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WARRIORS 110, CELTICS 106

Golden chance missed

Slow-starting Celtics lose to lowly Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. -- During his years with the Lakers, Derek Fisher became synonymous with late-game heroics. With Fisher having taken his act north, the theatrics took on a twist last night in the Warriors' 110-106 win over the Celtics, though he still played a major role in the decisive basket.

On Golden State's last possession, Fisher ended up on the line. He made the first free throw and missed the second, but Jason Richardson was right there for the tip that sealed the contest with 4.9 seconds to go.

The Celtics looked for a 3-pointer on their last possession, but the Warriors protected the perimeter so well that the visitors couldn't even get off a shot.

Both teams kept putting up shots (and missing) down the stretch until Golden State coach Mike Montgomery called a timeout to regroup his team. After the huddle, Richardson went in for a layup, missed, and was called for a loose ball foul that put Paul Pierce on the line for a pair of free throws with 1:04 to go.

After Fisher hit a 21-footer and Pierce followed with a driving layup, Golden State held a 107-106 lead with 38.2 seconds remaining. Former Celtic Calbert Cheaney did his old team a favor and threw the ball out of bounds, giving Boston 20 seconds to win the game. But with a chance to give the Celtics their first lead since midway through the third quarter, Pierce missed an 18-footer from the right.

"It's a long season," said coach Doc Rivers. "That's the great thing about the NBA. We're going to lose a couple more like this, and we're going to win a couple like this.

"But that doesn't bother me. Why we lost bothers me more than the loss itself. You're going to have some ups and downs. You're going to win some games that you shouldn't win and lose some that you should. I like that we fought back down the stretch."

Pierce led the Celtics with 26 points, and Jiri Welsch had a career-high 24. Gary Payton had 12 points and 11 assists.

Troy Murphy led five Warriors in double figures with a career-high 30 points and added 15 rebounds.

Given the late collapse in Sacramento Sunday night, perhaps the Celtics thought it best to save themselves for the second half. They certainly did nothing to distinguish -- or separate -- themselves from Golden State before halftime, entering the break behind, 57-55. Instead of an offense in motion, the Green appeared to be going though the motions. The Celtics trailed despite shooting 51 percent in the first half, racking up 15 assists, and outrebounding Golden State, 25-20. After leading by as many as 6 in the second period -- when Ricky Davis nailed a 21-foot fadeaway -- the Celtics allowed the Warriors back in the game.

"We're not focused at all," said Payton. "[As long as] people are not on the same page, we're going to keep getting beaten. We have to understand that we have to work together. We're just not working together. We have to communicate with each other a little bit better, and then we'll start winning. Until then, we're not going to win."

Fisher gave Golden State the lead, 38-37, hitting a 4-footer in transition with 7:30 left in the half. The basket brought the crowd of 14,038 back into the game and boosted the Warriors' confidence. The Boston frustrations were epitomized when Mark Blount missed three straight layups before finally putting the ball in the basket. It remained a one-possession game until the end of the half.

If a team can ease its way into an up-tempo game, then the Celtics tried to do exactly that in the first quarter. They ran intermittently, perhaps a little fatigued in the second of back-to-back road games. They certainly did not resemble the squad that sprinted to an early 20-point lead against the Kings Sunday night. But with the Warriors owning one of the worst records in the Western Conference -- not one of the best, like the Kings -- the Celtics could play lackadaisically and still finish the first period ahead, 28-24.

Boston led by as many as 8 in the opening quarter but competed without any sense of urgency. The Warriors easily climbed back into the game on a couple occasions, even though they struggled to make shots from the floor.

The Celtics staged a 10-0 run by quickening the pace. The spurt started with a layup on the break by Welsch. Blount capped the run with a dunk after what was easily the prettiest passing sequence of the half.

Payton sent an outlet pass from the backcourt to Welsch, who was sprinting to the basket with Blount trailing a few feet behind. With only a couple of strides between him and a layup, Welsch dropped a pass behind his back to Blount for an even easier dunk.

A sequence like that gives Rivers hope for the future. But the fact that the Warriors exploited the Celtics' inconsistency and managed to make the game close again had to be frustrating.

The fire alarm at The Arena went off during the third quarter, complete with flashing lights and an annoying chirping sound. With the Celtics falling farther and farther behind, it could just as easily have been a wakeup signal for the visitors.

The Warriors opened the third with a 9-3 run and took an 8-point lead (66-58). The Celtics returned the favor with an 11-2 run and retook the lead, 69-68, on a driving layup from Welsch. But after Murphy went in for a layup with 5:50 left in the third, Boston would not lead for the remainder of the quarter. The Warriors entered the fourth ahead, 82-81.

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