Here are 12 thoughts, stats, observations, and notes in the aftermath of the Celtics’ encouraging yet also disheartening 115-111 loss to the Warriors on Saturday.
■ According to the “Last Two Minute Report” from Saturday’s game, Warriors guard Steph Curry should have been called for a traveling violation after he received the pass from Draymond Green with just less than 8 seconds left. That would have given the Celtics the ball trailing by 2 points.
Replay shows that Curry clearly shuffled his feet, but there was certainly no blowback about it on Saturday, as no one seemed to even notice it. There were no other incorrect or missed calls on the report, which is issued by the NBA for games in which the score is within3 points at some point in the final two minutes of the game.
■ There was also a fluky timekeeping error during that final sequence. Replays showed that the clock did not immediately start after Green tracked down the rebound. Then, after he fired a pass to Curry, the clock briefly stopped with 7.2 seconds left even though there had been no whistle. Time restarted before Curry had been fouled, but there should have been less than 6.2 seconds remaining when Curry went to the line.
■ The Warriors had 327 passes on Saturday while the Celtics had 282. Golden State also held a 13-7 edge in tracking down loose balls.
■ The Celtics consistently said that they did not value this game against the Warriors any more than they valued their others. But Brad Stevens’s coaching decisions offer some slight evidence to the contrary. Irving played 39 minutes, 53 seconds, his highest total in a non-overtime game this season. And Al Horford, who recently had his minutes restriction lifted after battling knee pain, played 34:38, his second highest total in a non-overtime game this year.
■ The Celtics’ game operations staff does a fine job, but I have a quibble. Whenever celebrities are shown on the scoreboard video board, they’re never identified with text on the screen or by a public-address announcer. There are times when the celebrity’s face is so well known that it is not necessary. But there are other times when some fans could use a bit of assistance.
Take Saturday’s game, when the crowd was revved up with a Patriots Super Bowl montage. Then the video board showed that there were, in fact, Patriots in attendance, and it showed star running backs James White and Sony Michel. The crowd offered a mild cheer because it knew they were Patriots. But it was clear plenty of people had no idea which Patriots they were looking at, because they are most familiar with them when they are wearing helmets. The Celtics game night crew should give the crowd a hand so they can give the players a hand.
■ The Warriors made 13 of 26 contested field goals while the Celtics hit just 11 of 34 in these situations. Often, this could be chalked up to some bad luck. But with Golden State’s unmatched team of sharpshooters, it’s more likely evidence of how dangerous they are, even under duress.
■ Horford had one of his finest games of the season, with 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting as well as 13 rebounds. But he did commit a season-high five turnovers, too, including two in the fourth quarter.
“I have to be more solid with the ball,” Horford said. “Against that type of team you can’t make mistakes. They’ll make you pay on the other end and they did that.”
Still, the Celtics have to be encouraged by his play and his durability after missing seven games in December because of knee pain. He is not a leaper, so good lateral movement is essential. On Saturday he held Kevin Durant to 1-for-5 shooting while he was defending him. Also, Horford has notched double-doubles in consecutive games for the first time this year.
■ If you thought that felt like a playoff game, Irving disagrees. Here’s his unfiltered exchange with a reporter.
“No, it was not,” Irving said after it was suggested that it was a playoff atmosphere.
“No,” he said. “It’s the regular season.”
Then Irving sort of closed his eyes and said “no, no” a couple of times.
But Kyrie, there was so much hype around this game?
“What hype?” he asked. “The hype created by everybody else? It’s pretty much a regular game with the best of the best playing. So, just with TV’s and millions of people watching, that’s it. Playoffs are totally different but I hear your point.”
■ Irving made 12 of 27 shots and scored 32 points on Saturday, and it was actually one of his worst shooting performances of the past month. Irving has been scorching recently, and his 44.4 percent shooting effort marked just the second time in his last 14 games in which he shot below 50 percent from the field.
■ Warriors big man DeMarcus Cousins, playing in just his fourth game after missing a year with an Achilles’ injury, had 15 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals in just 23 minutes. But it was interesting to see how frequently the Celtics looked to attack Cousins on defense, exploiting his inability to close out on shooters. Cousins collected five fouls and the Warriors were outscored by 8 points during his time on the floor. It will be interesting to see what adjustments both teams make before the rematch in March.
“He just needs to play,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s always been a high-foul guy. That’s just how he plays. But you’ve got to remember this is like training camp for him. He’s been playing for a week, maybe nine days, I think. So DeMarcus needs more reps, more conditioning and he’ll start playing more foul-free minutes.”
Cousins did swipe the ball from Irving — no easy task — during a critical possession late in the fourth, however.
■ Gordon Hayward’s inconsistency is a major issue for the Celtics as the playoffs inch closer. The forward missed all five of his shots and had 2 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists in 22 minutes. He never appeared comfortable. It’s safe to say Hayward is unlikely to recapture his pre-injury form this season, but the Celtics are hopeful that his flashes of good play become more frequent.
■ Kerr on Saturday became the fastest coach to 300 wins, reaching the mark in just his 377th career game. Pat Riley previously held the record, needing 416 games to win 300.