Kyrie Irving

Gameday: Classic duel of Curry vs Kyrie as Warriors take on Celtics

Gameday: Classic duel of Curry vs Kyrie as Warriors take on Celtics

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here

They’re the hottest teams in the NBA and they own the best records in their respective conferences, and that explains why TD Garden will be white-hot with intensity when the Warriors and Celtics meet on Thursday.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 4 p.m., with tipoff scheduled for 5:05.

The Warriors (11-3) have won seven in a row as they begin a four-game road trip on the East Coast. A bruised thigh kept Stephen Curry out of the game against Orlando on Monday night, but practiced Wednesday and is expected to rejoin the lineup.

Though the Celtics (13-2) underwent a roster makeover in the offseason and opened the season by losing their first two games, they have not lost since and will bring a 13-game win streak into the game.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 7.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Stephen Curry vs. Kyrie Irving: Arguably the two best floor leaders in the NBA today, with Curry leading the championship race 2-1 and the MVP race 2-0. Curry has the benefit of superior scorers, notably Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, to ride with. With Hayward out, Irving absolutely has to get buckets. This is a classic duel, even when they don’t always guard each other, and they’ll spend a lot of time on each other in this game. Beware of the close game, for Irving is a fantastic closer.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: G Stephen Curry (R thigh bruise) will play after missing one game. C Damian Jones is on assignment with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors.

Celtics: F Gordon Hayward (L ankle fracture) is listed as out.

GAME OFFICIALS

James Capers (crew chief), Tyler Ford and Pat Fraher.

SERIES HISTORY

The teams have split two games in each of the past two seasons, with each winning on the other’s court. The Warriors have won seven of the last 10 meetings overall, including the last four in Boston. Their last loss at TD Garden was on March 1, 2013.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

IMMOVABLE VS. IRRESISTIBLE: The Warriors lead the league in scoring, 119 points per game, and offensive rating at 116.1. The Celtics allow a league-low 94.5ppg and own a league-best 95.8 defensive rating. Boston’s length (four of the top six players have 7-foot wingspans) and switching ability stifles opposing offenses, which is how it has the league’s best record despite its 26th-best field-goal percentage. Can the Warriors create holes? Don’t be surprised if there’s more pick-and-roll than usual.

THE VERSATILE FOURS: Draymond Green of the Warriors and Al Horford of the Celtics are power forwards who sometimes masquerade as centers. They’re superb defenders, capable of guarding multiple positions. They can score inside and out; Horford is shooting 48.8 percent from deep, Green 38.3. Green will be the primary defender on Horford, but expect Horford to split time defending Green and Durant.

THE BENCH WAR: Warriors reserves are shooting a league-best 54.2 percent, while Boston is firing at a league-worst 35.9 percent. Worse, Boston’s bench is shooting 29.2 percent beyond the arc to 35.7 for the Warriors. Unless the Celtics work some magic with rotations, their second unit is in danger of being scorched by the deeper Warriors.

Durant applauds Kyrie for making 'basketball move' in trade request

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USATSI

Durant applauds Kyrie for making 'basketball move' in trade request

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here

Kevin Durant understands the scrutiny Kyrie Irving has faced. 

Irving was blasted by many for requesting a trade away from LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last year, Durant went through the same with his decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors. 

"He chose the basketball route," Durant said to reporters Wednesday night after a Golden State Warriors practice. "He chose to go somewhere where he's going to maximize his basketball skills."

Through his first 14 games with the Celtics, Irving is averaging 20.6 points and 5.2 assists per game. 

"He made a basketball move, and that's the most respected move is to keep it at ball. So, he's playing his best basketball," Durant continued.

Headed into Thursday night's game, the Warriors (11-3) and Celtics (13-2) are the two hottest teams in basketball. The Celtics own a 13-game win streak after starting the season off with two straight losses. 

"He's stepped into a leadership role and this team has taken off because of him," Durant says on Irving and the Celtics. 

The true test: Facing Warriors will show exactly why Celtics traded for Kyrie

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AP

The true test: Facing Warriors will show exactly why Celtics traded for Kyrie

BOSTON -- Danny Ainge loves Isaiah Thomas. The Boston Celtics' franchise, from ownership on down, feels the same way. 

No one knows fully how tough it was for them to part with him for a package centered around Kyrie Irving, who'd made it clear that he wanted out of Cleveland. 
 
For those who question Irving’s motives as well as the Celtics’ desire to part with a player like Thomas -- who made such a huge impact in so little time -- here’s what you need to know.
 
You do that deal if you're Boston because you feel that, going forward, Irving gives you a better shot at winning a title.

You do that deal because you know that adding Irving to this culture would be a win-win for both the player and the franchise. 
 
You do this deal because you believe Irving can elevate your franchise in a way that makes you, at a minimum, in the conversation to compete and ultimately win a championship. 
 
Thursday’s game against Golden State?
 
That’s why you did the deal. 
 
Because for all the second-guessing that went on relative to the blockbuster trade with Cleveland, the end-goal was to be positioned to win games like Thursday night’s battle with the defending NBA champion Warriors. 
 
And making the matchup all that more enticing is that the Celtics (13-2) come in with the league’s best record -- not Golden State -- and have done it in impressive, emphatic and historic fashion. 

READ MORE AT NBCSportsBoston.com