Celtics Set to Put Streak to Test vs. Warriors

WALTHAM, Mass. – Winners of 13 straight games, the Boston Celtics will face their biggest test of the season Thursday night when they host the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors at TD Garden.

The Warriors come to town boasting an impressive winning streak of their own; they’ve reeled off seven straight victories, which currently ranks behind Boston’s as the second-longest winning stretch in the league.

One streak has got to end, and the Celtics are hoping that it won’t be theirs.

“We just have to (play) possession-to-possession, stay poised, and stay in the moment,” coach Brad Stevens said Wednesday afternoon following the Celtics’ first organized practice at their training facility in 23 days. “If one thing doesn’t go our way, move on to what’s next. And that’s what you kind of try to build toward because your margin for error is very small against a team of this caliber.”

Lately, opponents of the Warriors haven’t had much luck with that method. Golden State has beaten each of its last seven opponents by at least 10 points, including blowout wins against top teams like San Antonio, Minnesota and Orlando.

“I think the number one way they take teams out of games,” explained Stevens,” is that they’ve got a lot of really good players, they’re really well-coached, and you just have to be on your toes for all 48 (minutes) or else you’ll give up that 10, 12, 14, 20-point run that ultimately kills teams. There’s a reason why they haven’t played a lot of close games, and it’s because they’re awfully freaking good.”

But the Celtics are playing awfully well, too. And their play has clearly impressed the defending champs.

“Even without Gordon Hayward and that awful injury, Boston is just crushing people,” Steve Kerr said after Warriors practice Tuesday. “So, it's going to be really fun to go against them on Thursday. We know how tough it's going to be."

The 13-2 Celtics have been making it tough on opponents with their defense, which allowed a league-low 94.5 points per game. The 11-3 Warriors, on the other hand, have been thriving off of their offense, which is scoring a league-high 119.6 points per game.

Bringing the top two teams in the NBA together to play under one roof will surely create a playoff-like atmosphere at TD Garden.

“I think the testament to the Warriors is that regardless of how the other team is doing, they get that atmosphere probably everywhere they go,” said Stevens. “We’re looking forward to it. If you’re in basketball and you’re a player, that’s what you sign up for – the chance to compete in that environment.”

Many of the Boston’s players are not used to such an environment. The Celtics’ roster consists of 11 players that are 25 years old or younger, including five rookies. But 11-year veteran Al Horford believes the youthful C’s squad should do fine under the pressure.

“The guys are loose,” Horford said Wednesday. “We felt good, had a good practice today, watched film. They’re not getting caught up in it. We understand it’s just a game and it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be competitive. We’re at home. What more can you ask for?”

In truth, there’s not much more that you could ask for this early in the season. Thursday will mark the toughest test for the two hottest teams around as the top offense in the NBA faces off against the league’s top defense.

One impressive winning streak will end, while the other continues.