The Celtics host the Golden State Warriors as they continue their home stand. This is the second of a 5 game home stand for the Celtics. They won the first game against the Bucks on Monday. The Warriors are playing in the 4th game of a 5 game road trip. They last played on Tuesday at New York when Steph Curry broke Ray Allen’s 3 point record. They will complete their road trip on Saturday in Toronto.
This is the 1st of two games between these two teams this season. They will meet again on March 16 at Golden State. The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season. The Celtics have won 7 of the last 9 games against the Warriors. Both teams are playing the first of back to back games. The Celtics are 4-2 on the first night of back to back games and they are 1-0 when both games are at home. The Warriors last won in Boston on January 26, 2019.
The Celtics lead the series 207-136 all time. They lead the series in Boston 114-39. The Celtics are 10th in the East. They are coming off 1 win on Monday. They are 7-4 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They are 5-6 against Western Conference teams. The Warriors are first in the West and also first in the league. They have won their last 2 games. They are 9-3 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 11-2 against Eastern Conference teams.
The Celtics will be without Jabari Parker, who entered the health and safety protocols after not feeling well at Thursday’s practice. Romeo Langford also missed practice with an illness but is not currently on the injury list. Bruno Fernando is questionable with a back injury. For the Warriors, Klay Thompson has not played this season after tearing his Achilles last season. James Wiseman also has not played yet this season after knee surgery in April. Both are working out in the G-League and are expected to return some time after Christmas.
Covid has caused several late scratches for this game for both teams. Grant Williams, Juancho Hernangomez, and Al Horford are both now in the health and safety protocols. Horford already had covid this season so that is a strange one. I’m going to guess that Dennis Schroder will start at the shooting guard spot, Jaylen Brown will move to small forward and Jayson Tatum will move to power forward. For the Warriors, Jordan Poole is also out due to covid and I’m guessing that Damion Lee will get the start in his place. Those are just my guesses, though.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Dennis Schroder
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Robert Williams III
Bruno Fernando (back) game time decision
Jabari Parker (covid) out
Al Horford (covid) out
Grant Williams (covid) out
Probable Warriors Starters
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Damion Lee
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Draymond Green
C: Kevon Looney
Gary Payton II
Otto Porter, Jr
Klay Thompson (Achilles) out
James Wiseman (knee) out
Jordan Poole (covid) out
Two Way Players
Jeff Dowtin, Jr
Marcus Smart vs Stephen Curry
Curry is a very tough cover for every team in the league as he can score from pretty much anywhere on the floor. He is averaging 26.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game. He is shooting 43.1% from the floor and 39.9% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to do their best to slow him down and try to keep him off of the 3 point line.
Jaylen Brown vs Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins is averaging 18.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists. He is shooting 48.8% from the field and 40.8% from beyond the arc. Jaylen Brown will need to play tough defense in this game for the Celtics to have a chance. Keeping Wiggins off the 3 point line is important since he shoots very well from there.
Jayson Tatum vs Draymond Green
Green is averaging 8.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks. He is shooting 55.6% from the field and 30.8% from beyond the arc. He does a little of everything for the Warriors and it will be important to keep him out of the paint where he can score, rebound and also find the open man on the perimeter. It will also be important for Jayson Tatum to continue to play well on both ends of the court.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to winning every single game. It’s not surprising that the number one team in the league is also the best defensive team with a defensive rating of 100.2. The Warriors are the only team in the league that has not allowed an opponent to shoot 50% or better from the field this season. The Celtics are 10th with a defensive rating of 107.1. The Warriors are averaging 111.8 points per game (3rd) while the Celtics are averaging 108.3 points (13th). The Celtics have proved that they are capable of playing good defense but too often they slack off on that end. They must make defense a priority if they hope to win this game. The Celtics must especially guard the perimeter as the Warriors are third in 3 pointers attempted and 2nd in 3 pointers made.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 45.8 rebounds per game (8th) while the Warriors are averaging 47.0 rebounds per game (3rd). It takes effort to grab rebounds and the Celtics 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.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics have had games where they turn the ball over on possession after possession. They have to clean that up if they hope to keep winning. The Warriors are third in the league with 19.2 points off turnovers and so if the Celtics get sloppy in this one, the Warriors will make them pay with points at the other end.
Be Aggressive for 48 Minutes - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team from start to finish. They need to be aggressive in going to the hoop and not just settle for 3’s especially if they aren’t falling. They have to be aggressive 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 come out strong and play hard right up until the final buzzer. The way the Warriors have been playing, if the Celtics slack off for any period of time during the game, the Warriors will surge ahead.
Play as a Team - The Celtics have to play as a team and move the ball and trust each other and not play iso-ball. They need to keep the ball moving and they need to find the open man. They have to play team defense and have each others’ backs and make sure they don’t miss defensive assignments.
Motivation - The Warriors have the motivation to keep their first place position in the league. They also know that the Celtics swept them last season and have pretty much had their number over the last 4 seasons. They also have motivation to give their coach another win. Steve Kerr is 1 win away from 400 career wins. I’m sure the players are aware of it and will do their best to get their coach to 400 wins.
Next Man Up - With the late scratches due to players being placed in the health and safety protocols, both teams are going to have to play without key players. The Warriors will miss Jordan Poole and the Celtics will be without both Al Horford and Grant Williams. It goes without saying that the Celtics are missing more than the Warriors and it will be up to the rest of the team to work harder to make up for their absences.
Officiating - Officiating isn’t always a factor but it always has the potential to be a factor. Every officiating team calls the game differently. Some call it tight and others let them play. Some are tech happy while others let more go. Some favor the home team while some call is straight. However the game is called, the Celtics must adjust to it and not allow the officiating to take away their focus on playing the game.