The Celtics put their 13 game win streak on the line as they host the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are on a 7 game win streak of their own. Last season, the series was tied 1-1 with both teams winning on the road. The Celtics won 99-86 in Oakland while the Warriors won 104-88 in Boston.
The Celtics starters in that loss at home were Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson. Things sure have changed. However, the Warriors started the same lineup as is projected to start in this game. The Warriors are 5-1 on the road and also 5-1 vs Eastern Conference foes. The Celtics are 6-1 at home and 4-0 against Western Conference teams.
The Warriors have won 7 straight games by an average of 19.8 points. The Celtics have won 13 straight games by an average of 8.1 points. The Celtics snapped the Warriors 54 game home win streak when they beat them in Oakland on April 2, 2016. They will play once again in Oakland on January 21.
Stephen Curry missed the Warriors last game against the Magic with a thigh contusion. He is listed as probable for this game. The Celtics should be at full strength other than Gordon Hayward, who likely out all season. Kyrie Irving has one game behind him with the face mask on and hopefully he will be more used to it for this game as the Celtics will need him at 100%.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris
C: Al Horford
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Two Way Players
Probable Warriors Starters
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Draymond Green
C: Zaza Pachulia
Stephen Curry (thigh) probable
Two Way Players
Kyrie Irving vs Stephen Curry
Both players are very tough to stop and can put up a lot of points in a hurry. Curry is just returning from a thigh contusion while Kyrie is playing with a face mask due to a facial fracture. Hopefully Kyrie remembers his newfound defense because he will need it to check Curry who is averaging 25.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.7steals. He is shooting 46.7% from the field and 38.8% from beyond the arc.
Jaylen Brown vs Klay Thompson
The Celtics youngsters are going to be challenged in this game for certain, especially on the defensive end as they try to slow down the Warriors' stars. Thompson is averaging 20.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. He is shooting 51.1% from the field and 44.3% from 3 point distance.
Jayson Tatum vs Kevin Durant
The Celtics' rookie will be tasked with trying to slow down former MVP Kevin Durant. Durant is averaging 24.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.23 blocks. He is shooting 53.5% from the field and 44.3% from beyond the arc. Tatum will have his work cut out for him and will need every bit of that maturity and defense that he has been showing so far this season.
Marcus Morris vs Draymond Green
Green is averaging 10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 1.07 steals. He is shooting 52% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. Green does a little bit of everything for the Warriors and is a good defender.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Warriors can put up points quickly and in bunches. They are averaging a league leading 119.4 points per game. It will be important for the Celtics to bring their league leading defensive intensity into this game, especially to shut down the Warriors' fast breaks as they can get up the floor very quickly. The Celtics must especially guard the perimeter as the Warriors are very dangerous from beyond the arc shooting 41.3% from beyond the arc as a team. The Celtics hope of winning this game is to play lock down defense. The Warriors aren't terrible on defense with a defensive rating of 101.8, good for 7th in the league.
Rebound - The Celtics need to crash the boards to keep the Warriors from igniting their fast breaks. The Celtics also need to rebound to give themselves second chance points and limit the second chance points for the Warriors. This is one area that the Celtics have a slight advantage over the Warriors. The Celtics are 4th with 47.6 rebounds per game while the Warriors are 1th with 44.9 rebounds per game.
Take Care of the Ball - The Warriors can be very disruptive by getting into the passing lanes, averaging 8.6 steals per game. The Celtics need to stay focused and not give the Warriors any easy opportunities to steal the ball or to get out on the break. If the Celtics get sloppy with the ball, the Warriors will make them pay.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to come out focused and play hard from start to finish. The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team throughout the game. They must be aggressive on defense, on the boards, in chasing down loose balls, and in taking the ball to the hoop and not settling for jumpers. They will need energy and extra effort from every player on the team. They allowed the Nets to play with more energy at times and they can't do that against the Warriors.
Run, Run Run! - The Celtics play best when they run on every possession and run back on defense as well. The Warriors love to run and the Celtics have to match their effort and energy and keep up with the Warriors running game and even better, out run them.
The Celtics have to be focused on the game and not on all the hype of the Warriors and their stars. The Warriors are a veteran team for the most part and so won't be affected as much by playing on the road as young teams are at times. The only way the Celtics will get a win in this game is to outwork the Warriors and stay focused on the task at hand.
Both of these teams are relatively deep. The Celtics bench is averaging 44.4 points and 25.2 rebounds per game. The Warriors bench is averaging 44.9 points and 21.2 rebounds per game. The Celtics will need a better game from their bench than they got against the Nets when they scored just 13 points. The Celtics will need a good game from each of their reserves.
The Celtics players gave the home crowd credit for helping them come back from 18 points down against the Hornets. The Garden crowd can be loud and make it hard for opposing teams to play well in the building. If ever the Celtics needed the fans to be loud and give them a boost, it is in this game.