Celtics finally bounce back, handing Warriors their worst home loss under Steve Kerr

It’s only one win, but when you’re a team with as desperate a need for good news as the Boston Celtics, you take it. Especially when that win is a complete dismantling of the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.

The Celtics pulverized the Warriors on Tuesday by a score of 128-95, marking the Warriors’ worst home loss since Steve Kerr took over the team in 2014. The game was effectively over by halftime, with the Celtics up 73-48.

Even more encouraging for Boston was who was leading the charge.

Gordon Hayward drops 30 points in win

If there was a player that embodied the Celtics’ constant frustration, it was probably Gordon Hayward. Signed to a max deal two offseasons ago, Hayward’s addition to the Celtics lineup this year after missing last season with a fractured tibia was supposed to strengthen an already deep Celtics lineup.

Instead, Hayward has struggled, averaging 10.7 points on 43.2 percent shooting and getting demoted to a bench role. He’s disappeared in some games and been woefully inefficient in others.

That Gordon Hayward didn’t show up Tuesday. Rather, it was the Gordon Hayward the Celtics envisioned when signing him back in 2017, posting 30 points, seven rebounds, four assists and no turnovers in 28 minutes off the bench. His +32 plus/minus was his best mark all season.

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 5: Gordon Hayward #20 of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball against the Golden State Warriors on March 5, 2019 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Boston Celtics are going to need more games like this from Gordon Hayward if they want to be the real contender we thought they were before the season. (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

It’s just one game, but the Warriors really needed a win like Tuesday. The team had dropped five of its six games since the All-Star break and is currently on pace to open the playoffs on the road with the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference. Tuesday’s win pushes them to 2.5 games back from the 76ers for the fourth seed, and three games from the Victor Oladipo-less Indiana Pacers for the third seed.

They’ve reeled off win streaks before only to return to dysfunction before, but that doesn’t make beating the Warriors by 33 bad news. It could spark another chance to reel off some wins and possibly rise in the East standings.

Speaking of, next up for the Celtics is a clash with a comically broken Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday. They figure to be favored.

Warriors look unusually sloppy

The flip side to all of this is that the Warriors looked unusually slow and methodic as Hayward and company ripped through them. DeMarcus Cousins had one of his worst games as a Warriors, posting 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting (0-of-5 on 3-pointers), nine rebounds, four turnovers, five fouls including a tech and some lackluster defense.

Cousins addressed the latter problem after the game.

The loss was bad enough that Kevin Durant quibbled with Steve Kerr’s assessment that the team didn’t play with enough anger.

Clearly, the Warriors have had better nights. The team is suddenly below .500 since the All-Star break and some real issues could be forming on the NBA’s top team.

Should we be worried about the Warriors?

For now, probably not. You know how we said this was the Warriors’ worst home loss? Well, the worst overall loss took place on the final game of the regular season last year with a 119-79 drubbing at the hands of the Utah Jazz. The Warriors were so shattered that they immediately dispatched the Spurs and Pelicans 4-1 in the ensuing playoff series.

This is the Warriors. Players and coaches can have their conflicts and some tactics may need to be tweaked, but they’re still the most terrifying collection of basketball talent in recent history. One bad night, or even a bad few weeks, won’t change that.

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