Why Warriors vs. Celtics NBA Finals matchup feels like a long shot

Why Warriors vs. Celtics NBA Finals matchup feels like a long shot

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders tonight at 6 p.m. PT, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

Before the season started, I picked the Celtics to advance to the NBA Finals. It was the trendy pick.

Out of a panel of 22 ESPN "experts," 15 of them picked Boston.

Even a lot of Warriors players went on the record and said the Celtics are the biggest threat to Golden State.

"I like the team out East in Boston," Klay Thompson said at Media Day.

But something just isn't right with the Celtics. On Thursday, they led the Lakers by 18 points late in the second quarter but lost on a Rajon Rondo buzzer-beater.

On Saturday, they blew a 28-point lead to the Clippers and ultimately lost by 11. To add injury to insult, Kyrie Irving strained his right knee and will not play on Tuesday night at Philly.

Speaking of Kyrie -- before the season started, he announced that his plan was to re-sign with Boston this summer. But he made headlines 11 days ago when he basically backed off that commitment and said, "I don't owe anybody s**t." 

That comment came the day after the Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis, and the rumors were that New York's grand plan was to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie in July

Earlier that week, reports surfaced that Anthony Davis wasn't targeting the Celtics in a trade because of growing uncertainty about Kyrie's future with the Celtics.

And who could forget Kyrie revealing to the media in mid-January that he called LeBron James to apologize "for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips" when they were teammates in Cleveland.

But back to that horrible loss to the Clippers three days ago -- Marcus Morris didn't hold back in comments after the game.

“I watch all these other teams in the league, they’re jumping on the court, all the stuff that looks like they’re enjoying their teammates’ success,” the forward told reporters. “And they’re playing together, and they're playing to win. When I look at us I see a bunch of individuals.”

That's definitely not good.

On Monday, Morris expanded on his damning comments to Jay King of The Athletic.

Media caught me at a great time. I was hot, I was hot as hell, and I spoke my mind as real as I could. I never pointed any fingers, I kept everybody accountable. So I just felt like it was the right thing to be said at the time. And things like that can help change the season. So hopefully we’re moving in the right direction after that.”

It certainly isn't too late, but things just might not come together in time. It doesn't help matters that the Celtics are gearing up to make a huge offer for Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis.

It's safe to assume that practically every player in that locker room is thinking about being shipped to New Orleans in July. That uncertainty can have a major impact on the locker room and chemistry.

Boston is currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and didn't make any moves at the deadline. The Celtics' top competition, meanwhile, improved their rosters last week.

The Raptors acquired Marc Gasol, the Bucks traded for Nikola Mirotic and the 76ers added Tobias Harris.

[RELATED: Which East power could potentially dethrone the Dubs?]

As LeBron James told Joe Vardon of The Athletic: “Those top teams in the East, yeah, they’re going for it ... they know they ain’t gotta go through Cleveland anymore. Everybody in the East thinks they can get to the Finals because they ain’t gotta go through me.”

To get there, LeBron has to go through the Warriors -- who are the clear frontrunners in the West. The Celtics were once the favorites in the East, but a lot has changed in the past four months.

Now, Boston has to change its direction in order to be playing basketball in June.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Zaza Pachulia shares text Steph Curry sent him during radio interview


Zaza Pachulia shares text Steph Curry sent him during radio interview

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Saturday afternoon at 4 P.T., streaming live on the MyTeams app.

On Sunday evening, the Warriors host the Pistons at Oracle.

You know what that means, right?

Zaza Pachulia is back!

On Friday morning, the big man who won two titles with the Warriors was a guest on 95.7 The Game.

He talked about the excitement surrounding receiving his 2018 championship ring, what he learned during his two seasons with Golden State, the narrative that he's a dirty player and much more.

And just before the conversation came to an end, Zaza closed with this:

"Can't wait to see everybody and I just want to give a shoutout to Steph Curry and Jarron Collins who just texted me to tell me that my voice sounds beautiful ... can't wait to see them."

I wonder if that's the first time anybody has ever told Zaza that his voice sounds beautiful. Maybe his wife has said it once or twice before.

[REWINDZaza Pachulia trolls Kevin Durant about Omri Casspi's 20 points]

The 35-year old is averaging 4.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game this season.

He scored a season-high 11 points in Detroit's huge win over the Raptors last Sunday.

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram

Austin Rivers explains how Steph Curry, Warriors transformed NBA offenses

Austin Rivers explains how Steph Curry, Warriors transformed NBA offenses

Austin Rivers knows a thing or two about defending Steph Curry.

The Houston Rockets guard isn't shy about his confidence when guarding the Warriors star, but that doesn't mean Rivers is unaware of Curry's impact on the NBA. To hear him tell it, Curry's transformed basketball as much as anyone in recent memory.

"Comparing him to other players, he's not the most athletic guy on the floor nine out of 10 times," Rivers told Warriors sideline reporter Kerith Burke and guard Quinn Cook on The Uninterrupted Road Trippin' podcast. "But nine out of 10 times, he's usually the best player on the floor, and that's changed the game. Kids used to want to dunk, and now they want to shoot 3s.

"He's changed the way basketball is played. It's a [3-point shooter's] league now."

Rivers said that impact is clearest on his own team. Under Mike D'Antoni, the Rockets lead the NBA in 3-point attempts per game (44.8) and 3-point makes (15.7). 

He thinks you can draw a straight line between D'Antoni's strategy and what Curry and the Warriors have done over the last five years. 

"The effect that Steph has singlehandedly had on the NBA has been huge -- and Golden State, period," Rivers continued. "They've set this trend where now we follow. We shoot 40-to-50 threes a game because we're trying to emulate what works, and what they've had." 

[RELATED: Quinn Cook reveals how Coach K uses Beyonce to motivate Duke players]

They've also had a trickle-down effect, according to Rivers. When he's working basketball camps, he said kids want to emulate one of two players' specific skills: Curry's, or Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving's ball-handling. 

When 6-foot-3 Curry nails a half-court shot, or 6-foot-3 Irving crosses over a helpless defender, Rivers thinks a young player would see either as more attainable than what, say, 6-foot-8, 240-pound LeBron James can on a nightly basis.

"They're not going to be doing the stuff he does, so what's realistic for a person," Rivers asked, rhetorically. " ... They're not freak athletes. They don't dunk on people. They're just skilled. So, that's every kid's dream." 

Something tells us Rivers won't be dreaming of facing either Curry or Irving in the postseason. 

You can hear the rest of Rivers, Cook and Burke's conversation on Road Trippin' in the player below, and subscribe here.