BY MASON BISSADA
If Warriors fans are willing to count moral victories from this lost season in order to ease their collective psyche just a tad, then throw tonight’s 105-100 loss to the Boston Celtics at the Chase Center into the win column. Golden State held their own against the now 10-1 Eastern Conference contender, leading by as many as 13 early on and staying alive until the final seconds of play.
The team can take pride in their defense tonight, allowing just 105 points to a Boston team currently averaging 115 points per game and holding the best offensive rating in the league.
“It was our best defensive effort of the season,” Draymond Green (11 points, 11 rebounds) said postgame. “It all starts on the defensive end, and we were better tonight.”
In addition to a heartbreaking loss in a close game, the Warriors also lost yet another body to the injury plague. D’Angelo Russell left the game midway through the third quarter with a right thumb injury. Russell’s X-rays came back negative and he will have an MRI tomorrow. With Russell out, Green was the de facto primary ball handler down the stretch.
Steve Kerr inserted rookie standout Eric Paschall into the starting lineup tonight in place of fellow rookie Jordan Poole. Paschall answered the call, pouring in a solid 16 points and eight rebounds on the night. Paschall has seen more time at the small forward position as of late, giving the Warriors more size and toughness on the perimeter.
“We had a more physical front line with Eric and Draymond and Willie [Cauley-Stein],” Kerr said postgame. “We give up a little something in spacing but we pick up something defensively. We have to keep looking at combinations and positions and keep moving forward.”
Alec Burks was the unlikely hero for the Warriors, notching 20 points thanks to his uncanny ability to draw fouls. He went to the line 12 times (making 11), drawing contact off of hard drives to the rim in traffic. Tonight was quietly Burks third 20+ point game of the season. He’s provided a nice scoring punch off the bench, and Kerr may look to him to start him depending on the severity of Russell’s injury.
The Warriors were lucky that Celtics All-Star Kemba Walker happened to have a terrible jump-shooting night, shooting just 6-19 from the field and 3-12 on three’s. Some of this can be attributed to the Warriors blitzing on pick-and-roll coverages when guarding him, but he also missed a ton of open shots that the career 36% 3-point shooter makes on most nights (he’s shooting a blazing 44% from downtown on the season). However Walker, known for his late game heroics, scored when it mattered most by knocking in a midrange jumper with 19 seconds left in the game to seal the win for his team.
“It happens,” Walker said postgame when asked about his shooting struggles. “I am not going to shoot the ball great every night. I just stay confident. Down the stretch it came through. I wanted to win so bad, I just kind of willed those shots in a lot of the time.”
Budding star Jayson Tatum also struggled from the field, shooting 8-23 from the field on his way to an inefficient 24-point night. Were it not for Marcus Smart’s out-of-character 5-9 shooting from downtown, the Warriors may have snuck away with a victory.
Golden State can take away positives from this game, but ultimately their record still falls to a rough 2-11, keeping them last in the Western Conference. With Russell possibly sidelined, moral victories might be all Golden State can hope for at this point.
The Warriors next hope to end their six-game losing streak comes on Sunday as they take on the Pelicans in New Orleans at 4 p. m.