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Celtics 109, Warriors 95

Celtics man up for win

After consecutive losses, they stop depleted Warriors

Paul Pierce appears surprised that he prevented a backcourt violation in the first half. Paul Pierce appears surprised that he prevented a backcourt violation in the first half. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff
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By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / November 19, 2009

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This was a blowout that did not seem like a blowout. The score - the Celtics defeated the Golden State Warriors last night, 109-95 - indicates a comfortable margin of victory. But the Celtics never appeared to be completely certain of themselves, only briefly able to assert their dominance over a team that was concluding a five-game road trip with eight available players, including Raja Bell, who is scheduled for surgery on his left wrist.

“That team scares the hell out of you,’’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “You want to sub your guys out with five minutes left and you’re worried about them making a 20-0 run in two seconds.’’

Rivers was only secure enough to remove his starters with 2:12 remaining in the game and, even then, he left in center Kendrick Perkins.

But the Celtics (9-3) put on enough of a defensive display to restore some self-confidence as they prepare for tomorrow’s game against Orlando.

The Celtics made their stand following a halftime talk by captain Paul Pierce. Early in the third quarter, the Celtics stopped the Warriors (3-8) on seven successive possessions, holding them without a field goal for 6:01.

“We had one of those conversations that every team has,’’ said Kevin Garnett (15 points, seven rebounds). “And we just know we’re a better team as far as being solid and consistent. The captain sort of pulled everybody together and just talked to us about what we needed to do to go out in the second half. We followed his lead and followed what he said to us and took it to heart.’’

Rajon Rondo had 12 points and four assists in the third quarter, in which the Celtics outscored the Warriors, 31-19.

Rondo sparked a 12-0 run over a 3:49 span, concluding it with a 3-point play for a 67-55 lead with 4:28 remaining. Pierce, recovered from a left knee sprain, followed two Corey Maggette (game-high 23 points) free throws with a 3-pointer off a Rondo assist for a 70-57 advantage with 4:06 left. Monta Ellis’s drive broke the Warriors’ field goal drought with 3:52 remaining, then Bell’s drive cut their deficit to 70-61 with 3:10 left.

The Celtics then went on a 10-4 run, sparked by 3-pointers by Rasheed Wallace and Rondo, before allowing an Ellis layup just before the buzzer.

“I thought [Rondo] changed the momentum of the game,’’ Garnett said. “He consolidated the ball. He was aggressive. He picked up the energy, started picking up full court. I just think he set the tone for the second half.’’

The Celtics started the game with a sound strategy, confronting the Warriors’ freelancing with a fundamental game, getting Perkins involved in the offense. The Celtics mostly resisted the temptation to match their opponents’ tactics, but they sabotaged themselves by reverting to one-on-one play and struggling at the foul line.

The first half was a slog for the Celtics. Garnett got the crowd going by swishing a three-quarter-court shot, which would have given the Celtics a 4-point halftime lead. But the shot was taken after the buzzer, officials briefly reviewing a replay before confirming the decision.

Rondo (18 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds) drove for a layup 19 seconds into the second half. But the Celtics surrendered transition scores, a dunk by Vladimir Radmanovic and a layup by Ellis. Ellis scored on a drive following a Ray Allen score in the lane. Then, Rondo got a backdoor dunk off a Garnett feed for a 55-54 advantage with 9:32 remaining in the third quarter, and the Celtics did not trail again.

“I wouldn’t say different, I would say we were more like ourselves,’’ Allen said of the Celtics’ third-quarter performance. “The first half, we exchanged buckets the whole time. Obviously, they played a pretty good game.

“We hold ourselves to a higher standard because we feel we’re a pretty good defensive team. But the communciation, we’ve got to get better, talk on defense, and kind of have the chemistry again.

“I would love to be undefeated right now . . . But there were a lot of things that we didn’t do correctly. So, the losses definitely opened our eyes and let us know we’re not as good as we think or people say we are. So, it keeps us humble and moving along and getting better and better.’’

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