No Klay Thompson and no Harrison Barnes – both out with sprained ankles – and Leandro Barbosa sick, and it seemed if there were a time for the Golden State Warriors to lose their first game of the season, Friday in Boston could be it.
On the road against a hard-playing, well-coached Celtics team with the Warriors playing their second to last game of a seven-game road trip, a Warriors loss seemed within the realm of possibility.
Didn’t happen. This was not the night the streak ended. Looked like it might.
Golden State survived and remained unbeaten with a 124-119 double-overtime victory over the gritty Celtics, improving to 24-0 and extending the best start to a season in NBA history.
In the overtimes, Golden State’s talent and depth sunk Boston. Shaun Livingston’s two free throws with 17.8 seconds left put the Warriors up 120-117.
"Our guys just compete," Warriors interim coach Luke Walton said. "On a night where we didn’t make some shots I feel like we would normally make and we were shorthanded, they just find a way to win. The fact these guys found a way to win that game in double overtime ... it's incredible."
For a moment, it didn’t look like the Warriors would make it to overtime. Trailing 101-96 with 2:07 remaining, Golden State found enough to force the first extra session. Following a Draymond Green rebound, Steph Curry, who did not have his finest game, made a three-pointer giving Golden State a 103-101 lead.
The Warriors play in Milwaukee on Saturday, and both teams will be on the second night of a back-to-back. In playful Twitter banter, the official Milwaukee Bucks account tweeted, "See you tomorrow @warriors," and the Warriors official account replied, "guessing you haven't seen how the movie ends."
NBA TV will televise the game instead of the originally-scheduled San Antonio-Atlanta game.
The 24th win of the season wasn’t easy. The Celtics led late in the fourth quarter and in overtime, Curry's game was off by a few degrees and replacement starters Ian Clark and Brandon Rush didn’t contribute much offensively.
But there was enough Curry, definitely enough Green and adequate play from reserves for Golden State to win again.
"Exhausting, but it was fun," Curry said. "Obviously, it was nice to get the win, but we had to claw our way to it."
Though the numbers look good – 38 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists – Curry was just 9-for-27 from the field, had eight turnovers and wasn’t as crisp with his ball-handling. Even MVPs are off some games.
"They did a phenomenal job on him, and he scored 38," Walton said. "That's how superstars are in this league. I played with Kobe (Bryant). I know what that's like. I've seen teams do a great job and look down and see him score 44 points. LeBron (James) is the same way. We did a great job on LeBron in the Finals. He finished with 40 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. The players who true superstars in this league, all you can do is try to make it tough on them. They're going to get their numbers no matter what happens. Boston made it tough on Steph."
Green – the piece that holds it together for the Warriors -- had 24 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, five blocks and five steals in a rare 5x5 game. Green joins Hakeem Olajuwon and Derrick Coleman as the only players in NBA history to have at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and five steals in a game.
"He does everything for us on the court," Walton said.
Reserves Festus Ezeli, Andre Iguodala, Livingston and Barbosa combined for 43 points.
As losses go, this was an impressive one for the Celtics though Boston coach Brad Stevens said there is no such thing as a great loss. "No, not even a good one," Stevens said.
Celtics reserve center-forward Kelly Olynyk scored a season-high 28 points, guard Avery Bradley had 19 points, guard Isaiah Thomas had 18 points, and Even Turner did what he does with 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
"You probably have to maximize all the little things a little bit better than we did to beat them," Stevens said. "By an inch, I guess."
Whether the Warriors win by a mile or a by inch, they remain unbeaten.