SAN FRANCISCO – The Golden State Warriors sent a strong message on Saturday that they will not give up their National Basketball Association crown without a fight, thumping the Boston Celtics 123-107 in an NBA Finals rematch.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was quoted by ESPN as saying: “Especially the way they’ve played this year, they’ve just been so good, so dominant. I thought we needed a game like that.
“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.”
While the Warriors have struggled to build momentum in their title defence this season, the Celtics have streaked to the best record in the league.
But Golden State, with 34 points from Klay Thompson and 32 from Stephen Curry, were more than a match for a Celtics team that came into San Francisco riding high on a three-game winning streak.
“We just played these guys in the NBA Finals – you want to send a message,” said Golden State forward Draymond Green, who acknowledged the Warriors were also eager to end a two-game slide.
Thompson got going early, scoring 24 points in the first half.
Curry, who connected on 12 of 21 shots from the field and had six of the Warriors’ 13 three-pointers, said defence laid the groundwork for the win.
“From the start, we tried to defend without fouling, just make it tough for them,” Curry said.
Fellow Splash Brother Thompson agreed, adding: “I cherish being able to go out there and play defence and compete more than I ever have before.
“So when you face the best, your game usually reflects that and you try to rise to the level of competition.”
Jaylen Brown scored 31 points and pulled down nine rebounds for Boston. Jayson Tatum added 18 points and Malcolm Brogdon chipped in 16 off the bench.
“They have so many great guys that can put the ball in the basket,” Curry said. “Tatum and Brown have played amazingly high-level basketball all year.
“You’ve got to live with certain shots they take, but you try to make them work for it all night.
“Offensively we moved the ball, Klay got going early, but our defence connected with our offence, which is great.”
Curry downplayed the idea that the victory carried special significance.
“It got us above .500,” he said of a win that pushed the Warriors’ record to 14-13.
But he did admit: “It just gives you the recipe on the intensity and focus you have to have to beat a team like that.
“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.”
Boston star Tatum also said the early-season contest – six months after the Warriors rallied to win last season’s championship series – carried no special significance.
“It was one game,” he said. “It’s not going to dictate our season. It’s all about how we respond.”
On his own performance, he added: “I missed a lot of lay-ups. 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.”
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said the setback could prove beneficial in the long run.
“They tested us. That’s good for us to go through,” he added.
This is his team’s first defeat by a Western Conference rival this season after a 7-0 start. They still boast the best record in the league and top the East with a 21-6 record. AFP