The short-handed Boston Celtics made it interesting, but they failed to complete the comeback vs. the best team in the NBA on Friday night.
Stephen Curry, fresh off overtaking Ray Allen for the all-time 3-point record, led the way for the Golden State Warriors with a game-high 30 points. Andrew Wiggins added 27 of his own with 21 in the first half.
Jayson Tatum tallied 27 for the C's while adding eight rebounds and six assists. Jaylen Brown contributed 20 points and nine rebounds in his second game back from a hamstring injury, and Marcus Smart had a solid night with 19 points and eight assists.
Here are three immediate takeaways from the C's, which brings them to 14-15 on the season. Next up is a Saturday night showdown with the New York Knicks at TD Garden.
Dismal first half dooms Celtics
Slow starts have been an issue for the Celtics on several occasions this season and Friday night was no exception. The Warriors' 68 first-half points were the most scored all season vs. Boston.
Andrew Wiggins (11-20, 5-7 from 3) and Steph Curry (8-21, 5-14 from 3) were the primary culprits with 24 and 20 points in the first half, respectively. The duo was kept in check for most of the second half, but it didn't matter as Boston was unable to overcome its lackluster first-half defensive effort.
Silly mistakes also doomed the C's in this one. Boston cut a 20-point deficit down to 10 before Marcus Smart fouled Curry on a heave from beyond halfcourt. That foul, plus a technical foul on Celtics head coach Ime Udoka for arguing the call, put Curry on the line to hit four free throws and boost the Warriors' lead back to 14.
A moral victory?
The C's looked like a completely different team in the second half, mainly in the third quarter when they outscored the Warriors 27-14. It was the lowest-scoring quarter for Golden State to this point in the season.
Jayson Tatum sparked the C's with 11 points in the third and didn't let up on the gas in the fourth.
As deflating of a loss as it may have been, there were some positives to take away from it. The Celtics showed in the second half that if they play with the energy and effort they're capable of playing with, they can go toe-to-toe with any team in the league. They were without Al Horford, Dennis Schroder, Grant Williams, Juancho Hernangomez, and Jabari Parker -- plus Romeo Langford who exited in the first quarter with a neck injury -- and still made it a nail-biter against a 24-5 Warriors squad.
Moral victories aren't going to make C's fans feel any better about what's been a disappointing season, but it at least appears the team is trending in the right direction.
Josh Richardson, Aaron Nesmith step up
For the short-handed Celtics to keep it close, they needed their "Big 3" of Tatum, Brown, and Smart to carry the load. That trio did its part, but Josh Richardson and Aaron Nesmith contributed big-time performances off the bench to give Boston a boost.
Richardson, who's been an excellent addition to this C's second unit, continued his strong season with 15 points. He also added two rebounds, one steal, and a block.
Nesmith hasn't been able to find a groove in his second NBA campaign, but he was given a perfect opportunity to shine with Langford hurt and five other Celtics ruled out. He notched 11 points including this clutch bucket in the fourth quarter:
It was an encouraging outing for the 22-year-old, and the C's may lean on him more if COVID-19 continues to run rampant in the locker room.