Vs Golden State 1/26: The Celtics Measure Up But Fall Short

FINAL: Golden State: 115 Boston: 111

This morning there was a lot of chatter and blame being thrown around over this play on a rebound with 8.6 seconds left and Draymond Green at the line.

So it appears that Marcus Smart slipped when getting off of his spot on the line and that hampered his ability to grab the rebound. When asked about the situation post game Marcus echoed this same thought I had originally as he said “I just literally just slipped” and went on to describe how he and Kyrie had discussed their positioning on the free throw.

First of all, slips do happen and while I’m not bailing Smart out completely, that looks like what happened. While I would have liked him to box out the shooter instead, I think he just misjudged that rebound completely. Also, are we sure Green doesn’t get that rebound regardless? It really was one of those tough long rebounds that catch the defense off guard and it went right to Draymond. Either way, after sending Draymond to the line and having it unfold exactly how they’d want it too, the offensive rebound was a backbreaker and basically ended any chances of them tying it up with such little time left.

While the offensive rebound is the main talking point from last night, I’d rather take a lot at the turnovers and how those were what really led to the Celtic demise. They had 6 of them in the fourth quarter alone (4 in the last 6 minutes) and for as incredible Kyrie was all night long, he had 3 turnovers down the stretch. Give the Warriors credit as Draymond and DeMarcus Cousins had 3 steals each and made plays to force turnovers. With a team as stacked as Golden State the margin for error is so slim that just a few turnovers can make all of the difference.

Another thing I wanted to touch on from late in the game is the looks the Celtics were getting in the final minute. After burying this three to tie it up at 111 with just over a minute left, Smart got another look at a three to possibly give the Celtics the lead.

While I don’t endorse the result, I think it was a pretty solid look and just rimmed out. As that caption says, the Warriors wanted to get the ball out of Kyrie Irving’s hands and they did just that. Smart ended up with a clean look and as far as I was concerned, I had no qualms with that shot. After that, they got another clean look with a chance to take the lead after a KD turnover.

I thought the Celtics got two pretty solid looks that just didn’t fall. How many times have we seen Marcus Morris Sr. hit that shot? The answer is a whole bunch and I have no issues with how it all unfolded. I get Kyrie was on fire all night long, and you want the ball in his hands, but Golden State did a great job of doubling him at the right times and forcing him to pass it.

Most of the talk was based around the final seconds but in the end, we had ourselves quite the game here. Just take a look at how even these two teams were in every single category.

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They were neck and neck down the stretch and the Celtics performed well albeit in a losing effort. Kyrie continues his absurd play as of late as he had 32/6/10 with 2 steals on 12-27 from the field. While his shooting percentage wasn’t at the level it’s been for him recently, he was still dominant. With plays like these down the stretch he repeatedly fended off the Warrior efforts to take control of the game.

He just cannot be stopped and this run he continues to be on is something for the ages. 31/4.8/10.8 and 2.4 steals on 56.2% from the floor is what he’s posted in 5 games since lighting up his teammates in Orlando. I don’t know if this is just going to be the norm for him now, but I’m in on it. He’s taken his game to another level and has been the catalyst in this team’s improved play as of late.

Al Horford (22/13 10-15 shooting) put together another valiant effort as he notched back to back double doubles for the first time this year. His overall ability to stabilize things on both ends of the court is invaluable to this team (team-high +9). When he’s shooting at such a high percentage, while doing the little things that we’ve grown to love, the Celtics are a different team. If this does end up being a Finals preview I would cite Al is the most important player for the Celtics. While you know what you’re going to get with Kyrie, having Al playing at a high level gives the Celtics that versatile inside-out threat that they’re going to need (especially with the Cousins addition).

Tatum also gave the Celtics a needed lift as he had 20 points and propelled the Celtic offense in the third as he scored 14 in the frame.

There was a point in time where had 11 of 13 points for the Celtics to start out the third. He didn’t force things and stepped into his three balls with confidence. When he isn’t messing around with long-twos, he’s such an asset in terms of scoring the basketball. His three point shot is so valuable and I’d love to see him focus more on that than the mid-range game.

Now that I’ve harped on the Celtics, let’s take a look at what the Warriors were able to put together and how well they played last night. It was a hostile environment at the Garden last night and while I know crowd noise is a bit overrated in terms of how it effects the opposing team, the Warriors were unfazed.

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KD, Steph, and Klay all had big nights scoring the basketball as they were all lights out.  They hit all of the important shots too as when they had an opportunity, they cashed in over and over again. It goes back to what I mentioned earlier about the turnovers. Teams that are this talented will kill you if you give them extra chances. While their big 3 was great, I want to shift focus over to DeMarcus Cousins for a second. He was such a problem for the Celtics and while he was a -8, I think his effect on this game was on display from the beginning. The fact that the Warriors were able to basically replace Kevon Looney in their starting 5 with Cousins is mind boggling. He provides so much energy and the Celtics never really had an answer for him last night. His minutes restriction kind of puts a cap on what he can do on a given night but from what I’ve seen from him so far I’d be thrilled if I was a Warriors fan.

While their injuries were different, it’s interesting to see how effectively Boogie has recovered in comparison to Gordon Hayward. While Boogie looks to be close to his old self, Hayward still has his nights where he’s a non factor. Last night he was 0-5 from the floor with only 2 points. He did have 7 rebounds and I didn’t think he looked like a liability, he just wasn’t looking for his offense. It goes back to confidence and aggressiveness. With how this offense works, if Hayward want to make an impact on the game he HAS TO take it upon himself. When he doesn’t force the issue he ends up just fading into the background and we see him have a night like this. I’m not giving up on him, but it’s still going to be a work in progress before we can really say that Hayward is “back”.

A tough one to swallow after playing so well all night long but the beat goes on. Brad Stevens talked about this game as a “measuring stick” game for this team. In the end, while the result wasn’t ideal, they measured up well with the Warriors. They also were able to see how thin the margin for error is and that to beat this team, they have to be nearly perfect. The Celtics get Sunday off as they welcome in the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night for a 7:30 PM ET tipoff.

-Chuck

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