1/30 Game Preview: Warriors at Celtics

TD Garden gets set to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant as the Boston Celtics host the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night.

The game is the first in Boston since a helicopter crash claimed the life of Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others Sunday. The Celtics have played twice since, wrapping up a 2-1 road trip with a 109-101 victory over the Miami Heat on Tuesday.

Bryant was at the center of a heated Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers rivalry early in the century that culminated in NBA Finals matchups in 2008 and 2010. Bryant's Lakers beat the Celtics in seven games in 2010 for the last of his five NBA championships, though the city of Boston showed its respect for the star -- albeit among the usual boos -- when he played his final game at the Garden on Dec. 30, 2015.

"I don't think the fans here really understand how much they drove me to maniacal proportions," Bryant said after that game. "I don't think they understand how much they meant to my career."

The Warriors enter having lost four straight and 14 of their last 15. The matchup wraps their season series with the Celtics; Boston won 105-100 in their first meeting at Golden State on Nov. 15.

The Celtics are nearing the end of a recent spell of injuries among their starters as Jayson Tatum (right groin strain) was upgraded to questionable on Wednesday's injury report. Coach Brad Stevens told local radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub that Tatum will be back "by the weekend" if he doesn't play Thursday.

Even without Tatum, Boston handed Miami just its third loss at home -- and first home loss to an Eastern Conference team -- with Tuesday's win. The Celtics never trailed in the second half, Gordon Hayward leading the way with 29 points and Jaylen Brown adding 25.

"I think we're getting back to Celtic basketball, how we kinda started the year," said Brown postgame. "Getting back to being a team that's aggressive. Being a team that's coming out and looking for bodies, rather than the team that's sitting back on our heels. I think that's the biggest difference."

Boston remains without big man Enes Kanter, who is sidelined by a right hip contusion.

The Warriors are still without stars Stephen Curry (hand) and Klay Thompson (knee) as they boast the league's worst record. Golden State was able to hang with the Philadelphia 76ers for three quarters Tuesday before ultimately falling 115-104.

D'Angelo Russell led the Warriors with 28 points, his fifth straight game scoring more than 25. After the contest, coach Steve Kerr spoke to the mood in the building as Philadelphia honored Bryant, who was born in the city and starred at nearby Lower Merion High School.

"Once both teams got going, then it felt like a regular game again," Kerr said. "But it took a little while."

Thursday's game is the second of five on an East Coast road trip for Golden State. Boston plays four of its next five at home.


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