Stephen Curry is on a hot streak, and his Golden State Warriors need that to continue in their road game against the Boston Celtics on March 1. A young and spunky team that likes to run, the Warriors will face quite the test in facing the tough and defensive Celtics at TD Garden.
More importantly, a win in Boston means sweeping the season series against the Celtics. Both teams faced off at Oracle Arena on Dec. 29, and Golden State ran away with a 101-83 victory.
But that was back when the Celtics were an aging team seemingly destined to underachieve. Ever since star point guard Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, the team has upped its overall effort and focus to the point where Boston is starting to look something like the team that came within one win of a trip to the NBA Finals last season.
There's a long way to go before the playoffs, but one thing is certain. Beating Golden State at home would be a giant step in the right direction for the Celtics, while the slipping Warriors really need a win after a heartbreaking loss to the New York Knicks on Feb. 27.
The adrenaline is sure to be a-pumping, so fans should definitely tune in.
Time: Friday, March 1, 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: CSN Bay Area HD, CSN HD
Records: Golden State Warriors (33-25) vs. Boston Celtics (30-27)
Betting Line: Not available as of Thursday, Feb. 28, 11:59 a.m. EST
Injuries: Rajon Rondo (knee, out), Jared Sullinger (back, out), Brandon Rush (knee, out), Andrew Bogut (back, out), via ESPN
Key Storyline: Boston Seeks Vengeance for December Loss in Oakland
Back when the Celtics faced the Warriors on December 29, they looked like an old team that just accepted its fate of defeat. Thanks to 22 points and nine assists from Stephen Curry, Golden State won 101-83 and shot an astounding 63 percent from long range.
But the Celtics are a new team now. Ever since Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, Boston has gone 10-4 and is completely focused. Rather than look forward to next season and hope for the best, the team actually looks ready to compete and win now.
Throw in that the Warriors slumped in February, going just 4-8, and this is really Boston's game to lose. They have gone 20-9 at TD Garden, while Golden State is 15-18 on the road, and a rowdy Boston crowd is sure to be at full volume from start to finish.
Unless Golden State head coach Mark Jackson has his men fully locked in from start to finish and playing the fast-paced game that has made them a team to watch in the Western Conference, expect the Celtics to avenge their humiliating December loss.
Key Matchup: Avery Bradley vs. Stephen Curry
As was mentioned before, Warriors point guard Stephen Curry is on a hot streak. He is already having a career season, averaging 21.9 points and 6.5 assists per game, plus 1.7 steals while shooting an astounding 46 percent from long range.
The man has been even better over his last five games, posting 29.8 points, 6.6 assists and 2.3 steals while shooting 54 percent from the floor and an eye-popping 56 percent from three-point territory. Curry is an excellent scoring point guard who can shoot the ball just as well as he can pass it, and his ability to both play incredible defense and find his own shot are two of his more underrated qualities.
Playing against Boston, however, he's going to have a tough time fighting past the fine defense of Avery Bradley. Though not a strong scorer at just 9.3 points per game, Bradley is a fine on-ball defender who also possesses decent athleticism.
In this game, expect him to be sticking to Curry like glue and not allowing him any opportunities whatsoever. If he can contain the Warriors' star floor general just a little bit, then the Celtics will have a shot at winning.
Otherwise, Curry will run wild all over the team once again en route to another big victory for Golden State.
X-Factor: Jeff Green
The Celtics are going to need a spark to help them keep up with Golden State, and Jeff Green fits that role perfectly. The former Georgetown Hoya has proven to be a fine second-unit player in Boston, electrifying the fans with thunderous dunks and pesky defense.
He's only averaging 10.8 points per game, but his performance over his last five games has been far different. Through that stretch, Green has averaged 16.6 points and shot 52 percent from the field, plus 37.5 percent from long range. That includes a 31-point performance against the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 22.
Seeing as how the aging Celtics are likely to have trouble keeping up with Golden State's fast-paced offense, Green must be their one man who can run up and down the floor without hesitation and make himself available as a scoring option as well as be a beast on defense.
If he can get hot, then Boston has a definite shot at keeping the game close. If he's cold, then the Warriors have all but guaranteed themselves a win.
Predicted Starting Lineups:
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: David Lee
C: Andris Biedrins
PG Avery Bradley
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Brandon Bass
The Celtics want their revenge after losing to Golden State earlier in the season, and they shall get it. Even though Stephen Curry will light up the scoreboard once again, Boston will ride home-court advantage to a victory.
Pick your winner!
Jeff Green will help keep the game close from start to finish, reaching double figures in scoring and throwing down one or two legendary dunks. Courtney Lee will have another strong scoring night, though his defense on Klay Thompson won't really be anything to write home about.
David Lee will have a double-double in his return from a suspension, but not even that will be enough to ensure a Warriors victory. With time winding down in the fourth quarter, Paul Pierce will sink a clutch jumper that ices the game in Boston's favor.
The crowd at TD Garden will thus erupt into a chorus of cheers as the final buzzer sounds shortly after, and all that the Warriors will be able to do is watch stunned.
Boston Celtics 104, Golden State Warriors 102