By Nicolas McConnell (@NicMcC83)
Despite a tough loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, the Golden State Warriors return home looking like a contender after a 10-game winning streak and a 6-1 road trip. Put simply, they’re hot. Now, having finally escaped the frigid East, the Dubs are set to face the only thing colder than a polar vortex: the Boston Celtics and their six-game skid.
The Warriors will look to take advantage of this young Boston team in a deep rebuilding phase in the friendly confines of Oracle Arena tonight. The Celtics, for their part, showed some life against an undermanned but still very good Los Angeles Clippers team on Wednesday and may pose a surprisingly stiff challenge against a Dubs squad still feeling the effects of a long trip during which the starters played heavy minutes.
Keys to the game
Off Eff: Warriors: 103.5 (13th) Celtics: 98.7 (23rd)
Def Eff: Warriors: 98.5 (4th) Celtics: 103.2 (18th)
Pace: Warriors: 99.1 (4th) Celtics: 95.9 (T-17th)
Though the Warriors may be back in the Bay Area, this game will be their twentieth in just over a month – a stretch during which the team never got more than a night off in between contests. This is a team that tends to take quarters (and halves) off, and if the cliché that the first game home is really another road game holds true, the Warriors may not have the legs to mount one of their patented comebacks.
Brad Steven’s Celtics turn the ball over nearly as often as do the Warriors, so the Dubs have a solid opportunity to rack up some easy fast break points. Similarly, the Warriors should look to push the ball after every defensive rebound and create havoc for Boston’s middle-of-the-road defense.
They don’t need to provide eye-popping offense or soul-crushing defense; the Warriors’ reserves (the lowest-scoring second unit in the NBA) just need to be adequate tonight. During the road trip, we saw signs of life from the bench mob against the Orlando Magic and Milwaukee Bucks, and this team desperately needs that to become a regular thing. Adequacy was not within the bench’s reach on Wednesday, though, as they allowed a quick 11-3 run in the 2nd quarter that gave the Nets life.
It’s a Trap!
Perhaps even more welcome than returning home to a lackluster team is the promise of the ensuing five-day layoff – after tonight, they don’t play again until the January 15. That’s good news, but it’s important not to look at a reeling opponent and a period of rest and neglect the task at hand. The Warriors need to stay focused from the jump and not give the Boston transplants in the crowd anything to get loud about. The Warriors are a better team by almost any measurement; so long as they stay focused, they should have no problem.
Rajon Rondo (Out)
Festus Ezeli (Out)
Jermaine O’Neal (Out)