Celtics

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.”

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Marcus Morris evaluates his job defending LeBron: 'I did a (expletive) job'

Marcus Morris evaluates his job defending LeBron: 'I did a (expletive) job'

CLEVELAND – There was plenty of blame pie to go around the Boston Celtics following their 116-86 Game 3 beating by Cleveland. 

But no Celtic seemed to be taking ownership of his role in the defeat, more than Marcus Morris who acknowledged his poor play particularly on defending LeBron James.

“Personally, I did a (expletive) job defensively against LeBron,” Morris told reporters following Boston’s Sunday afternoon practice at Quicken Loans Arena. “He (James) was just too comfortable when I was guarding him.”

In the first two games of this series, James was just 8-for-23 shooting (34.8 percent) with a total of 22 points with 13 assists and five turnovers when defended by Morris. 

On Saturday, James tallied 14 points when defended by Morris on 5-for-9 shooting according to NBA.com/stats, along with five assists and just one turnover.

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As the team poured over the film from Saturday night’s loss, there were several contributors to one of the worst losses ever under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

Morris knows this. 

But he also knows that how he fares against James will go a long way in determining whether the Celtics can emerge victorious in Game 4 which would then put them one win away from a trip to the NBA Finals. Despite his struggles against James on Saturday, Morris and the rest of the Celtics haven’t lost any faith that when all is said and done, things will work out for him and the Celtics.

“Very confident. Very confident,” Morris said when asked about the team’s level of confidence right now. 

“I’m 100 percent sure it won’t be the same (Celtics) team on Monday,” Morris said.

LINEUP CHANGE? Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens won’t rule out making a change to the team’s starting lineup for Game 4 on Monday. If there is a change, it would likely involve Marcus Morris returning to the bench while being replaced by Aron Baynes or potentially Semi Ojeleye. A case can be made for why Stevens would start either guy. In Baynes, Boston would have Al Horford matched up against Kevin Love while Baynes would have to battle with Tristan Thompson underneath the rim. Such a move would also bolster Boston’s bench with the return of Morris to the second unit.

LARKIN PROGRESS: Shane Larkin's left shoulder injury suffered continues to improve, but there's still no timetable for when he'll be healthy enough to return to the Celtics lineup. Following Boston’s practice on Sunday, Larkin and a member of the Celtics’ training staff were playing catch with several feet of space in between them. While it’s certainly a good sign to see Larkin throwing the ball with some distance, he remains highly unlikely to play in this series.  

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