CELTICS 100, WARRIORS 91
Celtics come up golden
Rebounding from loss, they hold off Warriors
OAKLAND, Calif. -- After being blown out by the Lakers Sunday, the Celtics' thoughts almost immediately turned to last night's game against Golden State. Back-to-back contests can be a curse unless a team is trying to rebound from a devastating loss. So, less than 24 hours after their most lopsided loss of the season, the Celtics welcomed the opportunity to play at the Arena in Oakland.
In the second half, the Celtics showed a determination to win that was absent against the Lakers. As a result, Boston defeated Golden State, 100-91, after withstanding a late rally by the home team. The Celtics finished this three-game tour of the Western Conference 2-1 and returned home with a .500 overall record (16-16).
"We're pleased to get back to .500 going home," said coach Jim O'Brien. "I'm real pleased with the way our guys bounced back on back-to-back nights after a disappointing performance against the Lakers. I thought they came out with a real resolve. When they do that, they're a tough team to beat."
Never was that resolve more apparent than in the fourth quarter. After building a game-high 18-point advantage in the third, the Celtics entered the fourth ahead, 83-67. But a 20-6 Golden State run, capped by a Nick Van Exel 3-pointer, left Boston in a precarious position, holding a 2-point lead (89-87) with 3:26 remaining.
But the Celtics did not panic; instead they made shots. Walter McCarty got Boston back on track with a 3-pointer, then a block. Paul Pierce followed with a 16-footer. Then Blount tipped in one of only two McCarty misses from 3-point range. A pair of Pierce free throws with 26.5 seconds left capped a decisive 11-2 Boston run that secured the win.
"We always feed off our defense," said Pierce. "When we start getting consecutive stops in a row, everybody feeds off one or another. Then there comes a period where we feel we can get a stop every time down the court. When we're on the road, we know teams are going to make their runs. But we're keeping our composure. They got it down to 2, but we did the little things to pull out a road win."
As the third period wound down, the Celtics finally managed to sustain a significant lead. Boston staged a 15-2 run over the closing minutes, giving it an 83-67 advantage entering the fourth. It was a reversal of the game against the Lakers. This time, the Celtics appeared to have laid the foundation for a fourth-quarter blowout. They were helped by significant improvement in their defense, holding the Warriors to 16 percent (3 for 19) in the third quarter and 31 percent in the second half.
The Celtics finished the second quarter by missing three straight 3-point attempts, but the errant jumpers were exceptions in a half in which Pierce & Co. shot 51 percent. Then again, neither Boston nor Golden State played the kind of defense that makes coaches proud in the first half. The Warriors shot 60 percent, which undoubtedly was the main (perhaps only) topic of discussion in the visitors' locker room.
Even though Boston entered the break ahead, 58-51, O'Brien didn't need to look far for ways to reinforce his favorite topic: defense. The Celtics built their first significant lead, 29-21, with an 11-2 run late in the first. The spurt started and ended at the line. But Golden State responded right away with an 8-1 run, and the first quarter ended with the Celtics holding a 30-29 advantage.
The Green established another 8-point advantage (58-50) with 2:36 remaining in the half. This time it took an 8-2 run that featured a pair of 3-pointers from Jiri Welsch, who made a fairly triumphant return to the arena where he started his NBA career but saw little playing time.
Both teams went scoreless for more than two minutes until Jason Richardson made one of two free throws with 24 seconds left in the half. The Warriors' struggles at the line (6 for 16 in the first half, 16 for 30 overall) proved costly.
"We just wanted to focus on working hard for four quarters," said Celtics guard Mike James, who had 9 assists. "We understand that our defense will help our offense score and that is what we did tonight."
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.