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Celtics 110, Warriors 88

The Warriors got a taste of the Celtics’ brand of defense, and the rest of the NBA is now on notice

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, (left) reacts after going for a loose ball next to Celtics guard Marcus Smart during the first half in San Francisco.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The Celtics have insisted that their wins all have the same value, but this team’s recent climb has shifted how it is perceived.

The Celtics are now winning on the road. They are now defeating good teams. They are now resetting what could be possible during this season that once appeared destined to end just as things end for a bug when it hits a windshield.

On Wednesday, the Warriors became the latest team to spend most of a game against Boston looking confused and exasperated while attempting to solve the league’s most dominant, relentless, and downright annoying defense.


The Celtics held Golden State to a season-low 32 points in the first half, built a 24-point lead, and withstood one Golden State comeback bid before securing a gritty 110-88 win that will make the rest of the league take notice.

“It shows that we’re going up in the right direction and can compete with any team out there on any given night,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “We have the talent and we have the guys. We have the potential. We have the desire, too, the heart, and the work ethic. So that’s just how we feel, and I’m sure we’re not the only team that feels that way.”

Boston’s last-minute loss to the Mavericks on Sunday was the kind that could cause a team to start reeling, or at least go through a minor funk, especially when starting a four-game road trip against a team many believe will win the NBA title.

Instead, the Celtics bounced back with this strong showing. They have still not lost consecutive games since falling to the Hornets and Blazers on Jan. 19 and 21.

“We set the tone from the start,” coach Ime Udoka said. “The physicality was great.”

Jayson Tatum had 26 points and 12 rebounds, Jaylen Brown had 26 points and 7 rebounds, and Smart added 20 points and 8 assists. Golden State’s Jordan Poole scored 27 of his game-high 29 points in the second half, but there was too much on his shoulders, as Stephen Curry left the game in the second quarter because of a foot injury and Klay Thompson struggled mightily.


Curry was hurt after Smart rolled onto his leg while chasing a loose ball. Soon after, Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Smart had a verbal altercation related to that play.

“I thought it was a dangerous play,” Kerr said after the game. “I thought Marcus dove into Steph’s knee and that’s what I was upset about. A lot of respect for Marcus. He’s a hell of a player, gamer, competitor. I coached him in the World Cup a few summers ago. We talked after the game. We’re good, but I thought it was a dangerous play. I just let him know.”

Curry underwent an MRI after the game and the results were not immediately known. Smart described his postgame conversation with Kerr as “definitely calmer” than the one that preceded it.

“He knows I’m never trying to hurt anybody,” Smart said. “He knows that since I’ve got in this league, I’ve been sacrificing my body for the better of my team and my teammates. So I get it. I understand. I hate to see it happen to anybody, especially playing and doing your job. I hate to see any injury, so I hope Steph’s all right. We looked at it. I didn’t even see him, just saw the ball, I dove on the ball, and tried to make a play. And unfortunately that occurred, so I’m really down right now about it.”


Even with Curry on the court, however, Golden State’s offense was stuck in mud. It missed some wide-open looks at the start of the game, and then the resistance level was ratcheted up by the Celtics defense and the misses kept coming.

On consecutive first-quarter possessions, Tatum and Smart gobbled up passes and rushed upcourt for layups. Golden State mostly fired away from beyond the arc in the first half, but when it patrolled the paint, Robert Williams ensured that it would not end well. The center had three powerful blocked shots and kept each one in play.

“Overall, more so than not, we were in the right spot and our physicality was great,” Udoka said. “Credit to our guys sticking to the game-plan and imposing their will physically.”

The Celtics pushed ahead, 67-43, on a Tatum 3-pointer with 6:23 left in the third. But the Warriors charged back behind Poole, whose 3-pointer in the final minute of the third capped a 26-12 run and sliced Boston’s lead to 79-69.

There would be no Celtics collapse, however. Golden State briefly pulled within 9, but a pair of Payton Pritchard 3-pointers stretched the lead back to a comfortable margin.

With the win, the Celtics (42-28) moved past the Bulls and into fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Some challenging games remain, but this team continues to check off significant boxes as it goes.


“We’ve still got a lot of room to grow, so that’s the dope thing about it,” Brown said. “So, I’m excited.”

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at Follow him @adamhimmelsbach.