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Analysis: Warriors play tough, come up just short in 105-100 loss to Celtics

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20 points from Alec Burks along with a much-improved defensive effort wasn’t enough to get the Warriors their third win of the 2019-20 season.

Boston Celtics v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

After a road loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night, things did not get much easier for the Golden State Warriors as they welcomed the Eastern-Conference leading Boston Celtics to Chase Center for a Friday night matchup. Most people watching probably suspected that the Celtics would make quick work of the undermanned Warriors and the game would not be competitive for very long.

But in reality, it was a hard-fought, back-and-forth affair with the Warriors even holding a slim lead late in the fourth quarter. But the Celtics’ talent and firepower were too much and they hung on late, getting the 105-100 win over the Warriors.

Draymond leads better defensive effort from Dubs

The key to the Warriors staying in this game was their defense. As the Warriors feature the league’s worst defense this season and they were facing one of the NBA’s premier offenses, astronomical point totals and a gaudy final score for the Celtics seemed like a certainty. But the Warriors played perhaps their best defense of the season on Friday night, holding the Celtics to 40.7% from the field and 39.4% from three-point range while also forcing the Celtics into committing 14 turnovers.

The Warriors defense in the first quarter was especially impressive, as the Celtics scored just 23 points in the opening frame. The Warriors were able to build off this great first-quarter defensive effort as they led by as many as 15 points before ending the quarter with a 9-point lead.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors
D’Angelo Russell’s ten first-quarter points, coupled with much better team defense, allowed the Warriors to jump out to an early lead.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Too often this season, the Warriors have fallen behind early and not been able to climb out of those big holes, their fate seemingly determined before the game can really begin. By keeping the Celtics from racing out to an early lead and not getting off to a horrendous start of their own, the Warriors were able to keep things close even as they played against one of the best teams in the league.

If the Warriors were going to finally put together a good defensive game, you knew Draymond Green was going to be at the heart of it. Chase Center saw a focused and intense Green on Friday night as he posted a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) while setting the tone on defense that the rest of the Warriors followed.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors
Making big contributions on offense and defense, Draymond Green looked like the Draymond Green of championship-winning seasons on Friday night.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

So many of the defensive errors we’ve seen during this first month of the regular season were absent against the Celtics, especially the lapses in the transition defense and in the paint. Omari Spellman continued to look like a capable defensive player and even Willie Cauley-Stein looked competent defensively to go along with his 10 points and 8 rebounds.

The Warriors even did a good job containing the Celtics’ point guard, Kemba Walker, through the first three quarters of the game. Walker came alive in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of his 20 points in that final frame as he gave his team the push it needed to secure a road victory. But the Warriors’ efforts containing the All-Star through those first three quarters should not be totally overlooked.

Perhaps this new Warriors team just needed a little bit of time and practice before they could start playing quality team defense. Hopefully they can give this same kind of effort in the games ahead.

Turnovers the main problem for Warriors offense

While the Warriors played much better defensively on Friday night, what led to them giving up that early double-digit lead and ultimately losing this game was what happened on offense. Specifically, the Warriors’ predilection for giving the ball away really doomed them against the Celtics. The Warriors turned the ball over 20 times on Friday night, which resulted in 22 points for the visitors from Boston.

Too often this season, the Warriors have not been able to come up with the defensive stops that would allow them to cut into an opponent’s lead or build up an advantage of their own. On Friday night, they were getting those stops but proceeded to give possessions away, which prevented them from capitalizing on those stops.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors
The Celtics capitalized on the Warriors’ 20 turnovers in Friday night’s game, using those extra possessions to jump start their offense on their way to a narrow victory.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It was the Warriors turnovers in the second quarter, giving it away six times in the second frame of Friday night’s matchup, that helped the Celtics overcome that sizable first-quarter advantage for the Warriors and retake control of the game heading into halftime.

That Warriors’ turnover total included a career-high 9 turnovers from D’Angelo Russell, who left the game in the third quarter with a sprained right thumb and did not return. Russell finished the night with 12 points and 7 assists.

After putting in some electric offensive performances this season that went for naught because of the Warriors’ defensive woes, Russell had a chance to get the Warriors a victory if he could just give them a little of that offensive magic (because they were finally playing defense well enough to win). Unfortunately, it wasn’t Russell’s night and the Warriors secured their eleventh loss of the season.

Burks and Paschall shine once again

While Russell struggled before exiting the game with an injury, Alec Burks provided the Warriors with an infusion of offense against the Celtics. Coming off the bench, Burks scored 20 points on Friday night to lead the team in scoring. It was the third time that Burks has scored 20+ points in a Warriors uniform.

In addition to Burks, the Warriors got 16 points and 8 rebounds from their standout rookie, Eric Paschall. Once again, Paschall played less like a rookie and more like a player who has spent time in the pro game and feels very comfortable at this level.

The same could not be said for his fellow rookie, Jordan Poole. Poole’s struggles continued as he scored just 4 points and went 1/8 from the field and 0/5 from three-point range. Poole was just one part of an abysmal three-point shooting night for the Warriors as they went just 5/28 from long distance.

While Paschall has been the pleasant surprise of the season, at this point one has to say Poole’s rookie campaign is firmly in the realm of the disappointment. The book certainly hasn’t been written on Poole and he has plenty of time to develop and start playing better (which he should begin to do at some point). But Poole was someone who was expected to hit the ground running and fit in seamlessly with this Warriors’ roster. Up to this point in the 2019-20 regular season, he certainly has not.