The Boston Celtics have been the NBA’s best road team this season, but their string of nine straight victories away from home was snapped upon their arrival on the West Coast.
They’ll try to bounce back less than 24 hours later on Monday night against the Golden State Warriors, the only NBA team the Celtics haven’t beaten on the road since their 2007 roster overhaul.
Boston (23-6) won 13 of its first 14 on the road, including an impressive 86-77 victory on Christmas Day at Orlando that was the team’s ninth straight win outside of New England.
A 10th in a row seemed within the Celtics’ grasp against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night, but they coughed up a three-point lead in the final 10 seconds.
Clippers reserve Rasual Butler(notes) hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 8.5 seconds left, and after Boston’s Rajon Rondo(notes) missed two free throws that would have given his team the lead, Baron Davis(notes) won it 92-90 for Los Angeles with a buzzer-beating jumper.
“The free throws didn’t bother me, honestly,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I would love for Rondo to make the free throws, but I thought, for a veteran team, we played with absolutely zero composure.”
The Celtics certainly seemed to miss star forward Paul Pierce(notes), who was out for a second straight game with knee problems and is not expected to return during this trip. He would typically have been Boston’s top option during the closing seconds.
Boston will likely have to do better offensively if it hopes to keep pace with the Warriors in a game that represents a stark clash of styles. The Celtics allow an NBA-low 91.5 points per game, while the up-tempo Warriors give up more points (112.3) than any other team and rank second in scoring (107.2).
That contrast hasn’t added up to a Celtics win in northern California lately. They lost 99-89 at Golden State on Dec. 26, 2008 - their fifth straight loss in Oakland - even though the Warriors were playing without Monta Ellis(notes) and Corey Maggette(notes).
Boston also lost 119-117 at Golden State on Feb. 20, 2008, in the team’s initial visit following the acquisitions of Kevin Garnett(notes) and Ray Allen(notes). The Celtics have won in every other NBA venue since Garnett, Allen and Pierce came together.
Golden State (8-21) will try to keep that distinction after snapping a seven-game losing streak with a 132-127 win over Phoenix on Saturday night, shooting 57.1 percent from the field and getting 33 points each from Ellis and Maggette.
Ellis also added 10 assists, playing at least 45 minutes for the eighth time in the last 11 games for the banged-up Warriors, who remain without Andris Biedrins(notes) and Raja Bell(notes), among others.
Ellis is averaging 27.5 points in that stretch, but Saturday’s victory was just the Warriors’ second in those games. He finally got help from Maggette’s season-high point total and four other players who scored at least 13 points.
“We’ve been playing good basketball but we haven’t had good performances from everybody,” said Golden State coach Don Nelson, a five-time NBA champion as a player with the Celtics. “Monta is always carrying us … but it all worked out and we got a contribution from everybody.”
Boston held Ellis to 18 points in a 109-95 home win over the Warriors on Nov. 18.