It was hard not to see this coming.
The Golden State Warriors had arguably their best quarter of the season in the third quarter of this game, outscoring the Boston Celtics 31-9 in a display of unmatchable firepower and suffocating defense.
The win comes after months of stories linking the Celtics and the Warriors; first with the Celtics voicing their displeasure with Kevin Durant’s decision to come to Golden State, and more recently with a bogus trade rumor involving Klay Thompson, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder, circulated by Brian Scalabrine, someone with a noted proximity to Boston’s front office. All the motivation was there for the Warriors to come out and play with energy against an undermanned Celtics squad and set the tone on national television, and they did just that. Warriors were able to succeed despite a poor shooting performance from Stephen Curry, scoring just 16 points on 20 attempts, behind a tremendous team defensive effort and a surgical performance from Durant, as he scored 23 points on 77% shooting.
Though this game will be remembered for the dominant third quarter, there were plenty of highlight-worthy moments in the first half, as Durant went unconscious in the mid range, despite being hounded by one of the premier wing defenders in the league in Avery Bradley. Durant’s height, combined with a night where he is particularly feeling his shot, proved too much for the Celtics in single coverage, and he would face a double team for a majority of the game. ZaZa Pachulia was active on the defensive boards against a depleted Celtics frontline, as free-agent acquisition Al Horford continues to not dress due to a concussion.
The third quarter was a preview of what this team is capable of when they lock in defensively, as they held the Celtics to just nine points on just 12.5% shooting. While the Warriors defense has been good at forcing turnovers this season, this was one of the only quarters in which they had multiple 24-second stops, aggressively switching and securing rebounds against a Celtics team that simply did not have the roster to matchup, especially when the Warriors wanted to make a show on the road. Kevin Durant peaked at a +41 during this stretch, that was marked by a particularly nice oop from Stephen Curry to Durant. The most memorable moment was when Pachulia celebrated with a weird half-dance, half self-flagellation with his arm, perhaps in a poor attempt in recreating the Conor McGregor dance. The celebration followed his first points of the game, an open mid-range shot putting the Warriors up 28, was an instantly-classic display of Warriors arrogance that has gained them fans and inspired detractors.
The celebration was almost extremely embarrassing as the Celtics slowly pieced together a comeback in the first half of the fourth quarter, going 21-9 through the first six minutes or so of the quarter. The Warriors went cold on open shots at the worst time, as the Celtics started making tough shots against a still-engaged Golden State defense. Time was fortunately on the Warriors side, as well as five points and a crucial rebound from Curry in the closing two-minutes.
The Warriors improve to 10-2, 6-1 on the road as they face the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow in the second leg of this road back-to-back. The Celtics are sitting at .500, with a 6-6 record overall, as the injuries have stalled a preseason favorite for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.