BOSTON CELTICS (40-24)
at GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (52-11)
Tip-off: Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Line: Golden State -8.5, Total: 222.5
A struggling Boston team will take its best shot at the weakened Warriors.
Itís been a rough few days for the Celtics, who gave up five points in the final four seconds to lose the Suns 109-106 to the Suns on Sunday (PHX +4) and then blew a 13-point second-half lead the next night in Los Angeles to fall 116-102 to the Clippers (LAC -7). The Celtics remain in second place in the Eastern Conference at 40-24 (32-30-2 ATS) but only hold a one-game cushion over the third-place Wizards. Theyíll play the fourth game of a five-date road trip on Wednesday night in Golden State, where theyíll play a Warriors team that has looked far less dominant since losing SF Kevin Durant to injury soon after the All-Star Game. They had lost six straight against the spread before covering a 5.5-point line in a 119-111 victory in Atlanta on Monday night. Theyíre 2.5 games up on the Spurs in the Western Conference standings with a league-best record of 52-11 (29-32-2 ATS). Since 1996, favorites of 3.5 to 9.5 points that have been beaten against the spread by 48 or more total points in their last 10 games (GSW) are 72-32 ATS against teams that have gone Under the total by 48 points or more in their last seven games (BOS). Over the last five seasons, March games involving a team playing its third game in four days (BOS and GSW) are 234-159 Over against totals of at least 200. C Al Horford is expected to return to the floor for Boston, while SF Jonas Jerebko is considered doubtful. Durant remains out indefinitely for the Warriors.
With Horford (14.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.4 BPG) and Jerebko (4.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG) both out against the Clippers, Brad Stevens was forced to concoct some unusual small-ball lineups to help cover for an already-thin front line. The Celtics were predictably hammered on the boards (62-44), causing PG Isaiah Thomas (29.5 PPG, 6.2 APG) to implicitly criticize Stevens after the game. ďWe canít be experimenting in Game 63,Ē he told reporters. Regardless, everyone will be happy to have Horford back on the floor, even if his presence canít fully remedy Bostonís rebounding deficiencies. Thomas was right to be frustrated, as he posted 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting. He had 35 the day before against Phoenix, but was at least partially responsible for the turnover that gave the Suns the win at the end of the game. Heís clearly frustrated, and look for him to get plenty of shots up against Golden State. SG Avery Bradley (17.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG) has played in four of the teamís last five games after missing a long stretch, and is averaging 11.5 PPG in 21.8 MPG. He is averaging under three rebounds per game in that time, whereas he would regularly grab six or seven in a game before his injury. Heís an important perimeter defender for Boston along with PG Marcus Smart (10.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.7 SPG) and SF Jae Crowder (13.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG). Smart had 21 against Los Angeles; his season high is 22. Rookie SF Jaylen Brown (6.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG) has become a key part of the rotation, and PF Amir Johnson (6.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG) joins Crowder and Horford in the starting frontcourt.
Durantís (25.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.6 BPG) move to the Bay was the biggest story of the NBA offseason, and he more than lived up to the hype before injuring his knee. Heíll likely miss the rest of the regular season. Without him, the Warriors canít simply revert back to their 2015-16 identity, as several key players from that team had to jettisoned to accommodate his arrival. Obviously, they can still lean on two-time reigning MVP PG Stephen Curry (24.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.8 SPG), but it looks like heíll need some time to shift back into being the teamís clear primary option. He has scored at least 23 points in each of his last four games, but heís only shooting 41.7% from the floor in that stretch and, more critically, only 31.3% from three-point range. Few doubt that heíll get his groove back, though. PF Draymond Green (10.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 7.2 APG, 2.1 SPG, 1.4 BPG) already did a little bit of everything for this team, and now he just needs to do a substantial amount of everything. Heís never without a chip on his shoulder, as he got angry about Madison Square Gardenís game production on Sunday and chirped Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer after the game on Monday. SG Klay Thompson (21.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG) scored 29 points against the Knicks, but, like Curry, has been a little cold from deep: Heís 13-of-50 (26%) from three in his last five games. SFs Andre Iguodala (13.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.0 SPG) and newly-acquired Matt Barnes (7.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG) absorb the bulk of Durantís minutes.