The Celtics begin their 4 game Western road trip with a stop in San Francisco to take on the Golden State Warriors. This is the second and final game between these two teams this season. The first game between them was in Boston on December 17. In spite of the Celtics outshooting the Warriors overall and on 3-pointers and making three more free throws and tying them on the boards, the Warriors won 111-107.
The Celtics were without Grant Williams, Jabari Parker, Sam Hauser, Juancho Hernangomez, Al Horford and Dennis Schroder, all of whom were out due to health and safety protocols. The Warriors were without Jordan Poole. Klay Thompson and James Wiseman hadn’t played at all to that point. There was a controversial call at half time of that game when Marcus Smart was called for a foul on a Stephen Curry 50-foot buzzer-beating heave. Ime Udoka complained about the call and was called for a technical foul. Curry made all 4 free throws and those 4 points ended up as the difference in the game.
Thompson is now back and playing well but Wiseman is still out. Draymond Green returned on Monday after missing 30 games. He came off the bench on Monday but may return to the starting lineup in this one. He is on a 20-23 minute restriction. If he starts, Jonathan Kuminga will return to the bench. Andrew Wiggins missed Monday’s game and Tuesday’s practice with an illness and is questionable for this game. If he can’t play, Jordan Poole will likely once again start in his place. Nemanja Bjelica is also questionable due to an illness. Monday was the first game that Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green played together since 2019.
The Celtics remain 5th in the East. They are coming off a loss to the Mavericks and are 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 17-16 on the road and 11-12 against Western Conference teams. They are just half a game behind 4th place Chicago, 1 game behind 3rd place Philadelphia, and 2 games behind 2nd place Milwaukee. They are 4.5 games out of first place. They are 1.5 games ahead of 6th place Cleveland, 2.5 games ahead of 7th place Toronto and 5.5 games ahead of 8th place Brooklyn.
The Warriors are 3rd in the West. They have won their last 4 games and are 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 29-7 at home and 19-6 against Eastern Conference teams. They are tied with the Grizzlies, who are 2nd due to owning the tie breaker with the Warriors. They are 7.5 games behind the first place Phoenix Suns. They are 4.5 games ahead of 4th place Utah Jazz. The West isn’t quite as tight at the top as the East is.
The Celtics are playing in the first game of a 4 game Western road trip. They will go to Sacramento, Denver and then Oklahoma City to close out the trip. They will then head home to face the Jazz and Timberwolves. The Celtics have 7 road games remaining after this one and 5 home games. The Warriors are playing in the 3rd game of a 4 game home stand. They won the first two games over the Bucks and the Wizards. They will play the Spurs on Sunday to close out the home stand. They will then head out on a 5 game Eastern road trip.
The Celtics have won 7 of their last 10 games over the Warriors and have won their last 3 on the road at Golden State. They swept the series 2-0 last season. They are 207-137 all time overall against the Warriors and 93-97 all time on the road at Golden State. Malik Fitts and Kelan Martin’s second 10 day contracts ran out on Tuesday. Martin was released and Fitts was signed through the 2022-23 season. Aaron Nesmith remains out with the ankle sprain.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
Aaron Nesmith (ankle) out
Probable Warriors Starters
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Jordan Poole
PF: Jonathan Kuminga
C: Kevon Looney
Otto Porter, Jr
Andre Iguodala (back) out
James Wiseman (knee) out
Gary Payton II (knee) out
Andrew Wiggins (illness) questionable
Nemanja Bjelica (illness) questionable
Two Way Players
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 25.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game. He is shooting 43.8% from the floor and 38.1% from beyond the arc. He is coming off a 47 point game against the Wizards. The Celtics need to do their best to slow him down.
Jaylen Brown vs Klay Thompson
Thompson is finally back on the court for the Warriors and is averaging 17.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. He is shooting 41.8% from the field and 37.1% from beyond the arc. Jaylen Brown will need to play tough defense in this game for the Celtics to have a chance. Keeping Thompson and Curry off the 3 point line is important since they are very dangerous from out there.
Jayson Tatum vs Jordan Poole
Poole is averaging 16.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. He is shooting 45.5% from the field and 35.8% from beyond the arc. Poole started on Monday because Andrew Wiggins was out with an injury. Wiggins missed practice on Tuesday and is questionable for this game. Wiggins is averaging 17.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists and is shooting 47.0% from the field and 40.1% from beyond the arc and is a game time decision for this game. Regardless of who starts for the Warriors, the Celtics will need a big game on both ends of the court from Jayson Tatum, who struggled against the Mavericks on Sunday.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to winning every single game. The Celtics are 1st with a defensive rating of 105.6. The Warriors are 3rd with a defensive rating of 105.9. The Warriors are averaging 111.6 points per game (10th) while the Celtics are averaging 109.5 points (16th). The Celtics must make defense a priority if they hope to win this game. The Celtics must especially guard the perimeter as the Warriors are 3rd in 3 pointers attempted and made. The Celtics struggled to score against a tough Mavericks defense on Sunday and hopefully they can figure that out and do better against the Warriors even tougher defense. The Warriors one weakness is that they are 29th in the league in turnovers with 14.9 per game. The Celtics can make them pay for that with good lock down defense.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 46.3 rebounds per game (4th) while the Warriors are averaging 45.4 rebounds per game (8th). 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. More rebounds gives them extra possessions and limits the possessions for the Warriors. They have to work harder on the boards than the Warriors.
Stay Focused - The Celtics must be focused on making good passes and not getting sloppy and careless with their passes. They also have to focus on taking care of the ball as they dribble and handle the ball and not turn it over. The Warriors are 5th in the league with 18.1 points off turnovers per game and if the Celtics lose focus and get sloppy they will definitely take advantage of it. The Mavericks’ defense seemed to take the Celtics out of their game. They must stay focused on taking good shots and on making them in spite of the Warriors tough defense.
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. Effort and being more aggressive may make the difference in this game.
Bench Play - The Celtics reserves gave them just 15 points against the Mavericks on Sunday. Only Payton Pritchard, Grant Williams and Derrick White played and all 3 struggled somewhat against the Mavs’ defense. Collectively, they were 6-23 from the field and 2-13 from beyond the arc. The Celtics need more from their bench players on both offense and defense if they hope to get a win in this one as the Warriors are a deep team.
On the Road - The Celtics are beginning a tough 4 game road trip and had to travel across the country to get to this first 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. They need to stick together and keep each other focused.
What’s at Stake - The Celtics are in a very close and very tough playoff race in the East. Each win or loss has the potential to move the team up or down in the standings. Also, after outplaying the Warriors for most of the game in Boston, questionable officiating and a few shots down the stretch gave the Warriors that game. The Celtics need to use that loss as extra motivation to play harder and be more focused in this game.
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 it 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. Complaining about calls rarely changes anything other than to take away from their focus on playing the game.
According to our friends at DraftKings, the Celtics are two-point underdogs as they start their four-game west coast road trip in the Bay. The Warriors stumbled out of February, losers of nine out of eleven games before winning their last four heading into tonight. Since the All-Star break, Boston passed several tests at TD Garden with wins over Atlanta, Memphis, and Brooklyn, but haven’t really been tested on the road since early December.
Draymond Green’s return after a lengthy absence obviously makes the Warriors exponentially more dangerous, but the Warriors could have key members out of their lineup. Andrew Wiggins is questionable after not playing on Monday and not practicing yesterday. Gary Payton II is out which eliminates a key defender against Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
As CelticsBlog’s Adam Taylor noted earlier today, tonight’s game will be won in the margins. In addition to rebounding and shooting, what will tip the scales is the production of the supporting cast. Over the last five games, the trio of Derrick White, Grant Williams, and Payton Pritchard have averaged less than twenty points per game between them. The Celtics will lean into their defensive identity on most nights, but against an explosive Warriors team, they’ll need to match their offensive firepower, too.
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