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Golden State Warriors vs. Boston Celtics preview: The perfect opponent after a long road trip

The Warriors return home to face the Celtics after a long road trip that saw their league-high winning streak come to an end.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors (24-14) vs. Boston Celtics (13-23)

7:30 p.m. PT

ROARACLE - Oakland, CA


Buddy blog: CelticsBlog

I thought Andy Liu got it right in his recap of the Golden State Warriors' streak-ending loss to the Brooklyn Nets: this team was just exhausted and there isn't too much more we can say about it beyond that, except to acknowledge that there's a reason why nobody in league history has gone undefeated on a seven-game road trip before.

But even a couple of days removed from that loss, the harsh realities of life in the Western Conference this season immediately return to focus: even after a 10-game winning streak, the Warriors still find themselves in sixth place in the conference standings. Regardless of how you think things will shake out come playoff time - or whether the conference standings will even end up being more important than the Pacific Division standings - the fact that they're still in sixth just underscores the importance of a game like tonight's.

A #FullSquad game against the slumping Boston Celitcs at home has to result in a win.

Maybe Gerald Wallace's recent rant against his teammates will help the Celtics snap out of their slumber. Maybe their recent trade for Pac-12 product Jerryd Bayless is just the jolt they needed to beat the Warriors in Oracle.

But it's far more likely, that this is just a 30-32 win team that is regressing to the mean, as Jeff Clark of SB Nation's Celtics Blog described before their current Western road trip.

So the Celtics best chance of winning on any given night is for the collective team to play better than the sum of its parts. Sometimes that will happen, sometimes not. And sometimes they'll play well but still get beat because the other team simply has more talent...we will continue to watch a mediocre team fight hard for wins and more often than not come up short. The goals this year are development and growth, not wins and playoffs. If the wins come as a result of that growth, even better. If not, then the consolation prize is a higher draft position. It is what it is.

Clark expects the team to go 0-for-5 on Boston's current road trip. And I'd be more than happy to watch the Warriors help the Celtics improve their draft position.

Three keys to victory for the Warriors

Start fast: Playing at Oracle against an opponent with limited expectations for this season means that getting out to a fast start and burying them early will greatly aid a win. Too psychological for you? Perhaps it is, but a shared characteristic of losing teams at almost any level of basketball is that they'll start believing they're supposed to lose once they get in a hole. It's not so much a momentum issue as a self-fulfilling prophecy one where they start wondering how to avoid another loss instead of how to win a game.

Dominate the boards: The Celtics are not a particularly good rebounding team though offensive rebounding is one of their strong suits, according to Basketball-Reference (25.2% offensive rebounding percentage, 17th in the NBA). For the Warriors' offense, there should be a fair number of second chance scoring opportunities if they attack the glass. If there's a place where they can impose their will early, it might be in the post.

Win the turnover battle: I won't go through my whole spiel here, although the Warriors are still 30th in turnover percentage (15.6%). But today I'm looking at this from the opposite direction: the Celtics also turn the ball over quite a bit and they don't really have the same "playing fast and loose" excuse that Warriors fans might lean on. The Warriors should be able to run on this team and get easy points in transition if they can pressure the guards and force them to execute in the halfcourt as often as possible. And that will help to loosen up a defense that has been quite a bit better than expected.

But let's not overanalyze this one either: the Warriors are the more talented team here and should cruise to an easy win in tonight's homecoming after a long road trip.

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