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Glance at the final score of Wednesday night’s 109-95 victory over the Golden State Warriors, and you might think the Boston Celtics coasted to an easy win at home at the TD Garden.
Coming off two consecutive, stunning losses, the Warriors (3-7) matchup was just what the doctor (or Doc) ordered. But until there were four minutes remaining in the third quarter, the game was very much in doubt. Playing against another younger, more athletic, fast-paced team, the Celtics defense was once again a step slow most of the night. After the losses to Atlanta and Indiana, it looked like deja vu all over again.
At the half, Golden State trailed by just one, 49-48. And for the first four minutes of the third, the Warriors, playing with just eight men due to injury, wouldn’t go away. At the 8:48 mark, two Corey Maggette free throws (game high 23 on 8-13 shooting) tied things up at 55.
And that’s when the Warriors’ legs gave out. Playing the second of back-to-back road games, the finale of a five game road trip, and with only three substitutes available, the highest scoring team in the NBA simply ran out of gas.
The Celtics took advantage, led by aggressive offensive play by Rajon Rondo (another stellar night with 18 points, 12 assists, and 7 rebounds), and went on a 12-0 run. The Green never looked back, and their lead never shrunk lower than nine points the rest of the way.
And so, the Celtics ended up with what appears to be a cushy, 14-point win. But for those watching the game, it was another cause for alarm. The basic formula for beating Boston is clear: push the pace all night. It’s what Phoenix, Atlanta, and Indiana did. And it’s what Golden State did for most of three quarters, until the road weary, depleted squad ran out of gas.
The Celtics are lucky they did.