With 5.7 seconds left and Golden State down three to Boston, Stephen Curry got a clean look at a three to tie it up — and it rimmed out. Everyone inside Oracle was in disbelief — the Warriors’ magic had run out.
It was that kind of night. A couple of possessions before Curry’s miss, Boston aggressively trapped Curry on the high pick and roll, and he made the Warriors’ bread-and-butter play, hitting Draymond Green who was wide open on a slow roll — and Green fumbled away the pass for the turnover. A few plays before that, Brandon Rush fumbled the ball while wide open in transition going toward the rim. It was that kind of night for the Warriors — they had 22 turnovers, or to put it another way 21.4 percent of their possessions ended in a turnover.
Meanwhile, Boston just kept making plays — Isaiah Thomas driving the lane late (after a dangerous pass Curry almost stole), or Evan Turner hitting tough jumpers all night long (as a team Boston shot 49.1 percent on contested looks for the night, via NBA.com). Brad Stevens did a fantastic job with his rotation matching up against the Warriors.
The result was a 109-106 Boston win — Golden State’s first home loss in 54 regular season games.
It also makes the Warriors pursuit of history more difficult, they need to go 5-1 the rest of the way to beat the 1996 Chicago Bulls 72-win mark, and remember the Warriors have a dangerous Trail Blazers team plus a couple of games against the Spurs (although Popovich will rest guys) still to come. If the Warriors win their next four, they would go for the beating the record April 10 in San Antonio.
Credit the Celtics for good defense and executing their game plan (that they did it without Jae Crowder is even more impressive). Defensively, the Celtics are one of only a couple teams that can go small with the Warriors and still defend them well. Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Sullinger, Turner, all the Celtics scrapped on that end and forced turnovers. Boston did not let the Warriors run. On offense, Boston took the ball inside whenever they could, outscoring Golden State 48-30 in the paint — Jared Sullinger was a big part of that, he had 20 points on the night and battled Green inside physically. Thomas had 22 and Turner had 21 for Boston.
But Boston got help — the Warriors were sloppy and just missing plays they often make. Like the potential game-tying shot, or the turnovers, or the entire first half when the Warriors seemed to be sleepwalking. Curry and Klay Thompson had combined for 11 points on 13 shots in the first half.
“Our execution was really bad, a lot of that had to do with their defense,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said postgame, admitting the Celtics through them out of sync.
“Our execution hasn’t been good for a while,” Kerr said later. “Twenty-two turnovers tonight, 18 or 19 in Utah (the Warriors last game, which went to overtime), 20-something the game before that. We’ve been slipping the last couple weeks. I think people have seen that.”
The Warriors really miss Andre Iguodala in games like this — he settles their second unit and is key defensively when they go small. He’ll be back for the playoffs and the Warriors will have their “death lineup” fully operational.
Until then they are going to have to scrap for wins, taking the best shot of everyone they play, as they try to get to 73.