This is a game that needs no introduction.
Every Celtics fan remembers what happened the last time these two teams met – how Stephen Curry and the Warriors snatched away a championship that Boston, frankly, should have won.
This game may not have quite as much buzz, but it is one of the more compelling regular-season matchups in recent memory. The Celtics (21-5) are playing way better basketball at the moment, but the Warriors (13-13) are always fully capable of rising to the occasion.
Here are three storylines to monitor:
How do the Celtics handle their emotions?
This isn’t just another game to them. Well, maybe it is to any players who weren’t part of that series, but to the ones that were, this one is personal.
Professional athletes generally have an exceptional ability to block out the outside noise and focus on the task at hand. Even so, this is a particularly daunting challenge. The Celtics left that series genuinely believing they were the better team, and they’re probably right.
A few plays here, a few plays there, and Banner 18 is hanging in the rafters.
This game can’t erase that, of course, but it can help remove some of the burden. Winning by 30 would help, but winning a tight, well-played, defensive battle would actually be more beneficial, both short and long term.
There’s a very decent chance they’ll meet again, and they want to go in with their confidence extremely high.
"Nobody in that locker room is satisfied"— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) December 8, 2022
Jayson Tatum on Celtics' motivation after the big win against Phoenix pic.twitter.com/UpCL0c0PJB
Can Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown take care of the ball?
Let’s start by pointing out the obvious – without Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics would be an average NBA team. They were both brilliant during the postseason run and carried them to the Finals.
Having said that, their attention to detail against the Warriors wasn't up to par last summer. They had the ball in their hands constantly, and while some mistakes are inevitable, the number of poor decisions was alarming.
Tatum averaged an impressive seven assists in the Finals, but he turned it over 3.8 times per game, including six in Game 4 and five in Game 6. Brown coughed it up 3.3 times per game, including five in both Game 5 and Game 6.
Tatum shot just 36.7 percent from the field and 65.6 percent from the line and often looked out of sorts. Brown was terrific most of the series, but the turnovers came at costly moments.
Jaylen Brown says the Celtics were "humbled" by their loss in the NBA Finals & it's been a driving force behind their success pic.twitter.com/9kb8gmRDfX— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) December 8, 2022
OK, sorry for the flashback. You’ve already been through it once and don’t need to relive it. I get it, and I sincerely apologize. But seriously, it will be telling how they handle doubles, traps and general congestion.
When two Warriors come flying at Tatum, will he look like 2022 Finals Tatum or 2023 potential MVP Tatum? This is our chance to find out. Having Malcolm Brogdon nearby should help immensely, but it’s ultimately up to Tatum and Brown to stay poised.
Who plays for the Warriors?
Will Curry (left ankle soreness), Draymond Green (left hip tightness) and Andrew Wiggins (right adductor strain) play?
If not, this matchup naturally doesn’t have quite the same juice. A Finals rematch with Ty Jerome and Anthony Lamb logging heavy minutes – as they did Wednesday night in those players’ absence – could end up yielding an anticlimactic result.
Chances are Curry won’t miss it, but we shall see. If they’re out, the Celtics have zero reason to lose the game. If they play, it’s anyone’s ballgame. This feels like either a game the Celtics win by 30 or one that comes down to the wire.