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The old song goes, “make new friends, but keep the old.” The Boston Celtics got contributions from players both new and old Friday night against the Golden State Warriors, winning 107-103.
Nenad Krstic started at center Friday, making his presence known almost immediately. With the game tied 4-4, Krstic overpowered Warriors power forward Ekpe Udoh for an up-and-under basket. On the Celtics’ next possession, Paul Pierce penetrated into the lane, drawing double-coverage before dishing the ball to Krstic at the last possible minute. Krstic slammed the pass home for an 8-4 Boston lead.
Later in the quarter, Pierce again penetrated into the lane and passed from beneath the basket, this time to Kevin Garnett. Garnett caught the ball at as his sweet spot at the top of the key, but instead opted to hand off to Krstic and let the new guy try the jumper. Krstic did not disappoint. Krstic finished the game with 11 points in 26 minutes, fewest among Boston starters. He grabbed six rebounds while blocking a shot and stealing a pass.
Krstic finished the game with the highest plus-minus (whether a team scores or gives up points when a player is on the court) on either team with plus-12. But Jeff Green had the far superior shooting night. Green was the most accurate shooter on the team, going 8-11 for 21 points. He also had three steals.
Green dominated the second quarter. With just over 10 minutes left in the second, Green dunked a Ray Allen pass for a 36-29 Boston lead. Rajon Rondo (16 assists) then found Green with a half-court pass, which Green laid in while drawing the foul. Rondo found Green later in the quarter with a scoop-pass for the alley-oop dunk.
Green also converted a second-quarter broken play into Celtics points, culminating an absolutely chaotic sequence in which Rondo picked off a leaping-out-of-bounds Warriors pass, lost the handle and then recovered it, then found Garnett at the top of the arc. Garnett then passed it to Pierce in the corner, who threw to Allen. Instead of taking the wide-open three, Allen dished it to a wide-open Green under the basket for the dunk and a 50-43 lead.
Green had such success under the basket that Golden State eventually started double-covering him even when he didn’t have the ball. This cleared the way for other Celtics, such as Rondo, who scored an easy layup with 3:47 left in the half after Green cleared the lane for him.
Fouls derailed Green in the second half and he fouled out (although replay showed three of his fouls to be questionable), but by then the experienced Pierce had found his shooting groove. Of Pierce’s 27 points, 20 came in the second half.
Pierce was especially good at getting himself to the foul line, where he was a perfect 8-8. Six of those free throws came in the third quarter, including four in two consecutive possessions. In the fourth, Pierce hit a nice dribble-jumper, then drained a second jumper after swinging his arms in a wide circle to draw the foul. His biggest basket came with 1:31 left in the game, when Rondo found him with a bounce-pass underneath the basket. Pierce’s layup put the Celtics up 105-101, and two Allen free throws after rebounding a missed Garnett jumper were enough to seal the victory.
Allen, meanwhile, was sensational from start to finish. He didn’t miss a shot until there was 1:19 left in the first half, finishing 9-13 for 27 points with three rebounds and three assists. He was 5-8 from three-point range, not missing from beyond the arc until fewer than five minutes remained in the game.
Allen’s first three-pointer was a runner in traffic, but otherwise Allen was wide open for almost every three-point shot he took. This is surprising, considering he’s the best three-point shooter ever. But Allen was a wide-open presence on just about every Celtics fast break. Even in the third quarter, after Allen had already drained four treys, the Warriors still were unable to keep track of him, and he drained another for a 77-61 Boston lead.
So locked in was Allen that even his bank shots looked easy, scoring high off the backboard twice in the second quarter. The only knock against Allen might be that he missed a technical free-throw. But given his shooting performance, we’ll let that one slide.
Allen’s, Pierce’s and Green’s scoring barrages were almost overcome by a single Warrior: shooting guard Monta Ellis. Ellis went 13-24, scoring a whopping 41 points, including 28 in the second half. Every time the Celtics extended their lead, Ellis responded with a basket to keep it tight. With the Celtics up 100-93 with just over four minutes left in the game, Ellis drained two consecutive three-pointers to cut the lead to 100-99. He also drew a three-point shooting foul on Green early in the fourth.
Ellis’ performance was spectacular, scoring both from the paint and from the perimeter almost at will. He was backed up by center David Lee, who scored 26 while rebounding 12. The Warriors out-rebounded the Celtics, 39-28, including 15 offensive rebounds that kept far too many possessions alive for Golden State.
The Warriors’ biggest issue all season has been that while they don’t hesitate to shoot (second in the league with 85.2 attempts per game), they’re not accurate (.460 shooting percentage, 13th in the NBA). The Celtics, meanwhile, are the most accurate team in the NBA, and their 53.4 percent shooting was a good night even for them. So while Ellis and the Warriors took 11 more shots than the Celtics, the Celtics made more of their shots count.
When all is said and done, that’s all that matters.