The Celtics begin their difficult West Coast trip with a stop in Oakland to take on the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors beat the Celtics 115-111 in their first meeting in Boston on January 26. The Warriors haven’t swept the series against the Celtics since 2014-15 and will definitely be looking to change that with a win in this game.
The Celtics remain in 5th place in the East, 2.5 games behind 4th place Philadelphia and 2 games behind 3rd place Indiana. They are 3-7 in their last 10 games and are 14-16 on the road. They are 10-13 vs Western Conference teams. They lost their last game and 5 of the last 6 and are looking to get back on track on this road trip.
Amid reports that Kyrie is ‘disengaged and detached’ from his teammates, and that he has been disinterested in interviews, there have been photos posted of the whole team, including Kyrie laughing and having fun at practice on Monday. The team, including Kyrie, looked loose and like they are getting along and having fun. Hopefully that will show up in their play in this game.
The Warriors are in first place in the West. They are a very good home team with a 23-8 record at Oracle Arena. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games, having just returned from an East Coast trip. This is the first game of a 3 game home stand for them. They are 18-7 vs Eastern Conference teams.
The Celtics are finally healthy with no one listed on the injury list. The Warriors have several players who are out or questionable. Kevon Looney (pelvis) and Damian Jones (pectoral) are both out. Klay Thompson missed Saturday’s game vs the Sixers with a knee injury. He was moving well at practice and was seen getting shots up but is not expected to play in this one.
Alfonzo McKinnie started for Thompson on Saturday but played just 7 minutes and left with a hip injury and didn’t return. He is listed as probable for this game and may get the start for Klay Thompson once again. Andre Iguodala missed Monday’s practice but went through shoot around and is expected to play in this game. Iguodala may start in place of Thompson but I’m guessing he will stay with the second unit.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris, Sr.
C: Al Horford
Robert Williams III
Terry Rozier III
Two Way Players
P. J. Dozier
Probable Warriors Starters
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Alfonzo McKinnie
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Draymond Green
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Jacob Evans III
Damian Jones (pectoral) out
Kevon Looney (pelvis) out
Klay Thompson (knee) out
Andre Iguodala (back) probable
Alfonzo McKinnie (hip) 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, who is averaging 28.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.3steals, is tough to guard. He is also shooting 44% from beyond the arc. Although, Kyrie has been slacking on defense lately, hopefully he can step it up in this game slow Steph down.
Jayson Tatum vs Kevin Durant
Tatum will be tasked with trying to slow down former MVP Kevin Durant. Durant is averaging 27.6 points, 6.9. rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.2 blocks. He is shooting 51.3% from the field and is dangerous both inside and out. Tatum will have his work cut out for him and will need every bit of maturity and defense that he can muster.
Al Horford vs DeMarcus Cousins
With Thompson out, the next most important matchup would be at the center position. Cousins is averaging 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Horford should pull him away from the basket if he can hit his outside shots. Having Baynes back should help with the center matchup also.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Warriors can put up points quickly and in bunches. They are averaging a league leading 118.6 points per game. It will be important for the Celtics to bring defensive intensity into this game, especially to shut down the Warriors’ fast breaks as they can get up the floor very quickly and are 2ndin the league with 19.4 fast break points per game. The Celtics must especially guard the perimeter as the Warriors are very dangerous from beyond the arc shooting 38% (3rd)from beyond the arc as a team. The Celtics hope of winning this game is to play lock down defense.
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. Much of rebounding is effort and desire and the Celtics have to put out extra effort on the boards if they want to win this game.
Take Care of the Ball - The Warriors can be very disruptive by getting into the passing lanes, averaging 7.6 steals per game. Against the Rockets, the Celtics turned it over several times early and that led to the lead that became inurmountable for them. 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. The Warriors play all out every game and the Celtics will need to match their intensity in this one.
Play Celtics Ball - The Celtics must play as a team and trust each other and have each others’ backs. They have to move the ball and find the open man. They have to move without the ball to give themselves the best shot possible. They have to play team defense and play with energy and heart. They have played this way at times but then lapse into hero ball and disjointed play at other times. They need to play team ball for 48 minutes.
Focus on Offense - The Celtics’ offense has been faltering at times and they have gone through long offensive droughts in games. They have to keep their focus and look for the open man to get the best shots and then take their time to be sure to hit their shots. If the outside shots aren’t falling, they need to get to the basket and even then, they need to focus on their shots as they have been missing a lot of bunnies as well. If they keep their focus, they should be able to eliminate those long droughts without any scoring.
On the Road - The Celtics are beginning a tough 4 game road trip and are playing in a hostile arena and playing the reigning champions. 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.
Full Game Effort - Can the Celtics play like they actually like each other? Can they put together a whole game like the 4th quarter against the Rockets? We see their potential come out in stretches but either they start strong and get a big lead and then let up and allow the opponent to take over or they start off slow and spend the rest of the game trying to catch up. Can the Celtics finally put together a whole game of all out effort from everyone?