The Celtics continue their road trip with a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals. The Celtics take on the Golden State Warriors for the first time since they lost the Finals in 6 games. This is the first of 2 games between these two teams. They will play for the 2nd and final time in Boston on January 9. They were 1-1 last season with each team winning on the road.
The Celtics are 208-137 overall all time against the Warriors and are 94-97 when playing at Golden State. The Celtics have won the last 4 meetings at Golden State. This is the Warriors last game before heading out on a 6 game in 9 days road trip. The Celtics are playing in the 4th game of a 6 game in 10 days road trip that includes 2 back to back sets. They are 3-0 so far on the trip.
The Celtics are 1st in the East, 2 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee and 4.5 games ahead of 3rd place Cleveland. They are 10-3 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 6-0 against Western Conference teams. They have won their last 3 games. The Warriors are 10th in the West, 4 games behind 1st place New Orleans and 5.5 games ahead of last place Houston. They are 11-2 at home and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 4-5 against Eastern Conference Teams and have lost their last 2 games.
Celtics fans were very excited for a short time on Friday when Robert Williams hinted that he might be back for this game against the Warriors. However, he was later ruled out for this game when the NEBHInjuryReport came out. Also ruled out for this game is Al Horford, who remains in Health and Safety Protocols. Danilo Gallinari also remains out as he rehabs from an ACL tear.
For the Warriors, Andrew Wiggins injured his groin on Saturday against the Rockets and missed Monday and Wednesday’s games. He has been ruled out for this game. Andre Iguodala has yet to make his season debut due to a hip injury. I’m guessing that the Celtics will start Blake Griffin at center and Grant Williams at power forward once again. I’m also guessing that Jordan Poole will once again start at small forward in place of Andrew Wiggins.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Grant Williams
C: Blake Griffin
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Al Horford (covid) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Warriors Starters
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Jordan Poole
PF: Draymond Green
C: Kevon Looney
Patrick Baldwin, Jr
2 Way Players
Andre Iguodala (hip) out
Andrew Wiggins (groin) out
Marcus Smart vs Stephen Curry
Curry is averaging 30.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 49.9% from the field and 43.2% from beyond the arc. The Celtics have to find some way to slow him down and keep him from willing the Warriors to a win. Marcus Smart has done a good job when he has defended Curry but with the Celtics switching defense, everyone must step up and defend better.
Jaylen Brown vs Klay Thompson
Thompson has struggled as he made his way back from two terrible injuries but is playing well in recent games. He is averaging 18.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He is shooting 39.6% from the field and 33.2% from beyond the arc. He is also a good defender and will try to make it difficult on Jaylen Brown. The Celtics will need a big game from Brown on both ends of the court if they are going to win this game.
Jayson Tatum vs Jordan Poole
Poole has become a key player for the Warriors and even more so now that Andrew Wiggins is out. He is averaging 17.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. He is shooting 43.6% from the field and 33.2% from beyond the arc. Jayson Tatum will need to play well both on offense and defense for the Celtics to win this game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to winning. The Celtics have been playing much better on defense in recent games. They have worked their way up to 9th with a defensive rating of 110.8. Hopefully they continue that trend in this game because the Warriors are a very good shooting team and the Celtics will need to up their defense if they want to beat the Warriors at home. The Warriors are 4th in the league, averaging 117.4 points per game. The Warriors are 21st with a defensive rating of 112.7 but like the Celtics have picked up their defense in recent games and since November 7, the Warriors have the 6th best defensive rating. Since both teams are high scoring and good offensive teams, it is likely that the team that defends better will be the winner.
Rebound - Rebounding is always a key to winning as you need the ball to score and a good way to get it is to rebound the ball. It takes effort to grab rebounds and the Celtics must make an extra effort to crash the boards and beat the Warriors to rebounds, especially on the offensive end. If they put out extra effort on the boards, that usually carries through to the rest of their game. More rebounds gives them extra possessions and limits the possessions for the Warriors. The Celtics are 11-1 when they out rebound their opponents. They have to work harder for every rebound than the Warriors.
Focus on Playing the Right Way - The Celtics have to stay focused and play the right way. They have to move the ball and move without the ball to get the best shots. They can’t lapse into hero ball for any period of time during the game. The Celtics usually are money from beyond the arc but if the threes aren’t falling for any player, they have to drive into the paint or find players who are hitting their 3’s. Most of all, they need to stay focused for all 4 quarters and not let up from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
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. When the Celtics have lost this season, it’s because they allowed their opponents to be more aggressive and to play harder than them. Effort and being more aggressive will likely be the difference in this game.
Bench Play - Bench play was a big difference between these two teams in the playoffs. The Celtics simply didn’t get enough from their reserves. But the Celtics have built a stronger bench, even though it will be weaker due to Horford and Timelord being out. The Warriors lost some key bench players while the Celtics added some. The Warriors have a Bench Net Rating of -5.2, which is 29th in the league. The Celtics have a Net Bench Rating of 2.8, which is 4th. The Celtics need their reserve players to continue to play well in this game.
On the Road - The Celtics are once again on the road for the 4th straight game. The Celtics need to shake off the distractions of travel, being away from home, and playing on the road in front of a hostile crowd, not to mention against a very good Warriors team that plays tough at home (11-2 this season). The Celtics have played very well on the road so far with a 10-3 record and 3 straight road wins on this trip. They need to continue to focus on playing the right way and not on the distractions of playing on the road.
Coaching - Steve Kerr is experienced and has won Championships with this Warriors team. He has been head coach of the Warriors since 2014 and has won 4 championships with them. He was Coach of the Year in 2016 and is a top 15 coach in the NBA. Steve Kerr also out coached Ime Udoka in the 2022 Finals. Joe Mazzulla is a rookie head coach that was given 2 weeks notice that he would be coaching the Celtics this season. He will have his work cut out for him in this game.
Officiating - Officiating always has the potential to be a factor in every game. Every officiating team calls the game differently. Some call it tight and others let them play. Some favor the home team while some call it evenly. 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. Complaining about calls rarely changes anything other than to take away from their focus on playing the game and sometimes irritate the officials. Hopefully the officials let them play and keep Draymond Green’s antics from getting out of hand in this game.