The Boston Celtics seemingly mounted their final hurdle Thursday night.
After four consecutive losses to the Golden State Warriors dating to last year's NBA Finals, the Celtics finally vanquished the only team that's had their number over the last seven months.
And yet ... they had to pull out all the stops to claw to a 121-118 overtime win at TD Garden.
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Jayson Tatum tied a career-high with 48 minutes played and didn't come out after the first quarter. Jaylen Brown logged 41 minutes after missing the previous three games due to injury. Al Horford took advantage of two days' rest to play like he was 25, not 36, tallying 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in 37 minutes.
In short, the Celtics treated Thursday like a playoff game, and the payoff was a morale-boosting victory. Boston still has 36 games to play before the postseason, however, and needs to manage the minutes of its stars carefully if the team wants to keep playing into June.
Just ask Tatum, who admitted he battled fatigue in the 2022 Finals after leading the NBA in total minutes played entering the series.
"I was just exhausted," Tatum told ESPN in December. "Mentally, physically. All the stress and pressure that I was putting on myself."
The Celtics bolstered their guard depth this offseason by adding Malcolm Brogdon, who forms a strong three-man rotation with Marcus Smart and Derrick White. But the C's are thin on wing depth behind Tatum and Brown, and it showed Thursday night: Sam Hauser didn't even see the floor, while Grant Williams logged under 13 minutes.
Hauser looked like a promising second-unit wing earlier this season, shooting nearly 50 percent from 3-point range through Boston's first 25 games while holding his own defensively. The 25-year-old has regressed sharply over the past month, though, topping six points in a game just once since Nov. 30.
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If the Celtics don't want Tatum to play 40 minutes per night, they should survey the NBA trade landscape for a veteran wing who can ease the Jays' burden. Boston still has its $5.9 million traded player exception from the Dennis Schroder deal and also could look to move the $2.2 million contract of Payton Pritchard, who has provided occasional energy boosts but is buried behind Smart, Brogdon and White on the depth chart.
The Celtics are already a championship contender and don't need to make a big splash ahead of the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline. But if they want to avoid sprinting the marathon, they may benefit from reinforcing their wing depth behind their minutes-heavy stars.