BOSTON – Before his Boston Celtics took on the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night, Brad Stevens was asked if he would take them over. Time defenders.
"You have a lot of highly skilled, highly intelligent basketball players ̵
"Tonight I look forward to seeing where we are."
After a rocky first half of the season, the Warriors have won 10 victories and are convinced that they can still get better if they continue to be DeMarcus cousins Pull in the fold. 19659007] The former All-Star has shown insights into his possibilities, but he's not quite back yet. This must change for Boston to achieve its goals.
Several hours later, after the Warriors emerged from the boiler of energy that was TD Garden – assisted by an additional imbibing thanks to an Eastern tip at 20:30 as well as the presence of the owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft and some players ahead of the next week's Super Bowl – Stevens had his answer with a 115-111 win against the Celtics.
No, the Celtics do not win. And no, a team that was supposed to be facing the Warriors in the NBA final before the start of the season in June does not have the task of winning moral victories from a regular game. But the Celtics have gained something from Saturday's defeat: further clarity on what this team must be to exploit its potential and what keeps it from doing so.
"I think we know the level [we have to get to]." Marcus Morris said. "We just have to take care of it."
This game went exactly as the Celtics had hoped before: if the score is the same in the final few minutes, Boston gets the ball closer. Kyrie Irving, and let him try to take the Celtics home.
Irving, as he was throughout the season, was outstanding this season. He finished the race with 32 points and 10 assists and completed some ridiculous late night finishes Fourth: Finished once with his left hand over Klay Thompson and once with a dizzying dribble scenario, before ending his right end over Andre Iguodala.
Against the Warriors – However, with their length and athleticism throughout the field Final lineup that allows them to liberally switch – Boston showed how much it depends on Irving.
After Irving broke down on Iguodala and the game remained at 108 with 2:43, he lost the ball as he tried to force a game dribble move into the lane for the next possession, a Klay Thompson 3- Setting up a pointer that required Golden State.
Al Horford tried to force the ball on the following possession, which still caused a turnover.
"They do a great job of switching," said Irving. "They try to keep you out of the paint and let you shoot hard, we upgraded many of them tonight, some teams have problems with it, but we had our options and we had to end them when we see them in Golden State . "
Some of these problems were, as Irving pointed out, due to the change of Golden State. But it was also a symbol that the Celtics lacked another clear option in the last few minutes when bottled.
Marcus Morris, who had been so reliably hot in the first two months of the season, finally cooled down in January. He scored 40.3 percent out of the field 3: 12 from the ground and 2: 6 from the 3-point area – including a potential 3-pointer with 10.8 seconds to go before the end ,  Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum had a hot third quarter and scored 14 points, but he only scored six points in the other three points and remains vulnerable to the kind of competitive mid-range jumper who recognized the basketball world as the sport's worst punches Has.
The player who should be Irving's later buddy is Gordon Hayward. But this was another performance he would no doubt like to forget. Hayward missed all five shots and scored two points in 22 minutes to score seven rebounds and two assists. This highlights the fact that if Hayward wants to reach his potential, he must return to his form of pre-infringement.
It has also been a very real – and sobering – reminder that the Celtics will need another three months before they will need this version of Hayward, but there is no guarantee that he will be there until then.
The same can be said for Terry Rozier, who had a hugely positive game – skating through the air to collect a missing Hayward 3 and occupy it with 96-8 remaining 8:27 – and otherwise fight over To get an effect, because he has a lot of the season. Rozier, who will be a limited free agent this summer, has played as someone who tries to bring everything he can into the 15-20 minutes per night he gets, as opposed to the 35 minutes per game He saw the playoffs of last season, when Irving was thrown out of the game because of an injury. Tonight was another example.
The bouts of the two – not to mention Center Aron Baynes, Boston's usually rock-solid backup center, which defeated Golden State in its first half-turn – allowed the Celtics, despite much more firepower from the Bank to surpass Golden State's second unit with 17-16.
|Celtics Bank||2. Halftime||2. Halftime||half FG|
|Jaylen Brown||10:05||0||0/2  Terry Rozier|
|Aron Baynes||DNP *||N / A||N / A|
|Daniel Theis  3:42||3:42||] 0||0/0|
|* In the first half of Baynes' 9:40 minutes in the first half|
the Celtics were overturned 11 points exceeded.
Horford once again looked like the best player – LeBron James Division – in the E aster Conference playoffs last year. Horford finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, one theft and two blocks in 34 minutes. He looked easy and moved easily on the field, as he always made his way with DeMarcus cousins. The only blemishes for Horford: No free throw attempts and five high seasonal sales.
Horford has dealt with the tormenting knee tendinitis this season, and that has been shown; Depending on the nights, the scouts say that either Horford looks creaky or he looks like his usual All-Star self. Not surprisingly, as he is a 32-year-old big man in his 12th NBA season. But it's this version of Horford that has easily won in last year's playoffs with Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid, and the same thing that will hit Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez hard when these teams meet this spring.
While Horford is not at Irving's level, he is undoubtedly the most irreplaceable Celtic. There is no big man in Boston who can do almost anything he can do on both ends.
"I just think we can play with anyone," Horford said. "It was nice to go out there and compete that way, to give us a chance in the end.
" You are the team to beat. These guys really understand how to play. They know each other and something. They're playing really well, so you almost have to play a flawless game to defeat them.
The Celtics did not do that and finished one of the worst six of their 14 turnovers in the fourth quarter – except Marcus Smart is out of position (due to slipping or overrunning the ball, depending on the lookout) for a second Just missing out, who missed the Draymond Green foul with eight seconds, allowing Green to secure the ball Stephen Curry, who then hit two free throws to freeze the game.
It was an imperfect game of an imperfect team – but a clear one as well.
The Celtics learned on Saturday night what they are experiencing, how far they are from where they need to be if they want to host the Warriors back at TD Garden this season.