It’s Best of West versus Beast of East
Warriors pumped to face sizzling Celts in trip opener
OAKLAND >> Sorry, LeBron James, but the NBA won’t have to wait until Christmas Day this year to see the first big East-West clash of conference titans. The big gift is coming early.
While the Warriors do play the Cleveland Cavaliers, their NBA Finals opponent the past three seasons, on Christmas again this year, there is much more anticipation for Golden State’s Thursday night meeting with the Boston Celtics.
The Cavaliers are scuffling along at 7-7, while the Celtics are the runaway leaders of the Eastern Conference, riding a 13-game win streak after Tuesday night’s victory in Brooklyn.
The Warriors, meanwhile, will enter TD Garden
at 11-3 and on a sevengame roll.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr actually seemed to be a bit exhilarated to be cranking up the hype machine for a stout opponent other than the Cavaliers. He gushed that this should be a thrilling junket for his club with subsequent stops in Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Oklahoma City to follow up the big Boston showdown.
“I’m really excited for
this trip,” said Kerr on Tuesday after the team’s final home practice. “Boston will be electric the way they’re playing, with that crowd. Obviously, Oklahoma City will be emotional still, and it’s always fun to play in Philadelphia and New York. Basketball hotbeds, great crowds … it’s going to be a really fun trip.”
The Warriors definitely will be road-tested over the next three weeks. Aside from a brief stop at home in late November, when they will play three games in four nights and then hit the trail once again, nine of the next 12 games will be away from Oracle Arena.
They might as well start the cross-country odyssey off with a bang, and this earlyseason meeting with Boston definitely fills that bill.
Despite losing star freeagent acquisition Gordon Hayward just minutes into his debut and dropping their first two games, the Celtics have been scintillating ever since. Entering Thursday, they led the league in team defense, allowing just 94 points per game, and had also limited their opponents to the lowest shooting percentage (42.8) and fourth-lowest 3-point percentage (32.1).
That makes for an intriguing test against a Warriors team that leads the NBA in offense and averages 119.6 points a contest, shooting a gaudy leaguebest 52.0 percent overall and 41.3 from 3-point range.
Kerr doesn’t think Boston’s astounding defensive numbers are a fluke, and that the Warriors will get a stern test from a deep, versatile roster much like his own under highly regarded young coach Brad Stevens. He also believes this could be the beginning of a long series of showdowns between the Warriors and Celtics.
“It sure looks (like) Boston is the team of the future in the East,” Kerr said. “Their assets, their young talent, their coaching, and Kyrie (Irving) is amazing. That looks like a team that’s going to be at the top of the East for a long time to come. Whether their time is now or the future is to be determined, but they sure look like they want it to be right now.”
To be sure, former Cavaliers star Irving, who is leading the team in scoring, is just leading, period. Many observers believe his all-around game has never been better.
“I just think it’s his team,” Kerr said. “In Cleveland, he was such a dominant force, but it was always going to be LeBron’s team. It just looks like Kyrie knows it’s his group and he’s thriving with that group of players around him. It just seems like the next stage in his development. He knew what he was doing when he decided to leave. I admire Kyrie. Obviously, he’s been a thorn in our side for years, and now he just happens to wear green.”
• Warriors guard Stephen Curry was back on the practice court Tuesday after sitting out the club’s victory Monday night over Orlando.
Curry, who is nursing a deep thigh bruise suffered in a collision Saturday night against Philadelphia, went through his usual shooting regimen during a light practice, and Kerr said Curry should be OK for Boston.
“He looked good,” Kerr said. “We didn’t practice hard today, but he’s fine. He’s probable for Thursday unless he has a setback the next couple of days.”
The Warriors are scheduled to depart for the East Coast early Wednesday and hold a workout shortly after their arrival.
Coach Brad Stevens’ Celtics will bring a 13-game win streak into Thursday night’s game in Boston against the Warriors.