After four straight losses, a team meeting, and a bounce back win against the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night, the Boston Celtics now find themselves primed to play against the best team in the NBA Saturday night – the Golden State Warriors.
Some would say that losing streaks are bad. Teams should never put themselves in a situation where fingers may be pointed or negative vibes may be given off because of a string of losses. For a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, adversity seems to bring out the worst in its players. Individual players on that team are being scrutinized because of the overall poor play of the team over a stretch of time during the regular season.
But I will save my criticisms of the Cavaliers for another article.
The Celtics are a wholesome squad that understands for each player on the team to perform at a high level every member needs to do their job correctly. Thus actions on the court are performed like a well-oiled machine.
Because of this mentality, Brad Stevens has gotten the very best out of each player on the roster, resulting in only 14 losses in 49 games, giving them the second-best record in the NBA.
On Saturday night Boston will face it’s toughest opponent this season for the second time, and this may foreshadow what’s to come during the NBA playoffs in a few months. (Yes, I’m referring to the NBA Finals, the Cavaliers Swiss cheese defense and the Raptors just don’t scare me enough right now to think otherwise.) This is the only team that has a better record than the Celtics, and the only team in the NBA that has four players that will participate in the All-Star game this season.
The one time the Celtics and Warriors have faced each other this season, on Nov. 16, resulted in a 92-88 win for Boston, and was considered its biggest win up until that point. Each of the starters for the Celtics (Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kyrie Irving) had double-digit scoring efforts, while guys like Steph Curry (nine points) and Klay Thompson (13 points) saw one of their quietest shooting nights of the season.
Though Celtics fans should not expect those two All-Stars to have the same type of shooting performances two months later, your expectations for Boston should be higher than they were that Thursday night against the defending NBA champions. Here’s why:
Rookies Now Have More Experience
The first time the Celtics played the Warriors, it was just a mere month into the 2017-18 regular season. Jayson Tatum and Daniel Theis were still trying to find their way into the rotation. Theis saw just three minutes of action and was not able to have an impact on the game at all. Tatum was still fairly new to the system (even though in the grand scheme of things he still is, that game occurred 15 games into the season) and was still learning his role in the starting-5 after Gordon Hayward went down with his horrific injury.
Now, Theis has become a key role player for Boston. He could prove to be an impact player defensively against guys like Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia. Otherwise those two could cause trouble for the Celtics in the paint. Theis will also provide a wall against the Warriors guards who are known to crash the boards similar to what Boston does on a nightly basis.
Tatum has come into his role much more in the two months since their last meeting. He could prove to be much more of an asset offensively and be even more up to the task of defending one of the best shooters in the league in Thompson (assuming Jaylen Brown is given the task of defending Kevin Durant.)
Semi Ojeleye may prove to be a spark in the few minutes he plays as well, but Theis and Tatum will have a much bigger impact on this game.
Bench Will Play Pivotal Role
One of the points of emphasis during the Celtics recent losing streak was the overall play of the bench, or lack-thereof. During their Tuesday night game against the Lakers there was improvement by the second unit in the team’s short-falling to Los Angeles. However, they were not the underlying reason for the Boston’s fourth straight loss.
Wednesday night came, and even with the absence of Marcus Smart, the Celtics bench stepped up to the task of playing a crucial role in the win over the Clippers, ending the losing streak for the now 35-win team.
Smart is out for the rest of the road trip, but based on how the team played without him Wednesday night, there should be no cause for concern.
The emphasis on the second unit will play a pivotal role against the Warriors. It may be able to take advantage of a Golden State bench with an ageing Andre Iguodala and no other big talent.
Because the Celtics have great leadership stemming from the organization, coaches and captains, it seems that they are always able to rise to occasion of contending with the top teams in the NBA. This season they have already beaten the Thunder, Timberwolves, Rockets, Cavaliers (before they imploded) and, like mentioned before, the Warriors. This shows that Boston has what it takes to match up against the elite talent that the NBA has to offer, and it gives us no reason to believe that the Celtics will bring anything other than their A-game Saturday night as they aim for their 36th win of the season.
Did I mention that the Celtics are the best defensive team in the NBA? Sorry, I’m not here to state the obvious. If you aren’t caught up to speed on their defense yet, click here to read my article regarding that.
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