NEW YORK: Kyrie Irving ditched his plastic mask and scored 11 of his 16 points in the final five minutes, sparking the Boston Celtics over Golden State 92-88 Thursday (Friday in Manila) in a showdown of the NBA’s top teams.
Rallying from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter, the Celtics stretched their win streak to 14 games, their longest since a 14-game run in November and December of 2010 and five shy of the club record set nine years ago.
Boston improved the NBA’s best record to 14-2, having last lost in their home opener to Milwaukee on October 18, while the defending champion Warriors, who had been atop the Western Conference, fell to 11-4 with their seven-game win streak snapped.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 22 points while Al Horford had 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds and Marcus Morris and Jayson Tatum each contributed 12 points.
Kevin Durant led Golden State with 24 points but Stephen Curry was 3-of-14 from the floor for only nine points in his first game back from a bruised right thigh, the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player struggling with foul trouble.
Klay Thompson’s 3-pointer with 1:22 to play lifted Golden State ahead 88-86 but the Celtics equalized on two Irving free throws after he was fouled by Thompson.
Draymond Green missed a 3-point shot and then fouled Irving, who sank two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to put the Celtics ahead to stay.
Durant missed a baseline jumper and Boston grabbed the rebound, setting up Tatum’s two free throws to produce Boston’s biggest lead and final victory margin.
Irving was supposed to wear a protective plastic mask for two weeks after suffering a facial fracture last Friday, but removed it in the third quarter, the same time when the Celtics battled back.
Durant scored six points while Thompson and Green each added five in a 19-7 Warriors run to open the second half that stretched Golden State’s lead to 66-49, matching the visitors’ largest advantage of the game.
The Celtics answered with 19 consecutive points to grab a 68-66 lead, Brown scoring 10 points in the run to set up the dramatic finish.
Golden State closed the first quarter on a 9-3 run to seize a 28-18 edge. Nick Young sank two 3-pointers and a free throw in the run.
Golden State led 44-27 after a 12-0 run in the second quarter. But the Celtics answered with a 15-3 run to close the second quarter, pulling within 47-42 at half-time, Brown scoring seven points to lead the spurt for Boston.
The Celtics kept Golden State without a basket for more than five minutes to end the half, the Warriors missing their last eight shots.
Gordon Hayward, whose season ended when he suffered a broken left leg in Boston’s opener, sat behind the Celtics bench in his first game appearance since the injury.