The Boston Celtics topped the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night in overtime, 121-118, to earn their eighth straight win, but it certainly wasn’t easy. In regulation and overtime, Boston made several mistakes that nearly lost the game, something that caught the attention of All-Star guard Jayson Tatum immediately after the win.
“It was a crazy game, especially the ending,” Tatum said. “It was like we were trying to give it away.”
With the way Boston was playing, it certainly felt like they were trying to give the game away to Golden State, or at least take their foot off the gas in a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals. But they should know by now that you can’t do that against this Warriors team.
The most egregious errors came late in overtime, when the Celtics clung to a 121-113 lead with 38 seconds left. Up to that point, Boston had outscored Golden State 15-7 in overtime and was in complete control of the game. But then the bugs started piling up. Al Horford committed the one foul he’s never supposed to commit in a basketball game when he grazed Andrew Wiggins’ arm as he went up for a 3-pointer. A Celtics challenge was unsuccessful and Wiggins went 2 for 3 at the line.
Right after that, with the Warriors pressing full court, Boston turned the ball over and conceded a corner 3-pointer to Donte DiVincenzo.
That seven-point lead quickly evaporated to just three points. You’d think that 3-pointer would have forced the Celtics to adjust things, but then they almost lost it. again with this errant pass to Jaylen Brown when they were trying to subdue the press.
Boston couldn’t extend their lead, but the Warriors had no timeouts left and couldn’t get the ball past halfcourt to get a decent shot with four seconds remaining.
Overtime wasn’t the only time Boston nearly lost the game, it also happened at the end of regulation.
Tatum committed three turnovers in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter, one of which led to a Stephen Curry layup on the other end that extended Golden State’s lead to three points. If it weren’t for a 3-pointer by Brown, Boston wouldn’t even make it to overtime.
After the game, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla spoke about what his team learned from this win.
“Everyone asked what we learned. What we learned is that it takes a mindset to be successful and to be a really good team in the NBA.” mazulla said. “You can’t be inconsistent with that.”
Mazzulla’s right, the Celtics can’t get within two inches of the finish line, stumble and then crawl into first place. There’s no reason the final score should have been so close when Boston led by seven points with 30 seconds left. You don’t foul a 3-point shooter, commit a turnover, and then almost commit another with the game on the line.
Despite late-game scares, the Celtics haven’t been in the habit this season of losing close games like Thursday night. Boston ranks second in the league in crucial winning percentage (73.7 percent) with a 14-5 record. That’s a significant change from last season, where they went 13-22 in crucial wins, ranking 29th. It shows the progress this team has made since last season, but late-game mistakes showed that there’s still room for improvement if this team is to hold onto that Larry O’Brien trophy come June.