For the Warriors to give themselves the best chance of upsetting the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night, they’re going to need someone capable of containing Jayson Tatum, a 22-year-old All-Star wing playing typically well this season.
Or maybe it’s more important that someone keeps Jaylen Brown, the other superb wing, from piling up points. He’s Boston’s leading scorer and is having a better season than Tatum.
Either way, these two gifted youngsters represent the strongest dual challenge Warriors wings Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. -- both of whom have earned considerable praise for their defense -- will face this season.
“They’re part of that rare breed that we're all looking for in the NBA, guys who can do everything,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who as part of the Team USA staff in 2019 coached both players in China. “They have the size and the speed and quickness to guard every position, and they have the skill set to score from any part of the floor They can make 3s, get out in transition and hammer dunks. They can score in the half court, using their footwork.
“Both guys, to me, are the modern archetype that we're all looking for.”
This is why the Wiggins/Oubre vs. Tatum/Brown matchup will be such a huge factor in determining the outcome of the game at Chase Center. Pregame on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6 p.m., with tipoff scheduled for 7.
Tatum and Brown are widely considered the best wing duo in the Eastern Conference, behind only Kawhi Leonard and Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers in the West. That the Celtics have committed $310 million in contacts to their guys is indicative of their belief.
Wiggins and Oubre, however, have similar traits. Their histories are not as rich as those of Tatum and Brown, but this is an opportunity to earn praise in their own right.
Wiggins is having his best season on offense and defense. His scoring is slightly down from where it was in Minnesota, where he didn’t play alongside Steph Curry, but his efficiency is appreciably higher. His field goal percentages, 47.2 overall and 40.6 from distance are at career-high levels.
More to the point, his defense is officially a factor. Considered a nonchalant defender with the Timberwolves, Wiggins is posting lockdown metrics and among NBA leaders in blocks.
He likely would spend considerable time on Tatum (26.8 points per game, 48.4 percent from the field, 43.5 beyond the arc), simply because the two are physically similar.
Oubre, because of his quickness and length, often is assigned to the opposing point guard. Though he could spend parts of the game on Kemba Walker, it’s Brown who has been Boston’s most consistent offensive player. The former Cal star leads the team in scoring (27.1 points per game, eighth in the NBA, and is shooting 53.1 percent overall and 44.3 percent from deep.
The X-factor likely will be Oubre, who has been the most wildly inconsistent player in the league. He has had several magnificent offensive games but even more games in which he struggled mightily.
Oubre has shot at least 50 percent in six games, including 57.1 percent Saturday against the Detroit Pistons. The rub is that he has yet to do so in consecutive games. Only once this season has he followed a 50-plus percent game by shooting as much as 40 percent in the next.
Oubre is seeking consistency. The Warriors, knowing the positive impact this would have, are yearning for it. If Good Kelly shows up against the Celtics, it’s time for popcorn.