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Celtics 115, Warriors 93

Celtics looking golden

They beat Warriors at their own game

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By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / February 23, 2011

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OAKLAND, Calif. — At this point, there’s no need to ask what the Warriors’ MO is.

They run up and down the floor, leaving tread marks on the hardwood. They let the shots fly as if every player on the floor has his own ball. They let the scoreboard run up until it runs out of lights.

It’s as close as the NBA gets to a P90X extreme workout and fresh off the All-Star break the Celtics had their lungs tested last night in what ended up a 115-93 win.

“I told our guys, ‘the mistake against them is not to run,’ ’’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “We wanted to push it up and see if we could beat them down the floor. What we didn’t want to do was once we didn’t have that open layup or that quick shot, we didn’t want to set up and execute and go to the post.’’

By halftime, the teams had combined for 93 shots and a collective 120 points (60-all). Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett worked the two-man game early, combining for almost as many first-quarter field goals (10 of 12) as the Warriors (11 of 27).

The fact that Boston was shooting 56.3 percent and Golden State was hovering at 46.7 was irrelevant to the Warriors.

There wasn’t a hole big enough to shoot themselves out of. They just happened to catch Rondo on one of his best shooting nights of the season.

When Rondo drilled a 3-pointer from 25 feet to close the third quarter, it gave him the 17th of his 19 points. He knocked down 9 of his 12 shots and doled out 15 assists.

“I thought Rondo, leadership-wise . . . he was a coach on the floor tonight,’’ said Rivers. “He was terrific.’’

Garnett led the Celtics with 24 points, connecting on 11 of 16 field goals.

“We told [Kevin] before the game early and often we’re going to you every single time we can,’’ said Rivers. “It’s funny, our guys were on him. They know Kevin, if he shoots it twice, he’s passing the next three times. So they just kept saying, ‘keep going’ and it was great to see him do that.’’

The Celtics went up 9 three times in the first quarter, the last coming when Garnett drained a 16-foot turnaround with 4:41 left in the quarter. But Dorell Wright, who like Paul Pierce (23 points) and Ray Allen (18 points) bowed to James Jones in last weekend’s 3-point contest, drilled a 3-pointer from 25 feet that cut it to 23-14 and the Warriors outscored the Celtics, 16-8, to close the quarter, slicing the Celtics lead to 1.

The Warriors did their best impression of an efficient team in the second quarter, going 10 of 18 from the floor, led by Stephen Curry, who scored 9 points on 3 of 3 shooting. He fueled a 12-5 burst, putting the Warriors up, 52-45, when he drove through the Celtics’ defense for a layup with 4:27 left, getting the foul and hitting the free throw.

What the Warriors don’t believe in: defense.

By the third quarter, Allen was getting wide-open looks in the corner. Glen Davis was getting picture-perfect looks from his sweet spot 20 feet out, and Pierce was taking uncontested 3-pointers.

After Curry sprinted down the floor only to miss a layup, Rondo raced the other way and set up Pierce for a 3-pointer in front of the Celtics bench that put the Celtics up, 79-71 with 6:11 left in the quarter. All Curry could do was stare at Pierce’s armpit as the Boston captain left his shooting hand up, waving his fingers at the Oracle Arena crowd to let them know he had the hot hand.

But not even that brief outburst would stop the Warriors from firing. Curry answered with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 5, but eventually they’d shoot themselves out of the game.

The Warriors missed 14 of 21 third-quarter shots and went into the fourth trailing by 10. The hosts cut it to 90-86 when Curry sliced through the lane, found himself alone, and dropped in a “look what I found’’ layup.

The Celtics were just starting to piece their injury depleted roster together again, with Delonte West and Semih Erden making their returns after using the break to rest. West clocked in late in the first quarter and played 12 minutes. Erden played 17 minutes.

But they couldn’t avoid another injury. Kendrick Perkins exited with 10:53 left in the third quarter, bruising his left knee. He didn’t return. He was 11 games into his return from offseason ACL surgery on his right knee.

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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