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Five Celtics entered Friday night’s game against Golden State in health and safety protocols, with a sixth (Dennis Schroder) out with a non-COVID illness. Romeo Langford, an emergency starter, soon joined them with a sore neck after getting knocked over on a hard foul by Andrew Wiggins in the first quarter, paving the way for Brodric Thomas.
That’s where the night was headed before the Celtics, courtesy of one of their second-half energy surges, came back hard enough to nearly turn it around in a 111-107 loss to the Warriors.
Steph Curry hit a 17-footer with 34.7 seconds left and finished with 30 points, including five more 3-pointers for his historic career total. When he fouled out with 10.7 seconds left on an offensive foul, the Celtics had a small window to erase a 109-104 deficit. Though Jayson Tatum missed from downtown, Marcus Smart collected the long rebound and buried a 3-pointer that made it 109-107 with 3.9 seconds left.
But Damien Lee, intentionally fouled with 2.8 seconds left, hit twice for a four-point lead and the game.
Tatum, though a slow starter, finished with 27 points on 9-for-17 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists.
The Warriors jumped ahead by 20 in the first half, but the Celtics came out fast in the third quarter. After Tatum’s transition drive, triggered by Josh Richardson’s block of Nemanja Bjelica, capped a quarter-closing 6-0 Celtics run, the Warriors led only 82-81. Tatum then opened the fourth with a 3-pointer for an 84-82 lead — the Celtics’ first since the score was 3-2 — before the Warriors hit back with a 10-2 run for a 92-86 lead on a Bjelica three.
The Celtics cut it back to a point (92-91) when Aaron Nesmith converted a three-point play off a baseline drive, only for Andre Iguodala to bury a bomb with a second on the shot clock with 7:28 left.
Golden State pushed the lead back out to 97-91, the Celtics cut it back to 97-95 on a Rob Williams dunk, and the Warriors answered again — this time with an 8-0 run for a 105-95 lead when Curry chased down a long rebound off his own miss to bury his fifth three of the night.
The Celtics got a shot of energy with Rob Williams’ gravity-defying conversion of a Jaylen Brown lob for a three-point play that cut the Warriors edge to 107-100 with 2:45 left. He went back to the line 40 seconds later but missed twice.
But Brown tied up Lee on the rebound and won the jump ball — Smart hitting the floor to save the ball, leading to a pair of Richardson free throws that cut the margin to 107-102.
Brown came back with a drive off a Curry miss, only for the Warriors star to hit from mid-range for a 109-104 Warriors lead with 34.7 seconds left.
It was too much for the Celtics to overcome. As the first half ended, Curry was just on the other side of mid-court when Smart fouled him attempting a heave with one-tenth of a second left in the first half. Ime Udoka picked up a technical foul protesting the call, and when the Warriors star hit all four free throws, the Celtics trailed, 68-54.
The Celtics came out with better energy at both ends, and opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run, every point scored by Tatum, including two 3-pointers and a transition drive triggered by Smart’s ability to beat Kevon Looney to a jump ball.
Curry ended the run with a 3-pointer, matched by Jaylen Brown, whose bomb in turn triggered a 7-0 Celtics sport that cut the Warriors lead to 73-71. Golden State dug in for a bit, but the Celtics closed out the third with that 6-0 run.
Curry had 16 points on 5-for-7 shooting — 3-for-5 from downtown — by the end of the first quarter. But after falling into a 13-point hole when they spotted the Warriors a game-opening 18-6 run, the Celtics managed to cut the Golden State lead to 34-26 by the end of the first.
Langford, an emergency starter, was listed as questionable to return due to neck pain, suffered after a hard foul from Andrew Wiggins in the first quarter. Nesmith quickly picked up his third foul in just seven minutes, leading to the insertion of Brodric Thomas, a two-way player, into the Celtics mix.
Golden State ran out behind the shooting of Wiggins, taking its first 20-point lead (59-39) with four minutes left in the half.