The Warrior freight train will come barreling into Boston Friday night looking to blast through the C’s for their 24th straight win to start the season and 28th straight overall. Few expect the Celtics to put up much resistance to Golden State, especially with starting guard and defensive leader Marcus Smart still out with injury. The Celtics will not only need to play a perfect game, but will specifically need to do these 5 things in order to ensure snapping the historic streak.
- Turn it into a gritty, physical game – Even though the C’s were swept in the first round of the playoffs by Cleveland last year, LeBron James is quoted as saying the toughest series they played en route to the Finals was against the Celtics. Had the C’s drawn the Hawks in the first round, I firmly believe they would have beaten them. They’ll have to turn this game into one of the games against the Cavs. Physical play, wasting a few hard fouls early on, diving for balls and creating some chippiness with the Warriors will help the C’s take control of the game. Keeping the Warriors to double-digits should be a goal from the outset.
- Don’t get into a shooting contest – The last thing the Celtics need is for Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk to be slinging up shots from behind the arc in transition, or in the half-court offense, to be honest. The Celtics are no match with the Warriors for the 3-ball. In fact, I don’t think any team is. In history. The C’s will need to turn this game, not only into a scrap-fest, but into a half-court game. Transition when they can, but don’t be afraid to slow down the tempo, move the ball, and get the open, close-range shots.
- Contain Steph – OK, much easier said than done, but the Celtics will have to give up another open GS weapon in order to double-team Stephen Curry. Preferably not, Klay Thompson, but perhaps Andre Iguodala. If you’re coming out of tonight’s game saying, “The Celtics contained Stephen Curry, but were burned by Iguodala’s hot hand”, then there is really nothing you could have done at all to beat this team. Avery Bradley will likely draw the defensive duty against Curry, but look for Isaiah Thomas or Jae Crowder to join the party.
- Offensive Rebound – The key here is not just for second-chance opportunities, but to prevent the break after a Warriors defensive rebound. The C’s need to have a presence on the offensive boards to sustain a chance at this win. If not, look for the Warriors to run run run and shoot the 3 in transition. They may be one of the best teams I’ve ever seen on the fast break, especially with the kick-back 3 to Curry or Thompson. Preventing that with a tough rebound and put back is a swing of anywhere from 4-6 points per possession.
- Prevent the run – In the blink of an eye, the Warriors can go on a double-digit run and before you know it you could be in a hole you can’t get out of. It’ll be up to Brad Stevens to control the tempo when the game starts to get out of hand. Waiting even one possession too late to call a much needed timeout could be a dagger to the C’s. Two fast-breaks in a row and Stevens should be ready to call the T immediately. A 10-0 run to climb out of a deficit, or worse, to extend a lead could spell doom for Boston.
In the end, I don’t think the C’s have enough to stop Golden State, especially with Smart confirmed out of the game by Danny Ainge Thursday morning, but doing the things in the list above will at least give them a chance. Their goal is that this game should be a one or two possession game with less than a minute left, then leave it up to Stevens to draw up a game-winning play and go home the lead story in the papers tomorrow.
Boston Sports Analyst, Spark Sports
Twitter – @BSMike