SAN FRANCISCO — In their first matchup since Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals, the Warriors beat the Boston Celtics 123-107 on Saturday night in what was one of Golden State’s best, most complete games of the season.
Entering the night, the Celtics were considered the better of the two teams, at least on paper. But the Warriors dominated the entire game, with Boston’s biggest lead being by just one point four minutes into the first quarter.
As he walked back to the locker room, Draymond Green called the game a statement win for a Warriors team that’s struggled to find sustained success through the early portion of the season. Jordan Poole said it was an example of how talented Golden State can be when it locks in.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr agreed with both sentiments.
“Especially the way they’ve played this year, they’ve just been so good, so dominant. I thought we needed a game like that,” Kerr said. “We’ve been a bit stuck in the mud. It feels like we’ve gotten better but not a whole lot to show for it. This was an important win for us.”
Stephen Curry, the Finals MVP in the Boston series, picked right back up where he left off, scoring 32 points on 12-of-21 shooting, including four 3-pointers. Klay Thompson added 34 points on 14-of-26 shooting, including four 3s.
The duo combined to score or assist on 72 of Golden State’s points, shot 12 of 18 over Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart — two of the Celtics’ best defenders — and were 13 of 27 off the dribble. And their 41 combined points in the first half were their most since Oct. 29, 2018, against the Chicago Bulls.
But it wasn’t just their offense that helped fuel the Warriors. Defensively, Curry and Thompson held the Celtics to 7-of-19 shooting from the floor when one of them was the primary defender.
“The game was connected,” Curry said. “When you’re locked in defensively and you worry about the things that impact the flow of the game and your matchup and the challenges there, you’re usually rewarded with looks and rhythm and flow on offense … it was great to see everything connect on both ends for (Thompson) and for our team.”
Prior to his injuries, Thompson typically took on the assignment of defending the opponent’s best player, but since his return, it hasn’t always been his job.
But with Andrew Wiggins sidelined for the second game in a row with an adductor strain, Thompson, as well as Jonathan Kuminga, was assigned to defend Tatum. They helped hold the Celtics star to 18 points on 6-of-21 shooting — his 15 misses tied a season high.
“I missed a lot of layups,” Tatum said. “They’ve been playing better as of late, and they’re a well-balanced talented team on both ends. They make it tough on you, and I think my touch was off. But just a lot of easy ones I missed.”
Thompson said his favorite play of the night came just about 90 seconds into the game when he blocked Tatum’s shot off the backboard. It’s something he said he hadn’t done in four years.
“I cherish being able to go out there and play defense and compete more than I ever have before,” Thompson said. “So when you face the best, your game usually reflects that and you try to rise to the level of competition.”
The Warriors didn’t only have an extra layer of motivation Saturday night because it was a Finals rematch, but also because they were coming off a gut-wrenching loss in Utah just two nights before.
And with the team heading out on a six-game, nine-day road trip on Monday — it’s 2-11 away from Chase Center this season — it needed to build momentum at home.
Curry said the victory against Boston was all but a must-win game.
“It just gives you the recipe on the intensity and focus you have to have to beat a team like that,” Curry said.
“Knowing how hard it is to win on the road, we haven’t done it well at all this season … We want to feel good about ourselves getting on the plane … and figure out how to really take advantage of the opportunity in front of us.”
Warriors’ Steph Curry, Klay Thompson lead charge vs. Celtics