Celtics

Celtics

BOSTON — Boston Celtics players, smarting from their uncharacteristic miscues down the stretch of Saturday night’s loss to the visiting Golden State Warriors, all expressed a fairly similar sentiments after the game:

(1) The Warriors are a damn good team, and (2) The margin for error against them is razor thin.

Or as wise-beyond-his-20-years Jayson Tatum summed it up: "You see how tough it is to win a game against the best. You almost gotta be perfect.”

The Celtics, to be certain, were not perfect on Saturday. They missed makable shots with a chance to pull ahead in the final minute. They were uncharacteristically sloppy through much of crunch time. And a team known for its late-game execution endured some ill-timed miscommunications.

Maybe the most notable sequence occurred with Golden State out front by 2 with 8.6 seconds remaining, and only hammered home Boston’s tough-luck night. Marcus Smart, the Celtics player most likely to earn a "#WinningPlay” hashtag, swooped in from behind free-throw shooter Draymond Green with hopes of collecting a potential miss. But Smart slipped and the errant shot attempt sailed out of his reach. It landed  right in Steph Curry’s hands and Irving was forced to foul before more time ran off the clock.

Smart didn’t hide from his own miscue, explaining that, “I lost my balance and just the ball made a perfect bounce right back to where I was going to be at.” He’s far from the only player who will need to watch the replay of Saturday’s showdown through finger blinds.

 

☘️WARRIORS 115, CELTICS 111

Despite the loss, Boston players should feel confident about where they stand in the NBA hierarchy. The miscues on the game tape are going to sting but what the team learned about itself might be more valuable.

To be certain, the Celtics need more from an inconsistent bench. Gordon Hayward missed all five shots he took while scoring only 2 points over 22 minutes. He was active on the glass (seven rebounds) but Boston really needs him to be a difference maker when going against reserve-heavy lineups.

If Boston’s hallmark is going to be depth, the team needs more from top reserves in Hayward, Terry Rozier, and Jaylen Brown.

As for the starters, well, Morris and Irving, two of Boston’s most clutch offensive presences this season, both misfired over the final 22 seconds with the Celtics down 2. Irving had some uncharacteristic turnovers late in the game, and nearly gave the ball away with a little more than 40 seconds to go before he managed to feed Smart for  a solid 3-point look that rattled out from one of his above-the-break sweetspots.

Still, Al Horford, who was a bright spot for both his 22-point, 13-rebound effort and the way he battled DeMarcus Cousins defensively, tried to embrace the big picture. 

"I just think that we can play with anyone,” said Horford. "It was nice to go out there and compete in that way, give ourselves a chance to win there at the end. 

"[Golden State is] the team to beat. Those guys, they really understand how to play. They know each other’s strengths and things like that. They play really well, so you have to play almost a flawless game to beat them.”

☘️WARRIORS 115, CELTICS 111

The Celtics, who so frequently feast on opposing miscues, couldn’t make the Warriors pay for their few missteps on Saturday. Boston’s five-game win streak got snapped and the team was peppered with queries about where it stands following a very obvious measuring-stick game. 

Irving continues to preach that the team needs better mental toughness, especially in situations like going against a team like Golden State.

“S--- happens in games and you just gotta move on,” said Irving. 

Later, he added: "You just got to match them, blow for blow. It's really what it comes down to. A lot of greatness on that [Golden State] team, so you have to match greatness with greatness. … I could speak all day about [the Warriors], how great they are.”

A return encounter in Oakland awaits in March. Maybe there’s more head-to-head matchups further down the road — say, like, June? But that’s getting a bit too far ahead of ourselves.

☘️WARRIORS 115, CELTICS 111

The Celtics know they can beat the best teams in the East, having dealt the four squads ahead of them in the East standings a loss. If they had gotten run out of the gym by a Warriors team that had been rolling entering Saturday’s action, there might be more cause for alarm.

 

But Boston pushed the Warriors. They probably should have won if another shot or two dropped. That’s why, for the all the obvious frustrations, there was encouragement in how Boston might build off Saturday’s loss.

"It was huge for us,” said Smart. “And, obviously, we’ve got a lot of things to work on still but we see that we can compete with anybody if we compete with those guys.”

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