hit the dagger. As the clock ticked under 1:30, he sized up Green and splashed a three-pointer, his fourth of the night, to put Boston ahead by seven. Though a foul on a three-pointer from Wiggins and a surprise three-pointer from Donte DiVincenzo made things a bit spicier than it probably should have been, it was still enough to carry the Celtics the rest of the way, and they walked away with a particularly satisfying win.
Next up, the Celtics will cross the border up north, travelling to Toronto for a matchup against the Raptors this Saturday at 5 PM EST on NBC Sports Boston.