2016 Awards Series Game of the Year: April 1 at Golden State
We at Celtics.com have handed out five awards over the last few weeks as part of our annual Award Series. Today we wrap things up with one final recognition...
BOSTON – The Boston Celtics pulled off plenty of impressive wins during the 2015-16 season – from Avery Bradley’s buzzer-beating game-winner in Cleveland, to a 26-point comeback victory in the regular season finale against Miami, to a heart-pounding overtime win during Game 4 of the first round of the Playoffs against Atlanta.
None, however, were more jaw-dropping than Boston’s record-snapping win on April 1 on the home court of the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
All odds were against the C’s heading into the contest. They were without one of their top defenders in Jae Crowder, who was recovering from an ankle sprain; they were playing on the second night of a back-to-back; and they were being hosted by a Golden State team that hadn’t lost at Oracle Arena in 430 days.
Amazingly, none of those factors hindered Boston’s play. Evan Turner stepped up in Crowder’s absence with a 21-point performance, Jared Sullinger added 20 points and 12 rebounds of his own, and the Celtics shocked the world with a 109-106 win, halting the Warriors’ NBA-record 54-game home winning streak.
The Friday night showdown marked Boston’s fourth contest of a season-long-tying five-game road trip. The C’s were fresh off of two straight losses, including a defeat that went down to the wire in Portland the night before. But Boston, known for its ability to bounce back on second nights of back-to-backs, was up for the challenge, and it delivered.
The stage was set for it to be an epic battle between All-Star point guards Stephen Curry and Isaiah Thomas, though the first half of the contest proved to be anything but.
Boston led by two points at the end of the half, despite the fact that Thomas was held scoreless to that point with a 0-for-7 effort from the field. Curry, meanwhile, had not performed much better; he had tallied more turnovers (seven) than points (six) by the break.
When the pair emerged from the locker room, however, they both turned the tides and took over for their respective teams. Curry canned two treys within the first 62 seconds of the third quarter, quickly doubling his first half point total. Thomas was quick to respond, as he suddenly caught fire and scored 13 of Boston’s first 15 points of the frame.
The pair traded jabs with Thomas scoring 18 points during the third quarter and Curry notching 21 of his own, including a 6-for-6 performance from beyond the arc.
Boston entered the fourth quarter with an 82-79 advantage, and eventually expanded that to a 10-point lead. But the defending champs were not about to go down without a fight.
Golden State battled back and brought the score to within one point when Harrison Barnes swished a corner 3, making the score 107-106 with 10.2 seconds remaining.
The C's then used a timeout so coach Brad Stevens could draw up one of his renowned side-out plays. Marcus Smart took the inbounds pass and dangerously lobbed the ball over Curry’s outstretched fingertips to Thomas, who was streaking to the basket. IT went up for the layup, hesitated mid-air as Draymond Green soared by and attempted to block the shot, and banked it in to put the Celtics back up by three points with 8.3 seconds left.
Golden State had one last chance, so they put the rock in the hands of the most feared shooter in the league. Curry was fed the ball at the top of the arc, successfully pump-faked Smart to create separation, and got off a solid look. But it clanked off the rim.
Harrison Barnes collected the offensive rebound and backed out to the 3-point line for the game-saving tie, but air-balled the difficult shot as the buzzer sounded. The C’s took to midcourt to enjoy a well-deserved moment of celebration as the Warriors walked off their home floor with their heads bowed for the first time since Jan. 27, 2015.
In pulling off the awe-inspiring, record-snapping win, the Celtics had also upheld franchise tradition by ensuring that Golden State would no longer be able to break Boston’s single-season home record of 40-1, which was established during the 1985-86 season.
The win also snapped Boston’s two-game skid and kicked off a four-game win streak, proving to be a vital momentum swinger while in the midst of a heated playoff race.
It exposed Boston’s grit, its ability to defy the odds, and it showed that the Celtics could hang with any team in the league. Not only was it Boston’s most remarkable win of the 50 it tallied on the campaign, but it was also one of the most notable team performances in the NBA this season.