As I write this, my jaw is dropped to the floor. Gordon Hayward along with other Celtics, whom either under performed or talked too much, came to play. The Hayward that Celtics fans have seen these past two games has been eye-opening. If we had seen this all season, guys like me wouldn’t have been complaining the past few months. Some would say they need more time for the team to prove it- I’m sold off these last two games.
The first game was against the reigning (winning the last two and three out of four) NBA Finals Champions- Golden State Warriors. During the long flight to California, Celtics players claimed to have a lot of time to connect and get on the same page finally. When the ball was tipped in in Oakland at Oracle Arena, the Celtics played like there was a fire lit underneath their collective posteriors. Klay Thompson did not play for the Warriors (one of their top two three point shooters) which gave the Celtics an advantage with spacing. The guys who replaced Thompson typically were players that tend to drive to the basket instead of hanging around the three point line.
In the first quarter the Celtics began on an 11-0 run and ended the quarter with a 32-24 lead. Before the game I went on record on Twitter (@jmarion34) and said the Green Team would get throttled. Nobody could expect the end result. The starters were Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, and Al Horford. Every starter played exceptionally well except for Morris who was alright- posting 10 points in 17 minutes.
I was extremely expressed with the team defense played throughout the game, especially the defense of Marcus Smart and Kyrie Irving. Both players only finished with two steals but they bothered the Warriors more than the box score would indicate. The whole team seemed to have an agenda to play intense and together on defense. It was more refreshing than I’d imagine an ice cold water in a desert would be.
At halftime the Celtics led 73-48. We can only wonder what was said while the players caught their breath and mingled together. Whatever was said didn’t really change their performance in the 2nd half.
You could say this game was complete domination as the Celtics outscored the Warriors in every quarter. In a game against the best team in the league- Gordon Hayward was incredible. In 27 minutes and 46 seconds of time on the floor, Hayward went 12-16, scored 32 points and was a +32 on the night. The next closest player in plus/minus was Terry Rozier who was a +25. The best player on the floor for the C’s was Gordon and it wasn’t really that close. In addition to the scoring, Hayward collected 7 rebounds, dished four assists, and stole the ball twice. This was a huge game for him to look like his old self and but in the next game against the Kings he didn’t glimmer.
As for the Warriors without Klay Thompson, they looked lost at times on offense surprisingly. They finished with 21 turnovers with 13 of them coming from the best 3 players they had available in Kevin Durant (5 TO), Stephen Curry (4), and DeMarcus Cousins (4.) In a combined 62 minutes Durant and Curry scored 41 points which was clearly not good enough to overtake the Celtics on that night. Cousins got in early foul trouble and had a poor and whiny attitude on the court and bench. I don’t believe the Warriors were prepared for the Celtics intensity and focus.
Final Score: Celtics 128- Warriors- 95
I didn’t watch much of the game against the Sacramento Kings but it was closely contested and Gordon Hayward ended up hitting the game winning shot. Despite the heroics, he only scored 12 points in 29 minutes. Kyrie Irving did not play in the game. Unlike the game against Golden State, the C’s were outscored in the first and fourth quarters but managed to squeak out the Dubya. In the parts of the game that I watched, the Celtics allowed way too many drives to the lane.
Harrison Barnes (former Maverick and Warrior) and Buddy Hield led the Kings resistance against the Celtics. In 37 minutes, Barnes led the Kings in scoring with 24 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Hield posted a very similar 38 minutes, 23 points, and 8 rebounds. Combined, they went 8-16 from three point range.
Final Score: Celtics 111- Kings- 109
There have sure been encouraging sides both mechanically (shots, passing, etc.) and body language wise. If the Celtics go anywhere far in the playoffs that plane ride to Oakland will be a season defining moment. We now have hope for the team in Green from the TD Garden.