By Ben Ross
Special to S.F. Examiner
CHASE CENTER – The Warriors entered Friday’s game against the Celtics with just 10 healthy bodies. They nearly ended the night with eight.
Golden State point guard D’Angelo Russell left the game in the third quarter with a right thumb sprain and did not return. X-rays were negative and he will undergo an MRI on Saturday. Minutes later, rookie forward Eric Paschall exited with a right hand ailment of his own, though he would return in the fourth quarter. X-rays were also negative in Paschall’s case.
The shorthanded Warriors would go on to fall 105-100 to the league-leading Celtics, dropping their sixth straight game to tumble to an NBA-worst 2-11. It was Boston’s 10th consecutive win, moving the Celtics to 10-1 on the season.
“It sucks to keep seeing guys go down, but we’ve got that bug right now,” said forward Draymond Green, who posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. “So we’ve just got to keep fighting and do all we can to stay healthy. But sometimes, sh-t just happens.”
Added head coach Steve Kerr: “Next man up. I thought Ky Bowman came in and gave us a really good lift after D-Lo went out. So we’ll keep playing. I’m really proud of the effort. I thought the guys competed like crazy out there and our defense was much better.”
Boston entered the fourth quarter with a 76-71 lead, but Golden State surged to a 13-4 run to take an 84-80 lead with 8:52 remaining. Boston answered with a 12-4 run of its own to regain a four-point lead, but the Warriors weren’t done. A 3-point play by Paschall followed by a Bowman putback vaulted Golden State back on top, part of a 9-0 run to give the Warriors a 97-92 lead with 2:37 remaining.
The Celtics answered with 11 straight points, punctuated by a Jayson Taytum one-handed dunk off a jump ball with 1:36 left, giving Boston a lead it would never surrender.
“We played our best defensive game of the year,” Kerr praised. “We just need to win a game or two here to just feel better about things, and it’s going to happen. I feel that we’re heading in the right direction.”
Added Paschall: “We’ve got to go out there and just compete at the highest level. It doesn’t matter if we have five guys. Just go out there and compete.”
Paschall finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, returning to the starting lineup over fellow rookie Jordan Poole, who scored just four points in 22 minutes. Russell added 12 points, seven assists and nine turnovers in 25 minutes, shooting 5-of-10 from the field.
Veteran guard Alec Burks led the Warriors with 20 points in 30 minutes off the bench. Willie Cauley-Stein added 10 points and eight boards, while Bowman contributed six points and three rebounds in 14 minutes.
“That’s a very good team we just played against and we were right there with a chance,” Green said. “So hopefully we can continue to build upon that. Our defense was a lot better, so if we can continue to build on that side of the ball, the offense will happen. But it all starts on (the defensive) side for us.”
Taytum paced the Celtics with 24 points and eight rebounds. Former Cal star Jaylen Brown chipped in 22 points and eight boards, while Kemba Walker added 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Fellow guard Marcus Smart also reached double figures with 15 points.
Turnovers plagued the Warriors, particularly in the second half. Golden State committed 19 in all, with 12 coming in the third and fourth quarters, while the Celtics finished with 14 turnovers.
“The turnovers shifted the tide of the game, but I was really proud of the way the guys fought back and took the lead,” Kerr said. “They hung in there and we had a chance. We just couldn’t get it done.”
The Warriors shot 42% from the field, while holding Boston to just 41%. The Celtics shot 13-of-33 (39%) from 3-point range, while Golden State struggled to a 5-of-28 (18%) clip.
Both teams shot well from the free throw line, with the Warriors converting 27-of-34 (79%) and the Celtics making 18-of-23 (78%). Golden State won the rebounding battle, 55-47.
The Warriors dominated the first quarter, sprinting to a 21-8 lead, courtesy of an early 14-1 run, and led by nine after one, but Boston responded with a 24-10 run to go ahead 50-47 late in the second quarter. The Celtics would take a 52-51 lead into halftime.
The Warriors were once again without Stephen Curry (left hand fracture), Klay Thompson (left ACL rehabilitation), Kevon Looney (hamstring neuropathy), Damion Lee (right hand non-displaced fracture), Jacob Evans III (left adductor strain) and Alen Smailagić (right ankle sprain), all of whom remained out with injuries. Looney, Evans, and Smailagić will be reevaluated Wednesday.