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Paul Pierce searches for answers for Boston's struggles while visiting the Warriors.In previewing Boston's four-game road trip to open the second half of the season, Peter May pointed out a peculiar absence on Doc Rivers' resume as head coach of the Boston Celtics: He has yet to win a game in Oracle Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors.
Not even the additions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the summer of 2007 have been enough for the Celtics to win in Oakland, as the current core boasts an 0-3 record against Golden State during their annual visit. It's a strange trend, considering there are far more successful Western Conference franchises in existence -- such as the Lakers, Mavericks, and Spurs -- that one might normally think would give the Celtics far more trouble on the road than the, err, Warriors.
Despite the fact that the Celtics have consistently been one of the top defensive teams in the NBA ever since the 2008 championship season, the Warriors have been nearly as productive on the offensive end. Over the last three seasons, Golden State has ranked in the top 10 in offensive efficiency twice, and was situated at 14th in the NBA last season.
In addition, the Celtics typically play the Warriors in Oakland in either December (usually immediately after Christmas), January, or February, right around the time when teams hit the "dog days" or "doldrums" of the NBA season, which can result in a lack of focus for some of the superior clubs. For a team like the Celtics, a lack of focus against an offensive-minded team like the Warriors can spell disaster, and often has during Rivers' tenure. With all of this in mind, let's take a quick look back at the Celtics' last six (failed) attempts at securing a win in Oracle Arena.
Troy Murphy isn't playing in NBA games right now, and was recently involved in Carmelo Anthony-related trade rumors. But early in December several years ago, he was in the midst of torching the Boston Celtics to the tune of 30 points (on 10-of-20 shooting) and 15 rebounds, leading the Warriors to a four-point victory. The Celtics held the Warriors to 46 percent shooting, but committed 20 turnovers in this game, with seven being credited to center Mark Blount. Paul Pierce logged 31 minutes and contributed 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting, and the Celtics almost made it over the hump thanks to -- get ready -- Jiri Welsch, who knocked down nine of his 14 field goal attempts to finish with 24 points.
Tied at 109 with a minute left, the Celtics and Warriors traded missed baskets until Derek Fisher converted a driving layup with six seconds to play, giving the Warriors a two-point edge. Rather than electing to call a time-out, Paul Pierce tried driving the length of the floor to tie the game, but he lost the ball (Jason Richardson was credited with the steal), and the Celtics lost the game. For a second straight year, turnovers plagued the Celtics in Oakland, as Boston forked the ball over 21 times this time around. All five Warrior starters scored in double figures, led by Richardson's 36 points. Pierce finished with 28, Ricky Davis posted 24 points, and Delonte West (then the Celtics' starting point guard) scored 19 points and dished out seven assists.
The Celtics were playing without Paul Pierce, who suffered a stress reaction in his left foot in a game against the same Golden State team in Boston a little over a week earlier. Rivers went with a starting lineup of Delonte West, Tony Allen, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, and Al Jefferson, and the quintet had decent success, with everyone except Green reaching double figures in scoring. The trouble came on the defensive end, as Baron Davis and Mickael Pietrus combined for 53 points on 18-of-36 shooting, and center Andris Biedrins added a monster double-double of 20 points and 17 rebounds. The Celtics trailed by 10 entering the fourth quarter, and couldn't produce the necessary stops, as the Warriors notched 29 fourth quarter points -- matching Boston's total for the frame -- and kept the 10-point advantage intact. Rookie point guard Rajon Rondo played a mere three minutes off the bench, while reserve point guard Sebastian Telfair logged 29 minutes of action.
The New Big Three entered Oakland after suffering a difficult 124-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets on the previous night, and promptly gave up 119 points. Al Harrington, Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, and Andris Biedrins all scored at least 21 points for the Warriors, who emerged victorious on a Davis jump shot with 0.3 seconds to play following a Paul Pierce offensive foul. The tired Celtics were out-rebounded 49-37, despite Kevin Garnett hauling in 15 boards for Boston. Ray Allen was the star for the men in green, pouring in 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting, including a 6-of-8 performance from 3-point nation. The Celtics took a whopping 46 free throws, but converted only 32 of them (69.6 percent).
Less than a year later, the Celtics were once again out-dueled by the Warriors in a similar situation. It was the second night of a back-to-back for Boston, who had just lost to the Los Angeles Lakers the previous day (it was the first time the two clubs had met since the Celtics defeated the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals). The Celtics won the battle on the glass, 39-35, but committed an appalling 23 turnovers, which the Warriors converted into 27 points. Stephen Jackson paced the Warriors with 28 points and Marco Belinelli added 22. The Celtics held a 10-point advantage after the first quarter, but Golden State eventually rallied and assumed control in the fourth quarter, where it outscored Boston 35-17.
If the last two years taught the Celtics anything, it was that they didn't want to face the Warriors on the second night of a back-to-back. Unfortunately, that's exactly the situation they found themselves in last season for a third straight time. Boston was coming off a frustrating 92-90 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and was without the services of Paul Pierce, who was dealing with a right knee infection. Kevin Garnett brought the Celtics to within three points with just over a minute to play, but Ray Allen missed what would have been a game-tying three-pointer with 35 seconds to play, and followed that up by hitting just one of two free throws with four seconds left, leaving the door open for Golden State to seal things at the charity stripe. Monta Ellis did just that, burying two clutch freebies with two ticks left, capping off a monstrous 37-point effort in which he played all 48 minutes. Rajon Rondo did all he could to keep the Celtics competitive, but his 30-point, 15-assist effort was not enough, as the Celtics fell in Oakland for the sixth consecutive season. Adding injury to insult, Garnett got kicked in his surgically-repaired right knee by Ellis, forcing him to miss extended time.
The good news for the Celtics this time around: It is not the second night of a back-to-back.
Greg Payne is a student intern for ESPNBoston.com