BOSTON -- With due respect to Tristan Thompson, we're not getting another Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Finals matchup this year. So, who will take the mantle from Cleveland in the Eastern Conference?
Many liked the Boston Celtics' chances entering the season, but they've had an up-and-down season to date. The Warriors aren't fooled by Boston's scuffles, though.
After heaping praise on the Celtics ahead of Saturday night's Warriors-C's matchup at TD Garden, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr suggested Boston still is the team to beat in the East despite its No. 5 spot.
"They are one of the best teams in the league," Kerr said following the Warriors' 115-111 win when asked how close the Celtics are to the Dubs. "They're great defensively and they've got dynamic offensive players. They're already one of the best.
"It will be interesting to see this year with LeBron (James) out of the East who comes out of the East. We have a lot of work to do to get out of the West. A lot of great teams this year.
"I think the league is better this year than it's been in a long time. ... But Boston is clearly a great two-way team, and that's what it takes in the playoffs."
☘️WARRIORS 115, CELTICS 111
For all of their inconsistency, the Celtics still rank third in the NBA in point differential (plus-6.5) behind only Milwaukee and Golden State. Missed opportunities down the stretch cost them a win over the Warriors on Saturday night, but they still left an impression on the two-time defending champions.
"This team is a championship-caliber team," Warriors forward Kevin Durant said Saturday night of the Celtics.
Alas, not everyone in Golden State's locker room was willing to dub this game an NBA Finals preview.
"I'm not sure. I'm not a fortune teller," Klay Thompson said.
At the very least, the Celtics will have a chance for revenge on March 5 when the teams meet in Oakland.
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