The Golden State Warriors (9-2) visit the Boston Celtics (6-5) tonight in a matchup between two potential title contenders (8.05pm ET Friday on ESPN). Golden State has started to hit its stride of late, with wins in each of its last five games, while the Celtics have been plagued by injuries and haven’t found a groove yet.
Last season, both games the two teams played went down to the wire, with each team winning once. The Celtics actually won the contest in Golden State, ending a 54-game home streak for the Warriors, and the Warriors won in Boston.
This preview takes a look at the main factors that could influence the outcome of this game and concludes with our predictions and betting picks.
Will Jae Crowder and Al Horford Play?
Two of the Celtics’ three best players have been missing for much of the season. Jae Crowder and Al Horford have missed the team’s last seven and eight games, respectively, and Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens is unsure whether either will play Friday. Crowder is recovering from a sprained ankle, while Horford suffered a concussion nearly three weeks ago.
If one or both players is missing, Boston will have a lot more trouble competing in this contest. The Celtics’ win against the Warriors last season did come with Crowder resting, but it is obvious his squad matches up better against the new-look Golden State squad when he is playing.
When Crowder is on the floor and starting, he can match up with Kevin Durant and all of his length. That’s a matchup either the 6’4” Smart or rookie Jaylen Brown would have to take on otherwise. The 26-year-old’s three-point shooting and rebounding would help, as well.
Horford, meanwhile, is a versatile big-man defender who can hold his own against guards on the perimeter. On the other end, he drains mid-range jumpers and opens up the lane for dribble penetration.
If both of these players are in, even in a slightly reduced capacity, you have to give Boston a decent chance at an upset.
Who Wins the Point Guard Matchup?
Stephen Curry (pictured) is averaging 33.6 points and 6.2 assists in his last games, shooting 58.2 percent from the field, 57.1 percent from three-point range and 93.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Isaiah Thomas isn’t on a hot streak like Steph’s, but he’s been dynamite all season. His 2016-17 averages stand at 27.2 points and 6.5 assists per game on a 45.5/34.8/86.5 shooting slash.
We’ll see how much the players guard each other, but it’s obvious that these two team leaders’ performances ignite their teams’ offenses when they get going. Once either player gets it going scoring-wise, they can start making their teammates better with on-the-money passes as opponents start to key in on their scoring.
Curry is the better player, but Thomas is certainly capable of outplaying him for one game.
Will the Warriors Try on Defense?
Both teams have been wildly disappointing on the defensive end of the floor this season. The Celtics are at least starting to turn it around, and will definitely continue that improvement if Horford and Crowder return Friday.
For the Warriors, though, their effort on the less glamorous end of the floor has wavered wildly throughout the season, even within games. They have been content to rely on their offensive firepower to get them wins, which has mostly worked out fine for them in the win column.
The Celtics’ offensive performance has been a pleasant surprise this season. Led by Thomas and Avery Bradley, they will zip to the rim and fire away from outside as much as Golden State lets them.
If the Warriors really dig in, they have some of the best defensive personnel in the league. Their size on the perimeter is vastly superior to Boston’s, especially if Crowder doesn’t play. That can certainly play a role if that size is fully engaged.
Our Preview’s Golden State Warriors vs Boston Celtics Betting Picks & Predictions
First of all, I expect at least one of Horford or Crowder to play Friday. It’s a home game against an elite team that the squad would love to win for its confidence’s sake, which should be a nice point of motivation. The whole team will be hyped up, especially after Kevin Durant decided to spurn it for the Warriors during the offseason.
Golden State also has gotten into an increasingly bad habit of relying on its offense to bail it out at the end of games, which has unnecessarily gotten the team into plenty of close wins. Thomas is an electric fourth-quarter scorer and will help keep Boston in the contest all the way through.
Our preview’s betting picks and predictions for this game are:
- Golden State is a 7-point favorite for Friday’s matchup, but the Celtics should keep the game closer than that or even win, especially with a gradually improving defense and the potential returns of Horford and Crowder. The best deal is Boston +7pts @ -105 betting odds with Bovada Sportsbook. It is -110 for the same spread with BetOnline and Bookmaker.
- The over-under for today’s contest is posted around a robust 226, but I actually think these two squads could narrowly top that number. The closeness of the game at the end could produce plenty of free throws, which should push the total score over. The best option is to go over 225.5pts at -110 with BetOnline. Of the others, Bookmaker is over 226pts @ -105, while Bovada has yet to publish its odds for this market at the time of writing.