The Celtics begin their 5 game road trip with a stop in San Francisco to take on the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are playing in their second straight home game and then will go on a 4 game road trip. The Warriors are looking for their second straight win while the Celtics are hoping to end a 2 game losing streak.
The Celtics have dropped to 5th place in the East, 3.5 games behind the 76ers. The Warriors are 8th in the West, 4.5 games behind the 1st place Clippers. However, there are 5 teams that are 4.5 games back, including Memphis, Phoenix, Portland, San Antonio and Golden State.
The Celtics are 5-5 on the road while the Warriors are 8-4 at home. Both teams are 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 1-2 vs Western Conference teams while the Warriors are 4-4 vs Eastern Conference teams. These two teams tied the series last season with each team winning on their home court.
The Celtics will be short handed in this game as they will be missing the heart and soul of their defense. Marcus Smart is expected to miss the entire Western road trip with a calf injury that he suffered in the 4th quarter vs the Lakers. They certainly could use his defense against Stephen Curry, who is leading the NBA in 3 pointers and is 6th in the league in scoring.
Romeo Langford is still out as he rehabs his wrist but is getting closer to a return. Payton Pritchard is also out after spraining his knee and is expected to return after the road trip. I’m guessing that Jaylen Brown will move to the shooting guard and Jayson Tatum will move up to small forward and that Brad will go back to the double big, but this is just a wild guess on my part.
For the Warriors, Marquese Chriss (ankle), Allen Smailagic (knee), Klay Thompson (Achilles), and James Wiseman (wrist) are all out. Eric Paschall is questionable with back spasms. Draymond Green (adductor) is probable. I have listed the starting lineup for the Warriors that has started their last 4 games and is 3-1 in those last 4 games.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Daniel Theis
C: Tristan Thompson
Robert Williams III
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Payton Pritchard (knee) out
Marcus Smart (calf) out
Probable Warriors Starters
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Kelly Oubre, Jr
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Draymond Green
C: Kevon Looney
Marquese Chriss (ankle) out
Allen Smailagic (knee) out
Klay Thompson (Achilles) out
James Wiseman (wrist) out
Nico Mannion (G-League) out
Jordan Poole (G-League) out
Eric Paschall (back) probable
Draymond Green (adductor) probable
Kemba Walker vs Stephen Curry
Curry is 6th in the league, averaging 27.7 points to go with 5.4 rebounds, and 6.1 assists. He is shooting 46% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc. The Celtics certainly will miss Marcus Smart’s defense in this one. If Curry gets hot, look for Jaylen Brown to guard him.
Jayson Tatum vs Andrew Wiggins
If my guess is correct that Jayson will play small forward, then he will be matched up with Andrew Wiggins, who is playing very well for the Warriors. He is averaging 17.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. He is shooting 47% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc. Whoever guards him will need to keep him off the 3 point line.
Jaylen Brown vs Kelly Oubre, Jr
Oubre is the 3rd highest scorer in the Warriors’ starting lineup. He is averaging 12.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He is not shooting particularly well, shooting 37% from the field and 23% from outside. Jaylen Brown may or may not start at shooting guard and we may see him on Curry at times.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics need to make defense a priority, which we haven’t seen on a consistent basis this season. It will be a lot tougher without their best defender on the court. Both teams have a defensive rating of 108.9. The Warriors are averaging 112.4 points per game while the Celtics are averaging 111.6 points. They have to play tough defense if they have any hopes of winning this game.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 44.3 rebounds per game while the Warriors are averaging 44.2 rebounds per game. 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.
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 Warriors.
Next Man Up - The Celtics will be without the heart and soul of the team. Smart usually is the player who sparks a run and the player who holds everyone else accountable and he is definitely the heart of the defense. Every player on the team needs to step up and help to fill that void.
On the Road - The Celtics are beginning a tough 5 game road trip and had to travel across the country to get here. There are no fans, but the Celtics need to shake off the distractions of travel, being away from home, and playing on the road. They need to stick together and keep each other focused.
Next Man Up - It may not always show in the box score, but Marcus Smart is a key part of the team and the Celtics are going to miss him. Will someone step up and fill in the void that his absence will cause. This is both a key to the game and also an x-factor.
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 and not allow the officiating to mess with their focus.