Watch It! – Warriors at Celtics

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors meet at 8 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.

Durant’s Defenders

There is no such thing as having a favorable defensive matchup against Kevin Durant. As an athletic, lanky and legit 7-footer, Durant can get his shot off pretty much whenever he wants.

Without Jae Crowder tonight, Boston’s top defenders against Durant will likely be Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko.

Smart, who has been Boston’s starting small forward during its last four games, certainly will be playing at a massive size disadvantage. However, he has done so in the past against the likes of Durant and Kristaps Porzingis. The key to having Smart defend players who tower over him, in Brad Stevens’ mind, is only having him match up with those players for short spurts.

With that in mind, we’ll likely see Smart to open the game against Durant, but expect Brown, Johnson and Jerebko to spend more time defending the former league MVP.

Bend, Don’t Break

Every time the Celtics play the Warriors, Stevens delivers the same message to both his players and the media: you can’t allow Golden State’s jaw-dropping plays to break you.

There is no sidestepping the fact that the Warriors are loaded with talent. Stephen Curry is the two-time reigning MVP. Durant is a former MVP. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are All-Stars. They’re all going to do amazing things and hit some ridiculous shots at some point during this game.

The Celtics understand that, and that’s the first step. The next step is not allowing those plays to break their psyche for the remainder of the contest.

Nothing-to-Lose Mentality

This game was chosen as a national television game for a reason. The NBA and its schedule makers anticipated that the Celtics and Warriors would be two of the best teams in the league at this point.

Golden State has held up its end of the bargain, as it enters tonight’s game with a 9-2 record. Boston, on the other hand, is only 6-5 on the season, due in large part to substantial injuries to Crowder, Al Horford and Kelly Olynyk.

Olynyk has been back for five games and Horford may return tonight from a concussion that has forced him to miss the last eight games. But even if those two players are available for Boston, the Celtics will be considered massive underdogs. That’s why they should take the court with their minds at ease; they will have nothing to lose.

Durant’s Welcoming

Boston fans wish that they were able to give Durant some sort of a homecoming cheer this season when the C’s took the court for their home opener. Tonight, they’ll give him a welcoming, but it’s likely to be a smattering of boos.

Durant spurned the Celtics during free agency this offseason and chose instead to sign with the Warriors. It was his decision to make, but Celtics fans don’t have to agree with it.

At the very least, this crowd will get on Durant with a fury when he’s announced as a starter and when he first touches the ball. It would not be a surprise if Boston’s faithful takes it a step further and boos Durant every time he touches the ball throughout the entire game, as C’s fans have done in the past to disliked opponents.

Green Kryptonite

Of all of the teams in the NBA, it has been the Celtics who have given Golden State the most trouble over the last two seasons.

These teams went to double-overtime at TD Garden a season ago when the Warriors rode into Boston with a 23-0 record. Later in the season, on April 1, the Celtics dealt Golden State its eighth loss of the season with a 109-106 victory at Oracle Arena. And the previous season, during which the Warriors won the title, both meetings between these two teams were decided by five or fewer points.

Clearly, the Celtics have something that matches up well with the Warriors. Most of that “something” is its defensive-first trio of perimeter players in Avery Bradley, Smart and Crowder. As we’ve stated, Crowder will unfortunately not be available tonight, which is a major hit to Boston’s stack of kryptonite.