Warriors

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.

Steph Curry's game-used 2016 NBA Finals jersey sells at auction for...a lot

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AP

Steph Curry's game-used 2016 NBA Finals jersey sells at auction for...a lot

Everything Steph Curry touches...turns to cash, apparently.

The jersey that Curry wore during Games 4 and 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Cavs sold at an auction over the weekend, and the winning bidder paid a lot for it.

According to GoldinAuctions.com, the Curry jersey, which he autographed and and inscribed with '2016 NBA Finals Game Used," sold for $58,920. The listing received 28 bids.

Curry wore that jersey in two memorable games. In Game 4, he scored 38 points to help give the 73-win Warriors a 3-1 lead over the Cavs. But the Warriors couldn't close out the Cavs in Game back in Oakland, so they were forced to make a return trip to Cleveland. In Game 6, Curry famously snapped when he was called for his sixth foul. He yelled at the refs and threw his mouthpiece into a fan sitting in a courtside seat. The Warriors would lose that game and go on to drop Game 7 in Oakland, becoming the first team to play a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

Curry's jersey was part of Goldin's 2017 Holiday auction and only one item sold for a higher price: 1999 Pokemon 1st Edition PSA GEM MT 10 Complete Set, which sold for $100,655.

Ability to focus with Curry out a testimony to what makes Warriors great

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AP

Ability to focus with Curry out a testimony to what makes Warriors great

Considering how messy they were 13 days ago, leaving town bearing the scars of perhaps their most distasteful regular-season loss in two years, the Warriors returned home this weekend more whole than one could reasonably expect.

They faced numerous trials on the road and won every one of them. They did not look good. They looked great.

They found a higher level of professionalism. Taking an objective look at themselves, they solved some nagging problems of their own creation and found what the coaching staff had been urging them to seek.

That’s what losing a great player like Stephen Curry will do to a team that had spent more than few games paying the price for feeling its magnificence.

“It was a crazy trip for us,” Kevin Durant said at the end of the road trip. “But that’s what we need. We needed to go through some adversity to make us a better team.”

Remember those losses where the defense rested or the sloppy turnovers kept coming, or both? That’s how the Warriors had lost to clearly inferior teams such the Grizzlies and the Pistons and the Thunder and, most gallingly, the Kings. Lack of attention to detail explains how the Warriors nearly lost to the Lakers.

It was after that game that coach Steve Kerr proclaimed that, for most of the season, the team had not competed to its capability. He was right and the players knew it.

Taking action when Curry limped off the floor in New Orleans last Monday, they closed the trip with two wins during which they didn’t mutilate their work with untimely defensive lapses or costly turnovers.

There was Durant, taking his complete game from very good to outstanding. There was ferocious defense and a bushel of blocked shots, two indicators of determination. There was Klay Thompson, who got away from himself on Nov. 27 against the Kings but recovered quickly and emphatically on the road.

Though these are all significant elements, the overriding factor is a team coming together when faced with the prospect of falling apart.

“Other guys have stepped up,” Draymond Green said. “It’s even more impressive that it’s not just like one guy is trying to do it. We do feature KD more on the offensive end, which is happening organically. But it’s not like KD is saying, ‘Give me the ball every play and I’m going to go do this.’ We just let it happen naturally and it’s a beautiful thing.”

It took the Warriors nearly two weeks to do that last February, when Durant went down with a knee injury. They lost four of their next six games before coming together to win their next 14.

That the Warriors needed only two days to recover from losing Curry is persuasive testimony to their self-awareness and the progress they’ve made in 10 months.

Maybe it’s muscle memory. Maybe it’s fear of losing. More likely, it’s the acute awareness of how they became champions.

“(Curry) being out actually, probably helped us focus because we knew we had to play sharper in order to win,” Kerr said.

The Warriors know they are fallible and having that knowledge drives them. They flourish not because of criticism or slights but because they hear them and, moreover, feel them. That’s what drove them to 73 wins two seasons ago and drove them to a 16-1 record last postseason.

Coming home is great, though not in and of itself enough to make the Warriors invulnerable. It merely provides a comfortable backdrop while allowing set routines. They still have to do the work, do it right and do it consistently. But that mentality comes easier to an intelligent group when a superstar is not available.

“We’re just steadying the ship, starting to get our season legs under us,” David West said. “We’re working through some things, still haven’t figured everything out in terms of execution and some looks. But we’re good enough to win games even when we’re not executing as well as we can.”

They’ll spend the next 23 days in California, all but two of them at home. Curry will be out of the lineup for most, if not all, of that time. The Warriors understand that. They know what it means. And they seem to be embracing it.