The Golden State Warriors sent a strong signal Saturday that they won’t give up their NBA crown without a fight, thumping the Boston Celtics 123-107 in an NBA Finals rematch.
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 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.
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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 keyed the win.
“From the start we tried to defend without fouling, just make it tough for them,” Curry said.
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.
Boston star Tatum also said the early season contest – some six months after the Warriors rallied to win last season’s championship series – carried no special significance.
“It was one game,” Tatum said. “It’s not going to dictate our season. It’s all about how we respond.”
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said the setback could prove beneficial in the long run.
“They tested us,” Mazzulla said. “That’s good for us to go through.”
Brooklyn Nets edge Indiana Pacers
Elsewhere, the short-handed Brooklyn Nets – led by a career-high 33 points from Cam Thomas – edged the Indiana Pacers 136-133 in Indianapolis.
The star duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were just two of seven Nets absentees, but after trailing by nine with 7:14 to play Brooklyn’s backups came through.
Veteran guard Patty Mills added 24 points, Edmond Sumner scored 21 and Day’Ron Sharpe chipped in 20 as the Nets won their third straight.
With their stars sidelined – Durant for knee injury management and Irving with a tight adductor – the Nets withstood 21 three-pointers from the Pacers.
Tyrese Haliburton scored 35 points to lead seven Indiana players in double figures.
The Nets trailed 120-113 with 5:04 remaining but escaped when Andrew Nembhard couldn’t get his three-pointer to fall in the final second.
Los Angeles Clippers guard John Wall felt the love and – thanks to a strong performance from Paul George and last-minute heroics from Nicolas Batum – got the win in his return to Washington.
George scored 36 points and Batum drilled a go-ahead three-pointer with 23.8 seconds remaining as the Clippers beat the Wizards 114-107.
It was a homecoming for Wall, who went to Washington as the top draft pick in 2010 and played nine seasons with the Wizards.
He received a standing ovation when he was introduced before the game and was honoured with a video tribute during an early timeout.
He’d been back once before while with Houston, but the Covid pandemic meant no fans were at the game.
In Chicago, DeMar DeRozan scored 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Bulls to a 144-115 rout of the Dallas Mavericks, who were without NBA scoring leader Luka Doncic.
Denver’s NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic had a triple-double of 31 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists in the Nuggets’ 115-110 victory over the Utah Jazz.
San Antonio celebrated the 26th anniversary of Gregg Popovich’s first game as coach of the Spurs with a 115-111 victory over the Heat in Miami.