OAKLAND, Calif. – For most teams, taking the Golden State Warriors down to the wire before losing at Oracle Arena would be seen as a success.
But the Boston Celtics are well past “Good try, good effort” performances, particularly because they are one of the few teams that has actually had success on Golden State’s home floor in recent years.
That’s why for them, their brand of disappointment in Saturday’s 109-105 loss was very different than most teams.
Simply put, the Celtics came away feeling as though they let one get away.
“We had them right where we wanted them,” said Jaylen Brown. “We just came up short. Really good team on the other side and they got the win.”
And while Saturday’s loss was the last regular season matchup between these two, the Warriors made no secret about believing that if they get back to the NBA Finals for what would be a fourth straight year, the team representing the East could very well be the Boston Celtics.
“They’re a good team,” Golden State’s Shaun Livingston told NBC Sports Boston’s Kyle Draper. “This is a good matchup for us. Looking at it, it’s obviously a team we could see in June.”
Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 109-105 loss to the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Most games, Kyrie Irving makes a conscious effort to get his teammates going as much as possible to start games, knowing he can get his points against pretty much any defense out there. Knowing the magnitude and caliber of opponent the Celtics were facing in Golden State on the road, we saw Irving looking to score at the start of the game more than usual. He scored 14 of is team-high 37 points in the first quarter while shooting 7-for-8 from the field. It will be worth monitoring if what we saw was just an approach exclusively for Golden State, or whether we’ll see more of this brand of Irving basketball in the near future.
We’ve seen Brown locked in before, but rarely have we seen the kind of focus and attention to detail at both ends of the floor, that we saw on Saturday night. His defense was really solid all game. And his offensive game?
Even better, as he scored 20 points while shooting 6-for-9 from the field which included 14 points in the first quarter.
You can’t expect him to shoot that well all the time. But the aggression level he played with, that needs to be more of a constant with him. Because as we saw on Saturday night, an aggressive Jaylen Brown is a better version of Jaylen Brown.
NO MARCUS SMART
Whenever you have to play without a key defender like Smart, it’s going to impact the game at some point. And when you look at how the Celtics had no answer for cooling off Stephen Curry you have to wonder how much they might have benefited from having Smart (right had laceration) who will miss about two weeks with his non-basketball related injury.
DEFENDING THE BIG FOUR
One of the reasons why Boston split the head-to-head series with Golden State this season, was their ability to limit at least two of Golden State’s all-stars – Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. In Boston’s win over Golden State in November, it was Curry, Green and Thompson who struggled while combining to shoot 25.6 percent (11-for-43) from the field. On Saturday, it was another bad shooting night for Green, Thompson and Durant who shot 34.1 percent on 14-for-41 shooting from the field. Limiting the bulk of Golden State’s Big Four is something Boston has done consistently and could come into play if the two were to meet in the NBA Finals.
It has truly been a trial and error process for the Boston Celtics find the right balance between taking 3’s and not becoming too reliant on it in order to win. Boston went 14-for-28 from 3-point range against the Warriors, which was a decent number of makes and attempts that at a minimum, gave them a decent shot at winning. Going forward, there will be games in which they will need to take more and other nights when they might be better served taking fewer than usual. But the bottom line is that the 3-pointer is a valuable part of what they want to do as an offense. Figuring out when to use it appropriately remains an ongoing challenge, one that the Celtics have shown themselves more nights than not, to be up for.