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Dan Shaughnessy

The Celtics came back to beat the Warriors, but Boston fans shouldn’t feel too good about this one

The Warriors and Celtics were back battling it out at the Garden on Thursday night.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Feeling good about this one, Celtics fans?

If so, the bar is too low.

The Celtics came from 11 points down, sent the game into overtime, and prevailed with a 121-118 victory over the world champion Golden State Warriors at the Causeway Street Gym Thursday night.


But you’d better hope your team doesn’t see these guys again in the NBA Finals. It appears that the Warriors are still the Celtics’ Kryptonite.

The Celtics did a nice job in overtime against the Dubs, but you’d need The Full Rochie and all the power of NBC Sports Boston to put a positive spin on this one.


The Warriors are 22-23. They are 5-18 on the road. They may not even get into the playoffs.

But they clearly still take up a lot of space in the heads of the Celtics.

Like it or not, when the Celtics see the Warriors, Jayson Tatum (9 for 27, seven turnovers) and Jaylen Brown (6 for 18) look like Brett Maher kicking extra points for the Cowboys.

Boston’s wannabe MVPs were tentative and off target in this one — just as they were when the Celtics lost to the Warriors in the Finals in June, and again in San Francisco Dec. 10. But they managed to claw their way to victory, playing at home against a team that the rest of NBA America finds friendly in the winter of 2022-23.

My lasting memory of this night forever will be the final play of the first half.

Tatum was rumbling over midcourt with the ball in his hands as the clock wound toward 00:00 when he had his pocket deftly picked by Stephen Curry. Curry casually gathered the ball, launched from 46 feet, and splashed it through the cords to give the Warriors a 1-point halftime lead.


It was a reminder that as far as the Celtics are concerned, the road to the championship still runs through the Golden Gate Bridge.

This was no regular, regular-season game. This was Celtics-Warriors. The maybe next champs against the reigning champs. The team with the best record in the NBA against a .500 team not even certain to make the playoffs (they will). The team with more NBA history against a team that’s made history over the last decade. It was Tatum, a guy who thinks he’s MVP, vs. Curry, a guy who’s already won the award twice.

Tatum drives past Curry in the second half of Thursday's game at TD Garden.Steven Senne/Associated Press

Even though they’d won seven straight and owned a gaudy 33-12 record, the Celtics came into the night with more to prove than the .500 Warriors. Golden State’s 123-107 victory over Boston at the Chase Center Dec. 10 came on the heels of a 125-98 Celtics win in Phoenix, and sent the C’s into the only tailspin of their season — five losses in six games.

In this spirit, the pregame Celtics tried to downplay the significance of Golden State’s only (regular-season) visit to Boston. We got a lot of “just another game on the schedule” from Boston’s court kingpins.

Not true, of course. It was not just another game. Malcolm Brogdon acknowledged as much to NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin, referencing last spring’s Finals (Brogdon was not yet here) and saying, “Guys keep that memory in the back of their mind . . . so they can stay motivated.”

It was enough motivation to get Brown, who’d missed the prior three games with an adductor strain, back on the floor.


Warriors coach Steve Kerr had no problem underscoring the significance of the summit.

“This is a always a great place to play,” said Kerr. “It’s the Garden. It’s Boston, home of the Celtics. Hallowed ground. Our guys are excited and ready to go. Tonight will be a game with no shortage of motivation, for sure.”

Prior to the game, 2022 Finals MVP Curry received a keepsake basketball that had been signed by Sam Jones and Bill Russell, both of whom died recently. It was Sam’s idea to get the ball into Curry’s hands and Sam’s nephew carried out the errand for his uncle/legend.

Celtics fans got an early highlight when Al Horford executed a LeBron-esque chase-down block on Jordan Poole. Horford had 10 points in his first 10 minutes. It was as if he was still taking the Finals personally. He played great all night, scoring 20 points with 10 rebounds, and canned a critical three in OT.

Horford provided an offensive boost for Boston with 20 points.Maddie Meyer/Getty

Brown, on the other hand, didn’t make his second basket until the fourth minute of the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Tatum turtled. Neither guy got it going into the final minutes of regulation, and most of overtime.

This was a rock fight. The Celtics won while shooting only 39.8 percent. The Warriors shot 40 percent.

Green Teamers left the gym happy and confident.

It was a fun watch. But if it made you feel good about these Celtics in June, you need to reduce your daily intake of Scal.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him @dan_shaughnessy.