OAKLAND -- The Warriors on Saturday will try to do something they haven’t done in three years: beat the Boston Celtics in Oakland.
Pregame coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area, which will have postgame coverage immediately after the game. Tipoff at Oracle Arena is scheduled for 5:35.
The game provides a preview of a potential NBA Finals matchup. The Warriors (39-10), who last beat Boston at Oracle on Jan. 25, 2015, enter with a four-game lead over Houston in the Western Conference, while Boston (35-14) is up two games on Toronto in the East. Cleveland is six games back.
Warriors by 10.5
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Stephen Curry vs. Kyrie Irving: Both point guards are All-Star perennials and in the MVP race. Each sets the temperature and tone for his team. Though neither played well when the teams met in November, Irving gained a slight edge because he had more assists and fewer turnovers. If Curry drains a couple 3-pointers early, the Celtics had better look out. The Warriors know to be wary of Irving if the game is close late and he has the ball. If offset each other, the Warriors should benefit.
Warriors: F Kevin Durant (L foot soreness) is listed as probable. G Pat McCaw (mid-back strain) is listed as out. F Jordan Bell (L ankle inflammation) is listed as out. C Damian Jones is on assignment with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors.
Celtics: F/C Al Horford (head) is listed as probable. F Gordon Hayward (L ankle rehab) and G Marcus Smart (R hand laceration) are listed as out.
Derrick Stafford (crew chief), Nick Buchert, Dedric Taylor
The Warriors lost the first meeting this season, 92-88, on Nov. 16 in Boston and have lost three of the last five meetings between the teams. The Warriors have lost the last two games at Oracle but are 4-3 against Boston in the Steve Kerr era.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
SECOND UNITS: Boston’s depth was hurt by Hayward’s injury and it’s starting to show, particularly on offense. The bench’s 101.3 offensive rating is 27th in the NBA. The true shooting percentage of 50.6 is last. When Irving is off the floor, Boston’s offensive rating is 97.2. It’s 86.4 for the month of January. The Celtics will have to defend like demons to offset that, and the offensive rating of the Warriors’ bench, 111.4, is tops in the league.
THE WARRIORS 1-4 PUNCH: This is the kind of game where the Warriors will try to seek out mismatches, which means they’re likely to utilize some high pick-and-roll action between Kevin Durant (the 4) and Curry (the 1). Though Warriors coach Steve Kerr doesn’t want to use it frequently, it’s a lethal tactic that puts even the smartest defenders in a quandary.
SMART’S ABSENCE: This is significant. Smart is Boston’s version of Andre Iguodala, except younger and with more brawn. At 6-4, 225 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan, he’s terrific on the ball and in the passing lanes. He at various times would have defended both Klay Thompson and Curry. Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin likely will inherit those minutes, but neither can approach Smart’s physicality or wingspan.