LOS ANGELES, United States—Isaiah Thomas has made peace and the Boston Celtics were able to turn things around with another emphatic win in Oakland.
Boston standout Thomas scored 25 points as the Celtics snapped a two-game losing skid Wednesday with a 99-86 victory over the Golden State Warriors in a battle between two NBA title contenders.
“We are fighters. We compete,” said Thomas. “We are just a bunch of competitors. We wanted to win to end the losing streak.”
The Celtics, who are fighting to hold onto the number two seed in the East, had lost two straight heading into their showdown with Golden State, the Western Conference’s top team.
To add to their difficulties, leading scorer Thomas went public with criticism of coach Brad Stevens’ coaching style after Monday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
But the Celtics had reason to believe they can have success in Oakland. After all, on their last visit 11 months ago, they snapped Golden State’s 54-game home winning streak.
Winning takes care of everything and Thomas was full of praise for Stevens on Wednesday.
“The coach is going to make his decisions. I believe in the coach. I trust every decision he makes and tonight we won,” Thomas said.
In Houston, Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert led the offensive charge as the Utah Jazz claimed the season series against the Houston Rockets with a 115-108 victory.
The Jazz improved to 41-24 on the season and moved to within three games of the third seed in the Western Conference standings.
“Any time you’re on the road and you hit shots early, it’s a good feeling because it’s hard to come back when you get down early on the road,” Hayward said. “To stay with the home team that’s a good feeling. Tonight was an example of that.”
Gobert tallied a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds in front of a crowd of 16,200 at the Toyota Center arena.
Hayward delivered several clutch jumpers en route to 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Utah, which stretched its winning streak to four games.
The Rockets were held back by a lack of shooting as they made just eight of 32 attempts from three-point range. Utah hit 12 of 31 from beyond the arc.
After cutting a 13-point deficit to three points in the third quarter, the Rockets finished the period shooting one of nine on three-pointers and five of 13 from the free-throw line.
While Houston clawed to within four down the stretch, its defence failed repeatedly in trying to stop the Jazz.
Guard James Harden led the Rockets with 35 points and six assists, while centre Clint Capela added a double-double (19 points, 12 boards). Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell came off the bench to score 12 each.
Both Gobert (10) and Rodney Hood (12) reached double figures by the intermission as Utah stretched its 30-22 lead entering the second quarter to 11 points by the break.
Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs delivered the biggest comeback of the National Basketball Association season on Wednesday with a 114-104 win over the Sacramento Kings to extend their winning streak to nine games.
Coming back from as many as 28 points, the Spurs improved to 50-13 on the season, giving them their 18th straight 50-win season. San Antonio has now won 50 or more games every season since 1997-98, except in the strike-shortened 1998-99 campaign, when they went 37-13.
In 28 years, the Spurs have had just one losing season, when they finished 20-62 in 1996-97.
Manu Ginobili scored a season-high 19 points and David Lee equalled his season-best scoring output with 18 points as the shorthanded Spurs roared from behind in front of a crowd of 18,400 at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs rested star forwards Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge and trailed by as many as 28 points in the second quarter before their scorers took over.
“It was a really bad start for us, but once we started getting back on defence and making them score in the half-court, we turned up the pressure a little bit,” Lee said.
“We are always going to fight as a team. We knew if we got a few stops in a row and every hustle play, we could get to within striking distance.
“Being down 28 seemed like a lot of points, but we were able to chop away and make it work.”
San Antonio never led until a Patty Mills three-pointer with 6:26 to play gave them a 95-92 advantage.
Another Mills three-pointer and free throw almost three minutes later gave the Spurs’ a 99-94 lead and the Kings couldn’t stay with them.
Danny Green drained consecutive three-pointers in the final 2:20 to help San Antonio secure the win.
Mills finished with 17 points while Jonathon Simmons and Green scored 14 points each.
“It was a team effort -- we had 33 assists,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “Everybody chipped in and did what they had to do by getting up into the Kings after the first quarter.
“They took some pride in it. They wanted to win the game. I thought the whole team effort was fantastic.”
Boston took charge after a dunk by Draymond Green that gave the Celtics an 80-79 lead in a game that featured eight lead changes and eight ties in the first 41 minutes.
Jae Crowder hit three-pointers on consecutive possessions during a 15-0 fourth-quarter surge that helped propel the Celtics to victory.
“We didn’t want to turn the ball over. We believed in our guys and they did the job,” Thomas said.
Boston improved to 41-24 on the season and won for the second time in four games on its Western trip. That allowed the Celtics to remain a game ahead of the Washington Wizards in the battle for the No. 2 playoff position.
The road-weary Warriors fell to 52-12 as they lost for the third time in five games and saw their lead over red-hot San Antonio atop the West cut to 1 1/2 games.
Golden State played without Kevin Durant (sprained left knee), who tallied 23 points to lead the Warriors to a lopsided win earlier in the season at Boston.
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