Why the Celtics Will Beat the Warriors Tonight
Odds are, the Golden State Warriors have to lose eventually. So why not to the Celtics?
The 23-0 Warriors will travel to the T.D. Garden Friday night to take on the upstart C’s, winners of six of their last eight games. Golden State is just 10 wins shy from tying the 1972-73 Lakers’ all-time winning streak record of 33 games, but defeating this Celtics team will likely be one of their biggest challenges of the season to date.
Make no mistake, the Warriors have been dominant this year. They’ve outscored opponents by 335 points in their first 23 games, which means they’re on pace for a season-long point differential of +1,194. To put that in perspective, the 1971-72 Lakers hold the record for the best point differential ever at +1,007.
Reigning MVP Stephen Curry is probably the best shooter in NBA history—yes, even better than Larry Bird. Curry already holds the record for three-pointers made in a season, 286, and is positioned to shatter that this season. He’s drained 119 threes through 23 contests.
Steph Curry’s hit 119 threes through 23 games. Larry Bird’s single-season high was 98.
— Rich Levine (@rich_levine) December 10, 2015
In fact, Curry is so good, Warriors fans have taken to arriving at each game hours beforehand to watch him practice. Given that the average price of each ticket sold on Stubhub for Friday night’s affair as of Wednesday was $204, Celtics fans who want to get their money’s worth should do the same.
So with all of that said, why do the Celtics have a legitimate chance at winning? Well, for starters, the Warriors may be without Curry’s Splash Brother, shooting guard Klay Thompson. He’ll be a game-time decision with a sprained ankle.
If this game were in Oakland, that probably wouldn’t matter, since the Warriors are 49-2 at home since the start of last season. But they’ll be in Boston, which means there’s a chance for a hiccup. Golden State went 28-13 on the road in 2014-15.
But most importantly, the Celtics are good this year. In some NBA circles, they’re even considered one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, which measures each club’s offensive and defensive output relative to the average team, the Celtics are tied with the Raptors for the top spot in the East with a 3.6 BPI. Meaning, they would be favored against an average club by 3.6 points.
Probably the biggest reasons for that is the Celtics’ lockdown defense. Boston is second in the East in defensive efficiency, which calculates the number of points a team allows per 100 possessions. Guard Avery Bradley, who will most likely be matched up with Curry Friday night, is one of the most relentless defenders in the league. He’s shut down Curry in the past, holding him to 6-for-22 from the field in March 2013. One night later, Curry dropped 54 points in Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.
Head coach Brad Stevens demands his team plays as a cohesive unit, as evidenced by the fact that eight Celtics players were in double-digits in their win over the Bulls Wednesday night. Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 20 points, nine of which came in the final three minutes. Counting the playoffs, the Celtics are 33-23 since they acquired Thomas last February.
For almost one calendar year, the Celtics have played like a bona fide playoff team. A win over the Warriors Friday night would ensure that their rise will no longer fly under the radar. From a historical perspective, this is a big game for the Warriors. But in terms of how it may define their season going forward, it’s even bigger for the Celtics.