Celtics fall once again on their trip
Poor offensive execution lets the Warriors prevail
OAKLAND, Calif. - The Celtics gave their fans delusions of dominance with their win Friday at Orlando without Paul Pierce. Their stellar defensive effort masked their offensive shortcomings without their All-Star forward.
The past two nights the Celtics have been inept in the fourth quarter offensively, and last night they dropped another game with poor execution, losing, 103-99, to the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.
Rajon Rondo led Boston with 30 points, and added 15 assists, but he was the lone offensive force as the Celtics committed turnovers, missed easy shots, or were forced into one-on-one plays. Pierce has been sorely missed since having an infection drained from his knee Dec. 23.
Monta Ellis scored 37 points for Golden State, which forced 25 Boston turnovers, and he made two free throws with 2.3 seconds left to help hand the Celtics just their second two-game losing streak this season.
“It was more the 25 turnovers that turned the game,’’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “It’s an easy way to look at it [missing Pierce]. Obviously he’s our go-to guy down the stretch of games.’’
It was clear the Celtics missed their captain after the first quarter. Ray Allen scored 13 points in the first, but only 10 the rest of the way. Kevin Garnett wasn’t his usual aggressive self offensively and Tony Allen had nearly as many turnovers (5) as points (6).
It was Rondo who carried the Celtics at times offensively. He ended the third quarter with a 3-pointer to cut the Golden State lead to 80-76.
“Rondo was great,’’ Rivers said. “I thought he played terrific all night. His [left] hamstring is bothering him. We almost took him out, and he just wanted to keep playing.’’
But in the middle of the third quarter the Celtics hadn’t been able to stop 20-year-old Anthony Randolph; he scored 6 straight points to put Golden State ahead, 71-66, its biggest lead of the game.
In the fourth quarter the Celtics were chasing and didn’t have enough gas to catch the speedy Warriors. And after converting 15 field goals in a 35-point first quarter, the Celtics made just 25 in the final three.
While Rondo resembled an All-Star in the first 12 minutes, he committed three silly turnovers on telegraphed passes in the second quarter, resulting in several C.J. Watson layups - and then a slap foul on Ronny Turiaf 90 feet from the basket with 0.4 seconds left in the quarter.
That capped an awful period for Boston, which allowed Golden State to shoot 70 percent (14 for 20) and grab seven steals. The Warriors began the quarter a 20-9 run as Ellis got hot.
Watson had a team-record six steals in the second quarter, an example of the Celtics’ terrible offensive execution. His two free throws gave Golden State a 50-49 lead, capping a 32-15 run, but the Celtics responded with 7 straight points, including a Rondo layup for a 58-51 lead.
That’s when Anthony Morrow cashed in an open 3-pointer and then Ellis followed with yet another open jumper. Finally, Rondo slapped at Turiaf after a rebound.
Golden State’s 35 points in the second were the most scored against the Celtics in any quarter this season and it would have been worse if the Warriors had not missed seven free throws.
The Celtics had to deal with center Andris Biedrins, who missed the past 25 games with right groin and abdominal inflammation. That presented a challenge for Kendrick Perkins, who struggled Sunday vs. the Clippers’ Chris Kaman in Boston’s 92-90 loss.
Biedrins’s rebounding gave Golden State extra possessions in the early going and kept it close despite missing 14 of its first 17 shots.
Rondo, who missed two critical free throws that would have put the Celtics ahead in the final seconds Sunday, attempted his first free throws with 7:27 left in the first and split the pair. But he was as aggressive offensively as he was during his 20-point performance Sunday.
The Celtics’ offense ran with precision in the first quarter, after which they led, 35-22. Ray Allen shot 6 for 8 in the quarter, while Perkins nabbed six rebounds for Boston’s highest-scoring first period of the season.
But things would go downhill from there.