– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
BOSTON — Though the victories had been mounting, the Golden State Warriors conceded that the level of urgency during a number of those games in their umpteenth significant winning streak was sagging a little, though taking care of business is as much of a hallmark of a champion than any other character trait.
Saturday night provided the intensity level the Warriors had been waiting for. It also ended with a very familiar result: a captivating Golden State victory that has the NBA world abuzz once more.
Kevin Durant scored 33 points while Stephen Curry chipped in with 24 points — including 15 during a personal three-point onslaught in the second quarter —as Golden State defeated one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics, 115-111, extending the Warriors’ streak to 10 games on the spin. The game wasn’t decided until the final minute, when Klay Thompson made two free throws to break a 111-all tie with 46.1 seconds remaining.
Outside of an impressive road win against their closest challenger in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets, on Jan. 15, many of the Warriors’ triumphs during their current winning run came mostly against teams that were hovering at or under .500, or dealing with a myriad of injuries, including their blowout of the LeBron-less Los Angeles Lakers this past Monday. A road tilt in Boston saw the opportunity of a legitimate NBA Finals preview unfold for the country to see in prime time, something the back-to-back defending champions seized once more to lay down another marker.
“We needed this game,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who became the fastest coach in the history of the four major American sports to win 300 games (377 attempts). “We’ve played three straight opponents all decimated by injuries and we needed to be challenged and we were challenged big time and it could have gone either way. [Boston] missed some open looks down the stretch, but our guys fought and defended and made big free throws down the stretch.”
Any notion that this was just another regular season game had already been eviscerated by the constant, raucous cacophony from the start inside TD Garden, though the din was reduced to near stunned silence in the second quarter at the hands of Curry. After a scoreless first quarter, Curry knocked down four three-pointers in a 116-second span early in the second quarter, the last of which was so true off of his hands that he went into a celebratory shoulder shimmy even before the ball descended and went through the hoop.
“Two great teams going at it,” Curry said. “We bring the best out of each other.”
Boston started the beginning of each half in identical fashion, shooting lights out at the beginning of the quarter before fading terribly at the end of the quarter, with the Celtics missing 13 of their last 14 shots of the third to find themselves down 90-84 after three quarters.
Kyrie Irving scored 32 points, and his 13 points in the fourth quarter included a layup on a drive to the basket on a series of moves while defended by Andre Iguodala to tie the game at 108 with 2:43 remaining. A couple of possessions later, Thompson hit a three to give the Warriors the lead for good.
Al Horford had 22 points and 13 rebounds as both he and Irving played every minute of the fourth.
“Just staying poised in certain situations, finishing plays, continuing to do the little things,” Irving said about what lessons the Celtics needed to take from tonight. “Obviously, going against the best you don’t have a lot of room to make mistakes. Just cleaning some of that stuff up but we played pretty well. Had a few chances at the end but just didn’t go our way.”