Celtics 92, Warriors 88: The night they made everyone (but Charles Barkley) believers

Celtics 92, Warriors 88: The night they made everyone (but Charles Barkley) believers

The Celtics are having quite a season. Charles Barkley? Not so much.

First, the analyst proclaimed the Celtics’ season was over after Gordon Hayward’s season-ending injury. Then, prior to the C’s hosting the Warriors Thursday night, Barkley dug in.

Then came halftime with the Celtics trailing by five, and Barkley tripled down. He went on to rattle off the teams in the Eastern Conference the Celts had no chance beating in the postseason, while proclaiming that last season’s C’s were better than this version.

A bit more than an hour later, Barkley was getting the Full Monty from Celtics social media and Brad Stevens’ club was carrying a 14-game win streak. 

Barkley clearly doesn’t get it. This isn’t a team you can watch six times (as he said he had), or even glance back and forth at the green room TV during your well-paid stay in the studio, and understand. And there was no better example of this nuanced existence than the Celtics’ 92-88 win over the world champs. (For a complete recap, click here.)

A few times it sure looked like this was going to represent a reality check for the Celtics, with the Warriors coming out of the gate in the third quarter to build a 17-point lead. Golden State just was going to have too much, with Kevin Durant and Co. doing their thing. The scrappy C’s were doing their best, but it seemed like a good time to surface the old “They’re going to really miss Gordon Hayward, after all,” storyline. Particularly with Hayward sitting in the premises for the first time since his injury.

What Barkley was seeing was a team relying on a rookie (Jayson Tatum) who seemed either nervous or overmatched for the first time this season, and a sixth man (Marcus Smart) who was turning in one of the worst offensive showings one could imagine from a valued player. Smart finished the first half not only scoreless, but having taken away a Kyrie Irving basket at the end of the first half by pushing it back up through the net.

Then came a 17-point, third-quarter lead for the Warriors, and it really started looking bad. Really bad.

But along came the real reason Barkley should pay better attention.

This time, it was the realization that Jaylen Brown might actually be turning into an elite player. This was a player who almost singled-handedly re-energized the Celtics on the way to a 19-0 run. (Eighteen of the points during that run came with Irving on the bench.) He did everything. Long-range shooting. Defense. Rebounding. Athleticism around the basket. The end result was 22 points for Brown, leading a starting unit which included double-digit efforts from each member.

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” Brown said. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable. They wrote us off coming in saying Golden State was gonna beat us, and do this and do that. We came out and payed basketball. Even though we got down, the makeup of our team is staying in. We’re resilient. I think we were sparked tonight, and we got the win.”

But perhaps the most pertinent performance when it came to defining how the Celtics have gone so right, and Barkley so wrong, came from Smart.

It’s hard to describe how bad the guard was on the offensive end. He went 0-for-7 from the field, ending up with a single point, but even that doesn’t really do it justice. But here’s the thing: Smart still ended up at a plus-15. (To put that in context, Tatum finished at a minus-18, while Irving clocked in at a minus-4.) He was the guy who stayed in the game down the stretch for the sole reason that Steph Curry was going to feel uncomfortable as long as Smart was nearby.

And as important as some of the fourth-quarter buckets by Irving and Al Horford proved to be, it was the presence of Smart on Curry that offered some of the most impactful moments.

Understand this: the Celtics shot 33 percent from the floor and beat the Golden State Warriors.

Charles Barkley still might not get it, but even the three guys to his right are starting to roll their eyes. Thursday should have offered all the proof anyone needed.

“It’s very, very likely, right?,” said Curry when asked about meeting the Celtics in the NBA Finals. “They’re playing the best right now in the East and obviously until they beat Cleveland, whose done it three years in a row – so we’ll see, but I hear the weather is great here in June.”

JBL Audio Stat of the Game: The Celtics outscored the Warriors 18-5 in second-chance points.

JBL is the Official Sound of Jayson Tatum, The Boston Celtics, and the NBA.

Full article @ Celtics 92, Warriors 88: The night they made everyone (but Charles Barkley) believers

Source: GreenStreet Blog

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