Jazz coach Quin Snyder scratched at his mane and told the world that the Warriors have "no visible weakness." Kenny Smith threw up his hands and called them, "The greatest show on earth." Two days ago, the savior of the franchise, alias Joe Lacob, proclaimed the Warriors, "Light years ahead of the rest of the NBA."
Tonight, the 43-31 Boston Celtics will come for a taste of the golden flavor the Dubs have been dishing out to all comers. The C's sit 4th in the Eastern Conference after taking a grinding loss on the road to the Portland Trailblazers last night. The two teams battled for three quarters before Portland gained the upper hand in the 4th, and closed out the young Celtics. Jae Crowder returned to the starting lineup at Portland, and recorded a double-double (13 pts, 10 rebs) in the visiting loss.
Golden State survived a double-overtime tussle in Boston by the skin of their kishkes on December 11th.
"Exhausting, but it was fun." - Stephen Curry
36 year-old Celtics coach, Brad Stevens had this to say about Golden State prior to their Dec. 11th matchup:
"One of the best teams I've ever seen. Certainly that I've ever coached against. The energy with which they play is incredible, and as skilled as they are, it seems that that's how much fun they have, and how connected they are as a team.
They're a much-improved team. I think that's what's scary about when we played San Antonio last week. We watched the Spurs on film, and felt that maybe they were the most-improved team since the first month of the season. And then, you watch Golden State, and they may be the most-improved team from last year to this year, and they won it all. So, heck of a challenge. We'll give it our best shot."
On Thompson and Curry:
"Don't undersell that part. Those guys can make shots that other people can't make, at a very consistent rate. For Curry to be shooting 46 percent from three is a joke, for how tough some of his shots are. It just tells you how great of a shooter he is and how good he is with the ball. Because his shots are all challenged. Everybody goes through the game plan with the idea of trying to make it as tough as possible on both he and Klay, and they still make really tough shots."
Curry went 9-27 from the field that night, but was 6-13 from three point range and a perfect 14-14 from the free throw line. Boston played him physically, and planned well. But perhaps, most of the credit can be awarded to elite defensive bane, Avery Bradley. I doubt Stephen has forgotten their brief interaction.
Avery Bradley. He's chief of the sticky when it comes to perimeter ball-hawking. After suffering a major shoulder injury early in his career (forcing the young player to undergo two surgeries), Bradley is healthy having his best season yet.
*On a personal note, it would be great to see Bradley in a Warrior uniform, playing alongside Shaun Livingston. Maybe Harrison Barnes can make that happen. At 25, Bradley does a lot of what Andre Igoudala gives you on the defensive end, as well as Barbosa, with his end-to-end speed and aggressive attack. Bradley recovers speedily on transition defense, has the Charlie Hustle mentality of Draymond, and would be perfect on a fast-paced team like the Warriors. It will be interesting to see how Curry performs against him in one of only a handful of their match-ups.*
Isaiah Thomas. He's been battling a bad back lately, and remains probable for tonight's game. Isaiah loves playing the Warriors. At 5'-9", he's one of the most dynamic guards to ever play this game while being at such a disadvantage. Remember his 31-point outing a few years ago against the Jarrett Jack squad? From then 'til now, Thomas has embellished his meetings against Steph with strong performances.
Thomas leads his young squad in points and assists, and is, quite frankly, the heartbeat of the Celtics.
Conclusion. The backcourt of the Celtics is like Curry-Cryptonite. They're simply well designed to make him work very hard on both ends. Klay may need to wear a longer cape, yet again, tonight. Also, this could be a big game for Andrew Bogut. Jared Sullinger is a beast, and if he gets out of hand, and Thomas gets the perimeter offense rolling, the Celtics could be hard to chase down at this point of the season, especially after a grueling contest against the Jazz. Bogs and Green must control the rebounding battle and keep the pace relaxed.
Again, the defense of Bradley and the quickness of Isaiah Thomas could cause high anxiety for Stephen Curry. If Steph's overwhelmed and commits turnovers, the Celtics can really get out and run (6th in the league in fast break points). They're dangerous if you turn the ball over. The passing and shooting of the Warriors in the half court will ruin them if our bigs can dictate the tempo and keep the game calm.
Anderson Varejao's mobility should really help against the rangy seven-foot-tall Kelly Olynyk, off the bench this time around, defensively.
Despite the particulars of the Warriors vs. Celtics, the focus remains on the overall four game homestead that opens tonight in relation to setting the record for most wins. So, here's to 75 wins.
Starting Lineup / Bench