Celtics race past Warriors
Pierce, Allen (27 each) enough to overcome Ellis
They didn’t need any warnings. It’s essentially a given that a game against Golden State could fly off the rails.
The Warriors are the Autobahn of the NBA, seventh in scoring (102.7 points per game) and second in fast-break points (18.8) entering last night, and in Monta Ellis they have an All-Star snub just waiting to score 40 points. That they play at one of the league’s fastest paces with no stop signs is both a plus and a minus.
“They’re a tough team,’’ said Kevin Garnett. “Golden State’s always been labeled unorthodox. They’ve always been labeled where every principle that you have offensively, they’re going to test it.’’
The Celtics turned out the lights on the Warriors a couple weeks back in Oakland, but last night, with new faces getting used to new roles, it was different.
So when the Celtics went up 11 in the first half, and 18 in the third quarter, there was always a chance the game would open up again.
“We played them when we had our team — a team that’s been together for a while,’’ said Garnett, referring to a 115-93 win Feb. 22. “So the continuity, the chemistry, we’re doing something a little different right now. We’re learning on the fly, if you will. A lot of CliffsNotes being handed out. A lot of short texts and detailed e-mails. You can’t just give the whole book out right now.
“Not only do we have that challenge, but we have to win games. Guys have to learn the system, we’re learning guys. You put that in a game where it’s helter skelter and then you have an unorthodox team, things are going to happen.’’
Ellis scored 28 points in the second half, 41 on the night, and the Warriors gave the hosts a scare. But, in the end, the Celtics responded to a volume scorer with a pair of professional scorers, getting 27 points from both Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, who helped seal a 107-103 win.
Ellis tied Kobe Bryant for the most points by a Celtics opponent in the Big Three Era, but after drilling back-to-back 3-pointers that cut it to 100-99 with 3:30 left, he didn’t score again.
“They all feel the same to me,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “Maybe to you it looks different, but 40 [points] is 40. I didn’t like the way he got his 40. A lot of it was at the basket. And a lot of it was back cuts. We don’t ever give up back cuts, and I [counted] nine at one point in the middle of the fourth so it was probably 13 or 14. But other than that, he’s a tough player. He makes difficult shots. I thought in the first half our defense was average, but I thought they made tough shots, too.’’
Pierce and Allen combined for 11 points in the fourth quarter, the majority coming late as the Celtics sealed it.
Pierce got a 3-point play off a turnaround jumper, making it 103-99. Then after a Dorell Wright dunk, Pierce got a layup off of a feed from Rajon Rondo (16 assists). David Lee, who scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Warriors, cut it to 2 again with a dunk. On the other end, Garnett missed a mid-range jumper, but Allen grabbed the rebound and was fouled. His two free throws with 12 seconds left iced the Celtics’ fourth straight win and seventh in eight games.
Allen, who made his first seven shots from the floor and 9 of his first 10, finished 9 of 13. Pierce went 9 of 14 from the floor and knocked down all eight of his free throws. They logged heavy minutes, however (Pierce 37 and Allen 39), with Rivers not wanting to play newcomer Sasha Pavlovic and then Von Wafer straining his right calf in the second quarter and not returning.
For about a week now, Rivers has been working on the Jeff Green Rubik’s Cube.
Play him at small forward or power forward? Let him hang on the perimeter or stay in the post? Have him come off screens and shoot baseline jumpers or have him streak down the floor and catch alley-oops from Rondo? Rather than pick one, Rivers had Green do them all last night. The Celtics took advantage of Green’s versatility and his 21 points.
“He just ran the floor,’’ Rivers said. “He’s a gazelle. The guy can absolutely fly. Our guys know that now and you can see them. They’re giving it to him, and he knows they’ll get it to him, so he’s running.’’
Garnett, whose double-double streak ended at six games (8 points, six rebounds), even gave way, slowing down so Green could sprint past and get layups and alley-oops like the one he caught from Rondo in the first half.
It’s all part of the changes the Celtics have gone through since the last time Golden State saw them.
“We’ve got some youthfulness,’’ Garnett said. “I think for Rondo, Rondo’s been, not complaining, but he wants to go with some younger guys, too. To have some youthful blood in here, somebody that can run with him and keep up with him . . . everybody’s running and that’s the tempo that we want to play at.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.