Celtics-Warriors preview: C's going for season sweep

Celtics-Warriors preview: C's going for season sweep

OAKLAND, Calif. – When you’ve been as successful as the Golden State Warriors have been in recent years, it’s damn near impossible to look ahead and circle any one particular regular season game as being any more special than another.

But the one thing you can count on tonight, is that the Celtics will get the best of the Golden State Warriors who are looking to avoid Boston sweeping the regular season series for the first time since 2012.  

“We feel they’re just as good as any team in the league,” said Warriors All-Star Kevin Durant. “The way they play, the way they pass, the way they move on offense … their defensive intensity has been top level for the whole season. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

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The Warriors (39-10) come into the game with the best record in the NBA. 

They had four players – Stephen Curry, Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – chosen to play in next month’s NBA All-Star game, making them the first team in NBA history to have four players chosen for the all-star game in back-to-back seasons. 

Figuring out how to limit them is a daunting task, almost to the point where it’s laughable to think it can be done with any consistency. 

And for Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, watching them play is both exciting and infuriating at times because of how talented they are and how much far superior their top four or so players are in comparison with the top four players on most teams.

"They’re a joke,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “I don’t even know what to say. It’s so fun to watch.”

Fun for fans, absolutely.

But for the guys who have to go out there and defend the Warriors?

Not so much. 

“It’s just … basically, they got four All-Stars, the best 3-point shooters in the league,” said Boston’s Marcus Morris. “Offensively, the major key, if we can get some stops. It’s going to be really tough to out-score those guys. I think the game comes down to getting stops. They’re gonna make shots; everybody does. Just coming out and getting stops and getting great shots at the other end.”

And maybe doing something we seldom see Boston do this season – get to the free throw line. 

When Boston rallied from 17 points down to beat Golden State 92-88 on Nov. 16, a key to the Celtics’ comeback win was that they were 33-for-38 from the free throw line. 

“We put them on the foul line a lot last game,” Durant said. “We fouled them. We have to play without fouling. We want to be aggressive. But we want to make sure we’re not putting (the Celtics) in the bonus early. We have to lock in without fouling.” 

The Celtics certainly did that in their last meeting, limiting the Warriors to a then-season low 88 points in what has been one of Boston's marquee wins this season. 

Golden State is still arguably the best team in the NBA, but Boston’s victory in November showed that the Warriors, while extremely talented, are mortal and can suffer setbacks. 

But that doesn’t take away from the elite status Stevens sees the Warriors having earned with their play and consistency to perform at the highest of levels.  

“It’s a special, special group that’s been assembled,” Stevens said. “They can go out on runs that are an absolute killer if you’re competing against them, and an absolute blast if you love good basketball. When you put all that talent together and they have such a desire to play together and enjoy playing together the way they do, that’s what makes it fun to watch.”


Kyrie gets the last laugh against Horford and Team Steph

Kyrie gets the last laugh against Horford and Team Steph

LOS ANGELES – Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were on different teams for the NBA's All-Star game pitting Team LeBron vs Team Steph, so somebody was coming back a loser.

But considering how competitive the game was for longer stretches than usual, both players came away feeling good in a relatively close all-star game that ended with Team LeBron edging Team Steph 148-145.

LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points along wit 10 rebounds and eight assists and walked away with Game MVP honors for the third time.

Irving, who played for Team LeBron, had a near double-double with 13 points and nine assists along with seven rebounds.

And Horford, who came off the bench for Team Steph, had six points and five rebounds along with two assists.  

“This was pretty fun,” Irving said. “I think that we showcased that tonight with an incredible competitive spirit. The game was kind of getting away, but I think a few of us took it a little personal that we wanted to keep the game still competitive and at a high level. Fans and everyone across so many different countries want to see the best players in the world showcase their talent.”

Horford echoed similar sentiments about the game which had a different format this year, with LeBron James and Stephen Curry each picking the two teams from the 22-player pool of players from both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

“Early, guys were making (defensive) plays,” Horford said. “Guys were making a point, they weren’t going to let it be a dunk fest.

Horford added, “Even last year and the year before, there was a lot of heat on how bad the game was. I felt like this game was, it was good.”

Irving, a five-time all-star, also acknowledged how he and some of the players wanted to change the perception of the all-star game as being nothing more than a glorified lay-up line.

“I think we all took it kind of personal,” Irving said. “Individually we wanted to come out and be competitive. Last year it was (192-182), tat’s just not as fun as communicating with guys that you don’t necessarily play with every single day, bouncing ideas off in the time-outs. It’s just that competitive fire that we all share.”

And then there’s the payday for winning.

Not only will various charities benefit from the game – LeBron James’ charity of choice gets $350,000 because his team won and Steph Curry’s charity of choice gets $150,000 – but the players on the winning team get a pretty nice check as well.

The winning team members each get $100,000 while the players on the losing team come away with $25,000.

“There was something that, something that we could look forward to if we got the win,” Irving acknowledged. “You know, they’ll probably bring up the cash prize, but … $100,000 to $25,000, I think everybody in this room would be doing the same things we were doing.”


LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

USA TODAY Sports Photo

LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

LOS ANGELES – LeBron James had been mum on the process he used in selecting Team LeBron … until now.

Following Team LeBron’s 148-145 win over Team Steph, James revealed how he went about assembling is roster which included Boston’s Kyrie Irving who asked for a trade out of Cleveland last summer.

“I took Kevin (Durant) first, then I took (New Orleans) Anthony Davis, and I followed that with Kyrie and DeMarcus (Cousins).”

While this year’s all-star game had been billed as the ultimate pick-up game, it was clear that James put a tremendous amount of thought into assembling his team akin to what an NBA General Manager might do.

“I know who I like watching and I had a draft board,” James said. “I had a process. Some of it went to … it almost went according to plan. A couple of them fell through, but I was satisfied and happy with all the guys that I got.”

A reporter later asked James where was this draft board.

“Ain’t none of your business,” said James, grinning. “You’re going too far, man.”