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Warriors' 21st victory keeps Celtics reeling

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Boston Celtics see a changing of the guard out west. Heck, they're contributing to it.

They just hope things aren't blowing up in the East as well.

Already missing injured Rajon Rondo, the perennial Eastern power might as well have been without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as well in suffering a second consecutive non-Lakers-delivered humiliation in California on Saturday night. They fell 101-83 to a Golden State Warriors club that suddenly looks like a contender.

"Oklahoma City, the Lakers ... they're still good teams," Celtics coach Doc Rivers analyzed of the Western landscape on the heels of falling to the Clippers and Warriors by a combined 47 points over a 48-hour stretch. "We just played two very confident teams. They're rolling."

The Warriors, who Friday became a fourth Western 20-game winner inside the first 30 games of the young season, completed a Philadelphia-Boston sweep on back-to-back nights on the home court by dominating the Celtics in every aspect of the game, much as the Clippers had during a 106-77 shellacking in Los Angeles on Thursday,

In tying a franchise record with a 12th win in December -- only the 1961-62 Philadelphia edition previously had accomplished the feat -- Golden State shot well (52.1 percent) and defended even better, harassing Pierce into a 4-for-20 nightmare and the Celtics into a 36.0-percent night overall.

"We gotta be better," assessed Pierce, who played with two stitches in his mouth and often found himself biting his upper lip on a night when he was whistled for four fouls and got to the line only three times himself. He finished with 13 points, seven more than Garnett, who also contributed only three rebounds.

"The last two games have been very disappointing for us," Pierce continued. "Nobody likes to get blown out two straight games."

Make no mistake about it: This was every bit the blowout as Thursday's 29-pointer, even if the final score was a bit closer.

Taking advantage of a team missing its star point guard -- Rondo said he bruised his right hip Thursday against the Clippers -- it took the Warriors (21-10) all of 5:09 to build a 10-point advantage, which they extended to 20 in the second period. If not for a four-possession, four-turnover snooze late in the third quarter, the game-ending difference easily could have been in the 20's.

"Bottom line is: It's been a great year for us," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said of the now complete 2012 aspect of the 2012-13 season. "We will put it behind us and look forward to doing great things in 2013. I'm extremely proud of this group."

Stephen Curry swished four 3-pointers among a game-high 22 points and David Lee recorded yet another 20-plus night with an even 20 as the Warriors ran their record to 12-4 in the month and 13-2 overall against Eastern Conference competition this season.

"Every single game we just try on getting better and better," said Lee, who has reached the 20-point mark in 14 of his last 15 games. "I thought our defense played a big role again tonight by holding them under 40 percent."

The only signs of Celtics life on a night when they fell under .500 (14-15) came in the final 1:15 of the third quarter, after they had chipped away at a 20-point deficit earlier in the period and pull to 76-59 after a Curry 3-pointer. Boston then turned four consecutive Warriors turnovers into baskets, two by Courtney Lee, in an eight-point flurry that sent the teams into the fourth quarter separated by just nine points, 76-67.

But guards Jarrett Jack and Charles Jenkins opened the quarter with two hoops apiece, including a 3-pointer by Jack, the advantage was back up to 85-73 and the Celtics never got back within single digits.

"I will not be satisfied and we will not be satisfied as a team," Jackson said. "We have done nothing. We will continue to put our foot on the gas pedal and finish this thing out the right way."

Starting guards Courtney Lee (18 points) and Jason Terry (13) helped take up the slack for Rondo's absence, but they got almost no help from two normally reliable sources, Pierce and Garnett. They combined to miss 19 of their 26 shots.

Pierce's problems were magnified in the first half, during which he made only one of his 11 shots, and that was an 18-footer on which he was fouled. Half his misses failed even to hit the rim, with Festus Ezeli blocking two shots, two drawing glass-only and a fifth -- a 3-pointer to begin the night -- being an airball.

"We all shot poorly," said the 15-year veteran, an Oakland native, noted.

And that's a problem that needs immediate addressing, Rivers said.

"We get really frustrated with missed shots," he said. "When we miss shots, we're a bad defensive team.

"That's who we are right now. We've got to change it quickly."

NOTES: Rondo's injury caught his coach by surprise, with Rivers admitting before the game he had no idea how the hip injury had occurred. ... The Celtics will cap a four-game road stretch Sunday in Sacramento. ... If the NBA handed out a Sixth Man Award for the month of December, Golden State's Jack certainly would be a candidate. He entered Saturday's game -- the Warriors' finale for the month -- averaging 15.5 points and 5.8 assists in December, connecting on 48.1 percent of his 3-pointers and 52.4 percent overall. He had 14 points in the win, hitting half his four 3-point attempts and six of 14 shots overall. ... As the Celtics' Garnett advances on the NBA's all-time list for games played, he'll soon pass Warriors coach Jackson, who took the court 1,296 times in his career. Garnett, who at No. 15 is two spots behind Jackson, played his 1,284th game Saturday. ... In contrast, the Golden State starting lineup Saturday of Stephen Curry (210), Klay Thompson (96), Harrison Barnes (30), David Lee (528) and Festus Ezeli (29) took the court with a total of 893 NBA games under their belts.
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