Watch It! – Warriors at Celtics

Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.

Limit Transition Points

Golden State obviously has many strengths. Its greatest strength, outside of pure shooting ability, is its transition game.

The Warriors are the league leader in fast break points and the competition is not even close. They’re scoring an average of 21 fast break points per game, and the next-closest team is Washington at just 18.1 per game. The Celtics rank eighth in the league in this category yet their average of 14.5 fast break points per game is 31 percent lower than Golden State’s.

There are two ways for Boston to limit Golden State’s transition points tonight. First, it must take care of the ball. Second, it must make shots on a consistent basis. If it can to those two things, which are easier said than done against Golden State, it should help to give the team a much better shot at dealing the Warriors their first loss of the season.

Don’t Get Caught Up

Brad Stevens said it last year when these teams faced off, and he’s saying it again this time around: Boston cannot get caught up in Golden State’s ability to make ridiculous shots.

There will be times – and likely many of them – during which Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (if he’s available) will drain shots despite perfect defense from Boston. In all likelihood, a handful of those shots will be of jaw-dropping variety.

The C’s can’t throw their hands up in the air after these plays. They cannot think to themselves, “Jeez, how do we stop these guys?!” Instead, they must move on to the next possession and figure out how to execute at a high level.

Playoff Atmosphere

Amir Johnson said Thursday afternoon that he expects a “playoff atmosphere” tonight at TD Garden. It’s hard to disagree with him.

This is about as good as it gets for a regular season game at the Garden. It’s Friday night. The Celtics are one of the hottest teams in the East. The undefeated defending champs are in town. So is the reigning MVP. What else could a fan ask for?

Needless to say, the Garden will be rocking. This is going to feel like a playoff game, and that home crowd might help to push its C’s to the most impressive victory of the NBA season.

Matchups, Matchups, Matchups

Golden State poses matchup issues across the board. Curry is nearly indefensible. Thompson is a shooting guard with small-forward height at 6-foot-7. Draymond Green is a power forward/center with the skill set and quickness of a small forward.

With all of that in mind, the question remains to be answered as to how the Celtics will decide to match up with the Warriors.

Avery Bradley on Thursday afternoon sure did make it sound as if he will be tasked with defending Curry. That would leave Isaiah Thomas defending either Thompson or Brandon Rush, with Crowder likely chasing whoever Thomas does not defend. However, Crowder will likely be forced to spend a lot of time at power forward against Green, so Evan Turner and James Young will likely need to display solid defense on the perimeter as well.

As you can see, Brad Stevens has his hands full with some tough decisions.

Gotta Make Shots

Boston’s defense has been strong all season long. It ranks third in the league in defensive rating. However, it’s not going to stop the Warriors tonight.

Golden State’s offense is just too good. It averages nearly 116 points per game and has scored in triple-figures during every game this season. No other team has accomplished that feat. The Warriors are also the most prolific 3-point shooting team in the league, having made 77 more 3s than the second-ranked Rockets.

It’s nearly a given that the Warriors will reach the century mark again tonight, which means the Celtics are going to need to do so as well if they want to win. Boston has shot 46.1 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from long range over its last five games. It will need to hit shots at a similar rate tonight in order to shock the world.

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