The Boston Celtics are the “team of the future in the East,” according to Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, but the present looks pretty spectacular as well. The Celtics will test themselves against the defending NBA champions and try to run their winning streak to 14 straight when they host the Warriors on Thursday.
“It sure looks like Boston is the team of the future in the East, with the assets that they still have and their young talent and their coaching, and (Kyrie) Irving is amazing,” Kerr told reporters. “That looks like a team that is going to be at the top of the East for a long time to come. Whether their time is now or the future, that’s to be determined, but they sure look like they want it to be right now.” The Celtics own the best defense in the NBA, limiting opponents to an average of 94.5 points, and will be going up against the NBA’s best offense in Golden State, which is putting up an average of 119.6 points. The Warriors own the second-longest winning streak in the NBA at seven games, and they are crushing opponents by an average of 19.9 points in that span. “There’s a reason why they haven’t played a lot of close games, and it’s because they’re awfully freakin’ good,” Boston coach Brad Stevens told reporters of Golden State. “And so, we just have to, again, possession to possession, stay poised, stay in the moment. If one thing doesn’t go our way, move on to the next.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE WARRIORS (11-3): Golden State star point guard Stephen Curry sat out Monday’s 110-100 win over the Orlando Magic with a thigh contusion but is probable to return when the Warriors kick off a four-game road trip on Thursday. “When Steph is out there, everything is just more free-flowing,” All-Star forward Draymond Green told reporters. “It’s just reads, more so than play calling. (Monday), we called a lot of plays. That’s kind of the chaos he causes when he’s on the floor.” Golden State, which leads the NBA in assists (31.3) and field-goal percentage (51.9), still managed to hand out 35 assists and shoot 50 percent from the floor with Curry out of the lineup.
ABOUT THE CELTICS (13-2): Boston has its own point guard fighting through an injury in Irving, who sat out a 95-94 win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday with a facial fracture suffered in the previous game but returned on Tuesday and played with a mask in a 109-102 victory at Brooklyn. “It’s almost like having somewhat foggy blinders on,” Irving told reporters. “When I take off the mask, I can see everything. And when I have the mask on, I’m really dialed into what’s in front of me. My peripherals are a little cut off, up and down. It’s something to get used to.” Irving, who is expected to wear the mask again on Thursday, managed 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting at Brooklyn.
1. Warriors SG Klay Thompson is 13-of-23 from 3-point range over the last three games.
2. Celtics C Al Horford is 16-of-19 from the floor in two games since returning from a concussion.
3. The visiting team took the last five in the series, and Golden State won in its last four trips to Boston.
PREDICTION: Warriors 108, Celtics 100