Boston Celtics: 2014Game37
Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. On Friday night, Boston rallied from 13 down in the final frame to tie the red-hot Warriors with 11 seconds remaining, but Steph Curry broke the Celtics' hearts with a long jumper after the visitors couldn't force the ball out of his hands in the final seconds.
The Celtics aren't much for silver linings at this point. They played exceptionally well at times on Friday against a Golden State team that was nearly flawless on its recent seven-game road trip. Gerald Wallace was one of many to note Boston's relentless effort in the past two games, overcoming early adversity to make things interesting, but was left wondering if the Basketball Gods would reward Boston with a much-needed win soon.
Here's what Boston can build off moving forward:
- GOTTA HAND IT TO HIM: SULLINGER BOUNCES BACK: The previous eight games had been a real grind for Jared Sullinger and his ailing left hand (deep bone bruise). Sullinger was averaging 7.4 points and 6.9 rebounds over 21.6 minutes per game, but was shooting just 28.9 percent from the floor during that span and had shuffled off the first unit. Sullinger came off the bench to score 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting, but it was his relentless effort early on that stood out. He finished with 11 rebounds (five on the offensive glass). During Friday's game, Sullinger looked a lot more like the player who had been Boston's best performer for the early part of the season. He was a team-best plus-6 overall for the game.
- GOOD THINGS HAPPENING WITH HUMP: Coach Brad Stevens' decision to move Kris Humphries to the starting lineup was fueled in large part by the energy and effort he brings when he's on the court. Humphries simply plays hard and it's infectious. On Friday, he turned in another solid outing with 16 points (half of which came while sparking Boston's fourth-quarter rally) and a game-high 14 rebounds. Humphries added three blocks and two steals and didn't turn the ball over while logging 35:31 of floor time. It's unfair that Humphries will be the defender in the spotlight as Curry's winning jumper is replayed over and over. Humphries got switched on him alone when David Lee's stout screen prevented Avery Bradley from helping Humphries trap Curry and force the ball out of the sharpshooter's hands in the final seconds. What we should focus on is how, during this seven-game losing streak, Humphries is grabbing a team-best 26.4 percent of all defensive rebounds (Sullinger is closest at 19.5 percent) and making good things happen with pure effort.
- C'S NEED MORE OF AGGRESSIVE GREEN: It was pretty obvious Jeff Green had it going early in Friday's game. He stormed the baseline twice early, first throwing down an emphatic reverse jam, then muscling in a circus shot while being fouled. Green had 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting with three rebounds in the first quarter. He got going again late and finished with a team-high 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting with 11 rebounds. One area to nitpick: Green went quiet in the second quarter (one shot, zero points over six minutes). This was the sort of night where Green could have taken 25 shots, especially with Boston's backcourt struggling. Green needs to be selfish and understand it's OK for him to dominate the ball when he's got it going. It's too bad he fumbled the ball on the final play, as he's proven to be a clutch performer in those sort of late-game situations.
Rapid reaction after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics 99-97 on Friday night at Oracle Arena:
THE NITTY GRITTY
Jeff Green put together a nice outing (team-high 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting with 11 rebounds), Jared Sullinger had his best night in weeks (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Kris Humprhries was a beast on the glass (16 points, game-high 14 rebounds), but Steph Curry made a clutch jumper with 2.1 seconds remaining and Green fumbled the ball on the final play, leading to a desperation Gerald Wallace heave as the Warriors escaped with the win. Curry finished with 19 points on 7-of-18 shooting, while Andre Iguodala added a team-high 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting with seven assists, five rebounds, and three steals to pace the Warriors.
The Celtics were down 13 after an Iguodala dunk with 10:32 to play in the game, but made a late surge (riding Humphries to spark the initial part of the comeback). Green got going late and a strong drive produced a 5-foot jumper that tied the game at 97 with 11 seconds to go. The Warriors put the ball in Curry's hands and, when Humphries got switched on him, he drilled a long pull-up jumper for the deciding hoop. Boston got Green free on the final play, but he lost the ball while dribbling to his right and Wallace had to rush a final shot that was off the mark.
HUMPHRIES AND SULLINGER ON THE GLASS
The Warriors entered the game ranked first in the league in defensive rebound rate and third in total rebound rate. Boston, a team that ranked 24th in defensive rebounding and 17th overall in total rebound rate, went out and won the battle on the glass, 49-46. Sullinger had five offensive rebounds while being particularly active early, and both he and Humphries worked hard despite giving up size to Golden State's big front line.
The Celtics ran with a tight nine-man rotation. Keith Bogans, Vitor Faverani, Phil Pressey and the recently recalled MarShon Brooks were all healthy DNPs. ... Boston's frontcourt was exceptional, though it's hard to ignore that Brandon was a team-worst minus-14 overall. He was efficient offensively, going 4-for-5 from the floor with nine points, but had three rebounds and three turnovers. ... After carrying the offense against the Clippers, Boston's backcourt of Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford combined to go 6-for-24 shooting for 17 points. ... The Celtics turned the ball over 17 times, while the typically fumble-happy Warriors gave it away just 11 times. ... Boston held Golden State to 41.3 percent shooting overall, including 30.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (13-26) have now lost seven in a row and 10 of their last 11 overall. They wrap up this daunting five-game road trip on the tail end of a back-to-back on Saturday night in Portland. Things don't get much easier as they come back home with a visit from another strong Western Conference foe in the Houston Rockets. The Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors and the rival Los Angeles Lakers also visit TD Garden next week as part of a three-game homestand.
- WARRIORS AT A GLANCE: When you think of the Warriors, you probably think of their offense, but the team actually ranks middle of the pack (13th) in the NBA in offensive rating (103.5 points per 100 possessions. That number would be a lot glossier if the Golden State didn't rank 30th in the league in turnover percentage. What's probably more surprising to the casual observer is that the Warriors rank fourth overall in defensive rating (98.5). Opponents shoot just 42.9 percent overall (fourth in NBA) against Golden State and 34.4 percent beyond the 3-point arc (eighth in NBA). The Warriors make it tough on opponents then don't allow a lot of second chances (ranking first in defensive rebound rate and third in total rebound rate).
- TAKING ANOTHER STEP: The Celtics, lifeless at the start of this five-game road trip, showed better energy and effort during Wednesday's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Now Boston needs to take the next step and get back in the win column. A tough close to this back-to-back looms Saturday night in Portland, meaning Boston's best remaining chance to avoid a win shutout on this trip is Friday's game. It will be interesting to see if Brad Stevens leaves Kris Humphries with the starting group for an energy infusion, or if he further experiments as Boston tries to find the right combination to get itself back on track.
- WHAT ELSE?: The Celtics have lost nine of 10; the Warriors have won 11 of 12. The Warriors are coming off a seven-game road trip in which they went 6-1 (losing a nail-biter in Brooklyn to close it out). ... Steph Curry's line over that seven-game road trip: 22.7 points, 9 assists, 4.6 rebounds over 39.3 minutes per game. Nearly half of his 18.6 shots per game came behind the 3-point arc. ... David Lee likewise averaged 22.7 points per game on that trip to go along with 10.1 rebounds per contest. ... The Warriors were a staggering 31.9 points better in offensive rating during their trip when Andre Iguodala was on the floor (and the defensive rating was 5 ½ points better as well).
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