The Celtics begin a 5 game western road trip with a stop at the brand new Chase Center to face the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are 1-5 at home while the Celtics are 4-1 on the road. The Celtics are 2-0 vs the West while the Warriors are 0-1 vs Eastern teams. The Celtics have won their last 9 games while the Warriors have lost 5 straight.
The Celtics and Warriors both lost All Star players to the Brooklyn Nets over the off season with Kyrie Irving leaving the Celtics for the Nets and Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors to go to Brooklyn also. Both also have added an All Star point guard to their rosters. Celtics added Kemba Walker while the Warriors added D’Angelo Russell.
Last year in head to head matchups, Kemba averaged 30.3 points while D’Angelo averaged 27.8 points. This year, both are leading their respective teams once again. Kemba is tied for 2nd in the league with 44 three pointers so far. D’Angelo Russell is tied for 22nd with 27 three pointers this season.
The Warriors have played just one Eastern Conference team so far, losing to the Hornets. The two teams that they have beaten so far are the Pelicans and the Trail Blazers. The Celtics and the Warriors split the series last year with each team winning on the road. This is the first of two games between the Celtics and Warriors this season. The Warriors will play the Celtics in Boston on January 30.
The Warriors have been dominant in recent years, winning 3 championships over the past 5 years. They have been decimated by injuries and free agencies since they lost to the Raptors in the Finals last year. Teams are now seeing that they are vulnerable and are taking aim at them to get them back for all of the antics the Warriors pulled over the past 5 seasons as their egos ballooned.
The Celtics were missing two big men against the Mavericks and Daniel Theis (hand) and Robert Williams (ankle) are both listed as a game time decision for this game. I’m assuming that Enes Kanter will once again start but it’s possible that Daniel Theis or Robert Williams may start if one or both are available to play.
Daniel Theis posted on Instagram the message “Back at it” and so hopefully that means he will be playing. Although, it may also just mean that the team is back at it. If he can play, I think he has earned the starting spot, but you never know what Brad Stevens is thinking. We probably won’t know for sure until just before game time. Gordon Hayward is out with the hand injury.
The Warriors have been hit hard by injuries. Steph Curry is out for 3 months with a hand injury. Klay Thompson is out for the year with a knee injury. Jacob Evans (hip), Kevon Looney (hamstring), and Alen Smailagic (ankle) are also all out for this game. Damion Lee, a two way player, is also out with a hand injury.
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Enes Kanter
Gordon Hayward (hand) out
Daniel Theis (hand) game time decision
Robert Williams (ankle) game time decision
Two Way Players
Probable Warriors Starters
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Jordan Poole
SF: Glenn Robinson III
PF: Draymond Green
C: Willie Cauley-Stein
Stephen Curry (hand) out
Jacob Evans III (hip) out
Kevon Looney (hamstring) out
Alen Smailagic (ankle) out
Klay Thompson (knee) out
Damion Lee (hand) out
Two Way Players
Kemba Walker vs D’Angelo Russell
Russell has been the lone bright spot for the Warriors in the midst of this injury riddled start to the season. He is averaging 25.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 6.7 assists. He is shooting 45% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. We will likely see Marcus Smart defending Russell and Kemba on Poole, who is averaging 9.8 points while shooting 28% from the field.
Jayson Tatum vs Draymond Green
Green is the lone hold over that is still playing from last year’s all star starting lineup. He is averaging 8.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists. He is shooting 41% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc. He tends to play a bit dirty and can be a handful if allowed to get into the paint. He is also capable of putting up big numbers if not well guarded. We may see Marcus Smart guarding him from time to time if he looks like he is going to have a big game. Grant Williams and Semi Ojeleye may also get a turn at guarding him.
Jaylen Brown vs Glen Robinson III
Robinson is averaging 10.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. He is shooting 49% from the field and 36.4% from beyond the arc. Brown should be able to cover him without much of a problem. It will also be important for Brown to continue to score and be a force on the offensive end.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics need to make defense a priority. Defense wins games. After allowing 133 points in their last game, the Celtics have dropped to 12th with a defensive rating of 104.7. The Warriors have the worst defensive rating in the league at 117.2. The Celtics won a shoot out with the Wizards and didn’t play much defense in their last game but they can’t get used to that. They have to play tough defense if they have any hopes of being a contender.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 46.2 rebounds per game while the Warriors are averaging 43.5 rebounds per game. The Celtics may be missing two of their big men and so everyone must make an extra effort to crash the boards and pull down rebounds. If they put out extra effort on the boards, that usually carries through to the rest of their game.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team from start to finish. They need to be aggressive in going to the hoop, in crashing the boards, in fighting for loose balls and in running the court. They also have to be more aggressive on defense. They have to be the team that wants it more. If the Celtics want to get a win in this game, they have to play harder than the Wizards.
Next Man Up - The Celtics may once again be without Theis, Williams and they definitely will be without Hayward. Enes Kanter is still not back to 100%, although he played quite will against the Wizards. Every player on the team needs to step up and help to fill the void left by the injured players.
On the Road - The Celtics are beginning a tough 5 game road trip and are playing in a hostile arena. Young players often struggle with focus on the road and the Celtics young players need to dig deep and shake off the distractions of playing on the road and in front of hostile fans. They need to stick together and keep each other focused.
Underestimation - It would be easy for the Celtics to underestimate the Warriors, who are just 2-10 and are weakened by injuries. Will they come out with a sense of urgency, even though the Warriors are struggling? Will the Celtics play hard and not let up? They took their foot off the gas against the Wizards at the end and almost let the game slip away. They can’t do that on the road and they can’t underestimate a team, no matter what their record is.