OAKLAND, Calif. For most of Wednesday's game, the Boston Celtics' usually stingy defense was nowhere to be found as Golden State seemingly got whatever it wanted to offensively.
But down the stretch, when the game mattered most, the C's got the necessary stops and much-needed shots to fall as they escaped with a 105-103 win.
It was a 21-foot jumper by Kevin Garnett that provided the game-winning margin of points.
But before that play came about, it was a series of key stops that ultimately led the C's to a hard-earned victory.
"We didn't play a lick of defense tonight," said Boston's Paul Pierce. "But we played defense when it mattered. So that was the most important thing."
Clutch plays by Garnett down the stretch and some solid team defense were among the keys to the Celtics (23-19) moving four games above-.500 for just the second time this season.
Here's a review of the keys highlighted prior to the game, and how they actually played out during the game.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Without Monta Ellis, who will pick up the 21.9 points and 19 shot attempts he had, per game? Stephen Curry is a logical choice, but with his never-ending ankle issues, Warriors coach Mark Jackson doesn't have a true feel for how much he can get on a nightly basis from Curry. Prior to the game, Warriors GM Larry Riley said Curry, who did not play on Wednesday, is out indefinitely. If Curry doesn't get the bulk of those shots, keep an eye on rookie Klay Thompson whose development was among the reasons the Warriors were willing to trade Ellis. He's averaging 8.2 points per game this season, but has reached double figures in Golden State's last five games -- his longest double figure scoring stretch this season.
WHAT WE SAW: Thompson proved why the Warriors are so high on his play with a career-best 26 points. He showed the kind of mid-range game and long-range shooting touch that seemed to have caught the Celtics off-guard.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. David Lee: Bass' mid-range game has been strong all year, but lately he's starting to get it done defensively as well. Lee will be a good test for him. The two have comparable size and can be physical. But you have to like Bass' chances when he steps away from the basket and shoots. Not only is it a situation that plays to his strengths, but it also keeps Lee further away from the basket which for the C's, is a good thing.
WHAT WE SAW: Although Bass is a couple inches shorter than Lee, he certainly held his own on Wednesday. Both players had 22 points, with Bass having the slight edge in rebounds with nine compared to eight for Lee. Rebounding was indeed something that was on Bass' mind coming into the game.
"I go out with more of a mindset of rebounding," Bass said prior to the game.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Avery Bradley's improved play offensively has been one of the reasons the Celtics have been a better team since returning from the all-star break. He's showing that, in addition to being a strong defender, he can also make teams pay by leaving him alone on the perimeter or losing track of him cutting to the basket. With Bass now a starter, Boston will need someone to step up and become more of a scorer off the bench. Bradley appears to be up for the challenge.
"Whatever they need me to do, that's what I want to do," Bradley said. "Of course defense is always going to be my priority. But there times when my teammates will need me to score, too. I'm just trying to stay ready, be ready for whatever Doc and the coaching staff needs me to do."
WHAT WE SAW: Bradley did not play major minutes. But as he has done more and more of lately, the Celtics got great value out of his time on the floor. The 6-foot-2 guard played more than 13 minutes and scored four points on 2-for-3 shooting, in addition to dishing out three assists. Maybe just as telling was the C's were plus-nine with him on the floor. Only one other Celtic player (Keyon Dooling, who was plus-11) had a better plusminus ratio.
STAT TO TRACK: This will be one of the few nights where the Celtics, the worst rebounding team in the NBA, might actually win the battle on the boards. As bad as Boston is, the Warriors aren't that much better. In fact, they rank 26th in rebounding compared to the dead-last Celtics, at No. 30. Forget about Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Paul Pierce when it comes to the team's rebounding numbers. Boston has to get more from guys like Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Avery Bradley.
"It has to be more of a team effort on the boards," Bradley admitted. "I know myself, all the guards really, have to do a better job of that, than what we're doing now."
WHAT WE SAW: Boston did more than just hold its own on the boards they won the boards. It was only by four rebounds, but hey, considering most games they're out-rebounded by double figures, a four-rebound edge was huge. The strong job on the boards came on the same day the C's found out that Chris Wilcox would be out for the season due to a heart condition that will require surgery. Celtics officials said he would have surgery in Cleveland March 29. In addition to Wilcox, the C's are awaiting word on whether Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) will have season-ending surgery. But C's head coach Doc Rivers has already said the team plans to continue on without O'Neal, adding that his return would be a "bonus."
"With those guys, it still would have been tough (rebounding the ball)," said Bass. "Without them, it's going to be tougher. But that just means guys off the bench have to step up and be ready."