OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry nailed a long jumper with 2.1 seconds to go to lift the exhausted Golden State Warriors to a 99-97 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday night.
Perhaps still weary from their just-completed seven-game road trip, the Warriors had to dig deep to find their legs at times but still managed to return to their winning ways before 19,596 at Oracle Arena.
Now Golden State (25-14) -- winner of 11 of its past 12 -- can finally catch up on some rest before it returns to action Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets.
The Warriors had energy to start the second half, much as they did early in the game. Golden State went on a 14-5 run and Curry hit his first two 3s of the night during that stretch as it pulled ahead 61-56 after trailing by two at halftime.
But maintaining the energy continued to be the issue, particularly with almost no production from the bench. That was until the final 31/2 minutes of the third quarter when Marreese Speights went on a personal 7-0 run. He scored nine straight overall for the Warriors as they took a 72-67 lead after three.
The Warriors extended the lead to double-digits for the first time early in the fourth when Curry connected on a four-point play as he drained a 3 while being fouled. Andre Iguodala followed with a steal and dunk that created the largest roars to that point as Golden State led 82-69.
That large advantage quickly evaporated as Boston scored nine straight points. The Celtics cut the lead to one on three occasions but missed two opportunities to take the lead.
The Warriors' Harrison Barnes made one of two free throws with 20.2 left for a 97-95 lead but Boston's Jeff Green tied the game with a running shot with 11.6 seconds to go.
Golden State called timeout to advance to the frontcourt and inbounded to Curry. He dribbled before stepping just inside the 3-point line to nail the game-winner. A last-second 3 by Boston's Gerald Wallace missed badly.
The Warriors were fresh early, and Curry even delivered a rare dunk after Iguodala stole a lazy Celtics pass and it got tipped ahead for the two-handed jam. Despite going 0 for 4 from 3-point range, Golden State led throughout the first quarter.
The Celtics were kept in the game by Green. He had 11 points in the quarter and had two highlight plays, scoring on a nifty reverse dunk and a reverse layup that he turned into a three-point play.
Boston grabbed the lead with an 11-2 run early in the second quarter that featured heavy dose of Jared Sullinger. The second-year forward had nine points during that stretch and had 14 during the quarter as the Celtics pulled ahead 34-28 -- their largest lead of the game.
-- The campaigning Warriors coach Mark Jackson has been doing for Curry seems to be helping out, as he rose to second in the Western Conference backcourt All-Star voting. He moved ahead of Clippers guard Chris Paul and remains behind only Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Jackson said Curry's performance in last year's playoffs is paying dividends.
"Where guys make their reputation in this league is the playoffs," Jackson said. "There's a minimum amount of games and everybody's watching, and he played his best basketball, so all of a sudden people are aware and alert of just how good he is."
-- Backup center Jermaine O'Neal is closer to returning to the Warriors than fellow backup center Festus Ezeli and "I don't think it's even close," Jackson said. O'Neal is recovering from right wrist surgery performed Dec. 13, and Ezeli is trying to come back from right knee surgery he had in June that was supposed to keep him out six to nine months.
Jackson said O'Neal is "running and getting in as close to game shape as possible."
-- The Warriors recalled rookie guard Nemanja Nedovic from Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League on Friday. He's averaged 19.0 points and 3.6 assists in three stints with Santa Cruz this season.
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