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Celtics 128, Warriors 95

The Celtics got their act together, and took down one of the NBA’s best

Gordon Hayward (center), who had a game-high 30 points, took it right at DeMarcus Cousins (left) in the second half. ben margot/Associated press/Associated Press

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Before the Celtics faced the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, coach Brad Stevens said that his team’s vibe was the best it has been in a while. He acknowledged that would only really be meaningful if his team played well, but then it took the court against the Warriors and played one of its most complete games of the season, roaring to an emphatic 128-95 win.

Afterward, Stevens was asked where the good feelings and good play had sprouted from. The Celtics had been reeling since the All-Star break, going 1-5 and igniting searing questions about whether this expectation-filled season could be doomed.


“Probably just a couple of butt-kickings,” Stevens said, referring to the source of the revival. “You have a choice: You either come in and let your circumstances control your attitude, or let your attitude control your circumstances.”

Throughout this rocky stretch, Stevens insisted that it would not take much for Boston to regain its footing. He said it might even take just one win, and a thorough road stomping of the defending NBA champions might qualify.

Golden State has not been perfect during its scintillating four-year run, but it has rarely been humbled quite like this. It was the Warriors’ most lopsided loss of this season, their worst home loss since Nov. 28, 2009, and their first wire-to-wire loss since March 27, 2006.

Teams just do not come into this creaky old arena and do what the Celtics did.

“It was embarrassing,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

Golden State was missing three rotation players, including injured superstar Klay Thompson, but still had more than enough firepower to avoid being walloped in this fashion.

The Celtics, meanwhile, were guided by Gordon Hayward, who was confident, poised, and relentless as he poured in 30 points. In his first five games after the All-Star break, Hayward had gone 8 for 26 overall and 1 for 8 on 3-pointers. On Tuesday he was 12 for 16 overall and 4 for 6 on threes.


Throughout this season, Hayward’s big nights have consistently been followed by wobbly stretches. But now there is another chance for him to gain momentum as the playoffs inch closer.

“We have to help him continue to put that battery in his back,” Jaylen Brown said, “so he can come out and be the best version of himself.”

The fifth-place Celtics avoided falling four games behind the 76ers and Pacers in the loss column with just 17 games left. They are not especially concerned about playoff seeding, however. They just want to regain some semblance of a rhythm, and perhaps this was a good place to start.

All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who had 19 points and 11 assists Tuesday, has been at the center of the team’s malaise recently. He seemed to reach his boiling point when the Celtics were popped by the Rockets on Sunday, but the past two days brought a return to something more comfortable.

He said he had two helpful conversations with Stevens and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, and he said the team “needed” its long flight together from Boston to San Francisco to be together and get away from some of the things that were causing them to splinter.


“We were going to get to a point where we were just going to get tired of fighting each other, fighting the outside world,” Irving said.

He added later: “[Against the Warriors there] was just a sense of togetherness, and we were having some fun out there.”

The Celtics made 51 percent of their field goals and 94.1 percent of their free throws, registering assists on 38 of 49 baskets. Golden State, meanwhile, committed 22 turnovers and made just 8 of 35 3-pointers.

Boston seized control by starting the game with an 11-0 run, and after Golden State pulled within 13-12, Hayward checked in for the first time and quickly hit a 3-pointer. He said starts like that give him confidence because they open driving lanes, an area he has thrived in throughout his career but has struggled with this year.

It was 32-24 in favor of the Celtics at the end of the first quarter and they started the second with an 8-0 run that was capped by a catch-and-shoot 3 by Hayward. Then during one two-minute stretch late in the period, Hayward hit a 3 from the right arc, converted a layup off a steal, and then made another layup off a behind-the-back pass from Marcus Smart, making it 69-47.

“He’s huge, huge for us,” Irving said, “and we need him confident, and we need him to be who he’s been for nine years.”

The Celtics held a 73-48 lead at the break, shooting 63.5 percent overall and 53.3 percent on 3-pointers in the first half while forcing 12 turnovers.


Leads never feel that safe against the Warriors, of course, and Golden State chipped away in the third quarter before Hayward ensured that there would be no collapse.

The Warriors pulled within 93-76 and Kevin Durant was lurking beyond the 3-point line when his perimeter pass was picked off by Hayward, who coasted in for a dunk to ignite a 12-0 run that was capped by his catch-and-shoot 3 from the right corner, stretching the lead to 105-76 lead at the start of the fourth.

With the lopsided score, both teams leaned on their benches for the rest of the night. That could be especially helpful for the Celtics, who face the Kings on Wednesday.

By game’s end, most of the typically rowdy Oracle Arena crowd had shuffled to the exits, and many of the fans that remained were wearing green, and they broke into a “Let’s go, Celtics” chant.

“Hopefully,” Hayward said, “we choose to play this way tomorrow. We’ve got to build off this one.”

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.