The Celtics return home from their 3 game road trip to host the Golden State Warriors in a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals. This is the second and final regular season meeting between these two teams. The Warriors won the first meeting 123-107 on December 10 in San Francisco. These two teams tied the series 1-1 last season with each team winning on the road.
The Warriors are playing in the 4th game of a 5 game road trip. This is the first of back to back games for them and they will complete their road trip in Cleveland on Friday night. The Celtics are playing one game at home in between 2 three game road trips. They will travel to Toronto on Saturday and then back to back against the Magic and Heat.
The Warriors have 4 consecutive wins over the Celtics including the last 3 games of the Finals and the first game this season. They Warriors have won 6 of the last 9 games against the Celtics in Boston in the regular season. Both of these teams last played on Monday and have had 2 days off.
The Celtics are still 1st in the East. They are 4 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee, 4.5 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia and 5 games ahead of 4th place Brooklyn and 5.5 games ahead of 5th place Cleveland. The Celtics are 17-5 at home and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 14-4 against Western Conference teams and have won their last 7 games.
The Warriors are 6th in the West. They are 1 game behind 5th place Dallas. They are tied with the 7th place Jazz. They are half a game ahead of the 8th place Clippers and 9th place Thunder. They are 1 game ahead of 10th place Minnesota and 11th place Portland. They are 5-17 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 9-13 against Eastern Conference teams. They won their last game but have won just 2 of their last 6 games.
Danilo Gallinari remains out for the Celtics as he rehabs the torn ACL. Jaylen Brown has missed the past 3 games with a strained adductor muscle. He was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice and is listed at questionable. I’m thinking he will likely play since he was able to practice. The question is, if he returns, will Derrick White go to the bench or will Robert Williams or Al Horford come off the bench?
For the Warriors, JaMychal Green (leg), Andre Iguodala (hip), Jonathan Kuminga (foot) and James Wiseman (ankle) are all out. Klay Thompson sat out Monday’s game as it was the second of back to back games and is expected to return to the starting lineup for this game. Jordan Poole will likely come off the bench in this game.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Jaylen Brown (groin) questionable
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Warriors Starters
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Draymond Green
C: Kevon Looney
Patrick Baldwin, Jr
2 Way Players
Andre Iguodala (hip) out
JaMychal Green (leg) out
Jonathan Kuminga (foot) out
James Wiseman (ankle) out
Marcus Smart vs Stephen Curry
Curry is averaging 29.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game. He is shooting 49.3% from the field and 42.1% from beyond the arc. In the December game, he finished with 32 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 1 block. The Celtics have to find some way to slow him down and keep him from willing the Warriors to a win in this one. 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 seems to finally have made his way back from the injuries that kept him out for 2 seasons. He is averaging 20.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He is shooting 42.0% from the field and 39.4% from beyond the arc. In the December game, he finished with 34 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. He is also a good defender and will try to make it difficult on Jaylen Brown. If Brown is out again in this game, Derrick White should get the start here.
Malcolm Brogdon vs Jordan Poole
With the return of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole will likely come off the bench after starting due to the injuries. Poole is averaging 21.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. He is shooting 43.7% from the field and 31.8% from beyond the arc. In the December game, he had 20 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block. Which player will give their team a bigger boost off the bench?
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 7th with a defensive rating of 111.2 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 5th in the league, averaging 117.5 points per game. The Warriors are 19th with a defensive rating of 113.4 but the Warriors can play good defense and have in recent games. 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 19-4 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 on playing 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. The Celtics have had 35 assists in each of their last 2 games. Hopefully they continue to make the extra pass to get the best shots.
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, most of the time it’s because they allowed their opponents to be more aggressive and to play harder than them. Effort and being more aggressive, especially on defense, will likely be the difference in this game.
2 Days Rest at Home - The Celtics are 17-5 at home while the Warriors are just 5-17 on the road. Hopefully the Celtics crowd will be loud and rowdy and give the Celtics extra energy to avenge their earlier loss to the Warriors. The bigger X-Factor may be their 2 days rest. According to Sean Grande, with 0 days rest, the Celtics are 6-0 and have a +12.5 scoring margin. With 1 day rest, the Celtics are 18-4 with a scoring margin of +9.4. With 2 or more days rest, the Celtics are 2-7 with a scoring margin of -5.4. Being well rested for the Celtics might not be an advantage.
Coaching - Steve Kerr 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 has done a great job so far but lost the first matchup with Kerr this season. He will have his work cut out for him once again 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 most often irritate the officials. Hopefully the officials let them play and keep Draymond Green’s antics from getting out of hand in this game.