All things in the NBA this season are measured against the prohibitive favorite Golden State Warriors. There are great storylines — the rise of the Sixers, for example — but when it comes to what will happen next June, it’s all about Golden State.
Boston had won 13 games in a row, but still when Warriors came to town Thursday that was the measuring stick. It’s all about Golden State.
Validation. The Boston Celtics came from 17 points down — twice — to have Kyrie Irving make the key plays down the stretch and beat the Warriors 92-88. It was again Boston’s best in the NBA defense that kept them in it, aided by the fact that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 5-of-20 from three (and they missed a lot of good looks), and then down the stretch Irving shook off the cold shooting he had all night and made plays.
It wasn’t a pretty game — both teams had a true shooting percentage under 49 percent — as befitting two of the top five defenses in the NBA. The Celtics may not want to bet Curry misses that many open threes in a game again, but he was off and having a rough night Thursday. The big difference in the score was Boston had 19 more free throw attempts, both because they were the more aggressive team attacking the rim most of the night, then in the final minutes, they got the 50/50 calls.
The best player on the court for Boston was second-year man Jaylen Brown, who finished the night with 22 points. Kyrie Irving had 16, but on 16 shots.
Kevin Durant led the Warriors with 24 points, while it was an off night from Stephen Curry — 9 points on 14 shots, and 2-of-9 from three — as well as Klay Thompson that did in the Warriors.
A Celtics win before Thanksgiving is meanless in trying to project out to a potential NBA Finals — both of these teams will evolve into something else by then. LeBron James will have his say on who is in the Finals, James Harden and Chris Paul would like to make a statement, too. We’re a long way from final answers.
Still, this Celtics’ win matters now. It’s validation for a team that now must be considered a contender for the East, and maybe the Larry O’Brien Trophy.