The Celtics walked out of the Chase Center Saturday night at 21-6 — the best record in the NBA.
The Warriors walked out of the Chase Center Saturday night at 14-13, one game above .500 and sitting as the No. 8 seed in the West.
Yet it was tough not to have Finals flashbacks after the Warriors’ 123-107 win, a game where Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson had their way and combined for 66 points. It was tough not to remember last June when the Warriors out-executed the Celtics to win their fourth NBA title.
“I think tonight was probably more meaningful to you guys (the media) than it was to us,” he said. “It’s one game. We want to win every game we play. It’s tough. You never want to lose. We’ve been playing well. … It’s not going to dictate our season. It’s all about how we respond.”
Tatum had an off night, starting 1-of-6 and finishing the night with 18 points on 6-of-21 shooting.
“I missed a lot of layups. Got two fouls in the first quarter. Missed some open threes,” Tatum said after the defeat. “They’re a good team. Obviously, we’ve got some history with them. They’ve been playing better as of lately. They’re a well-balanced, talented team on both ends. They make it tough on you. I think I just — maybe my touch was off, but just a lot of easy ones I missed made it a little tough tonight.”
They’re right — should these teams meet again in the NBA Finals, they will both look different. That starts with personnel, the Warriors were without starting wing and their best perimeter defender in Andrew Wiggins. The Celtics were without big men Robert Williams and Al Horford, forced to start and play Blake Griffin heavy minutes, and while he gave an admirable effort he can no longer come out and defend at the level of the ball and the Warriors torched his drop coverage.
Plus, teams grow and evolve over the course of a season. The Warriors continue to show in flashes they might be the best team in the West, but they are not bringing that consistency night-to-night. The Celtics are also growing and improving — and either one of these teams could make meaningful moves at the trade deadline.
It is just one game in December. Tatum is right, the Celtics do need to move on.
But the Warriors reminded us who they can be.