Celtics rally past Warriors to stretch win streak
Rallying from a 17-point deficit, the Boston Celtics stretched their win streak to 14 games by beating Golden State 92-88 Thursday in a showdown of the NBA’s top teams.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 22 points after learning of his best friend’s death only hours before and Kyrie Irving ditched a plastic mask protecting facial fractures to score 11 of his 16 points in the final five minutes to spark Boston’s triumph.
Boston improved the NBA’s best record to 14-2, having last lost in their home opener to Milwaukee on October 18, while the defending champion Warriors, who had been atop the Western Conference, fell to 11-4 with their seven-game win streak snapped.
“They were just tougher and smarter,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who joked before the game that “the fate of the universe rests upon the results.”
In the only other game, Houston’s Chris Paul returned after missing 14 games with a bruised left knee and the Rockets ripped host Phoenix 142-116.
Houston moved atop the Western Conference at 12-4 after scoring the most points in any NBA game this season.
The Celtics are on their longest win streak since taking 14 in a row in 2010 and five shy of the club record from December 2008.
Irving was supposed to don his mask for two weeks suffering a facial fracture last Friday, but removed it in the third quarter as the Celtics, trailing 66-49, scored 19 consecutive points to set up the last-minute drama.
Klay Thompson’s 3-pointer with 1:22 to play lifted Golden State ahead 88-86 but the Celtics equalized on two Irving free throws after he was fouled by Thompson.
Green missed shot and foul
Draymond Green missed a 3-point shot and then fouled Irving, who sank two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to put the Celtics ahead to stay.
Kevin Durant missed a baseline jumper and Boston grabbed the rebound, setting up Jayson Tatum’s two free throws to produce Boston’s biggest lead and final victory margin.
After Brown learned of the Wednesday death of his best friend, Trevin Stede, he was not going to play. But a call from Stede’s mother inspired him.
“I feel like he was with me,” Brown said. “I felt like it was me and him.”
Irving praised Brown’s inner strength and performance.
“It’s never a good thing when someone’s going through it,” Irving said. “You do your best to console them but at the end of the day it’s the strength within themselves and he showed a lot of that.
“To go out there and perform the way he did, I knew exactly where the game ball was going.”
Al Horford had 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for Boston and Marcus Morris and Tatum each contributed 12 points.
Durant led Golden State with 24 points but Curry was 3-of-14 from the floor for only nine points in his first game back from a bruised right thigh.
“We had control of the game despite how bad we all were shooting,” Curry said. “We just couldn’t sustain our defense when they made a couple of runs.”
Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Curry said the chances of a rematch with Boston in the NBA Finals were “very, very likely.”
“They are playing the best right now in the East,” Curry said. “Until they beat Cleveland – they have done it three years in a row – we’ll see.”
Harden hits 48, Paul back
At Phoenix, James Harden scored 33 of his 48 points in the first half as Houston surged ahead 90-65 at half-time. It was the highest-scoring half for the Rockets since their club-record 94 points against Denver in January 1991.
Paul scored 11 points, passed out 10 assists, grabbed four rebounds and made two steals in 21 minutes.
“It felt good to be back out there with the guys,” Paul said. “It was a good performance.”
Paul, acquired in an off-season trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, had not played since the season opener after being injured in a pre-season game against Memphis on October 11 when he collided with Mario Chalmers.
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