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More stressed about the health of their All-Star point guard: Warriors or Celtics?
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David Aldridge: Celtics, for sure. The Warriors still have a former Finals MVP and Kia MVP to fall back on in Kevin Durant, who should be back on the floor Thursday, while Stephen Curry heals. Boston doesn’t have anyone remotely resembling Durant to pick up the slack while Kyrie Irving is injured. Coach Brad Stevens will no doubt coach up the remaining players to keep the Celtics competitive, and since both teams are basically locked into second place in their respective conferences, they won’t lose any ground or seeding before the playoffs. But Boston needs Irving (and, Marcus Smart) back on the floor.
Steve Aschburner: The Celtics. I get it that the Warriors are playing for higher stakes, with a repeat title and third championship in four years as their prize compared to Boston’s year-early ambitions to, what, reach The Finals? That ought to dial up the stress a little higher for Golden State. But the Warriors’ stash of All-Stars is greater, leaving them more to fall back on if Stephen Curry isn’t fully healthy or even available, compared to Kyrie Irving in the same predicament. I do think coach Steve Kerr is whistling past the graveyard with his claim that the Warriors can beat anyone in the playoffs without Curry, but they can weather his absence or limitations better than the Celtics can with Irving.
Tas Melas: The Celtics. Curry is supposed to be re-evaluated around the opening tip of the playoffs. Even if he misses the first round, is anyone picking against Golden State in subsequent rounds? Losing the engine of the offense actually might act as a catalyst to get this Warriors roster in to playoff mode now. That’s the motive behind coach Steve Kerr’s couple quotes this week — “There’s no way he’s playing in the first round” and “We can beat anybody in the league without Steph” — because he realizes there are no pushovers in the West, but also because he’s gently nudging Curry to sit until he’s as close to 100 percent as possible. The Warriors do not want a repeat of Curry in the 2016 Finals, when he didn’t look himself. While the Warriors have a shot against anyone without Curry, Boston without Kyrie — on the other hand — does not. A three-to six-week time frame is the prognosis for Irving and him returning after six weeks would put him in to the Eastern Conference semifinals – a potential matchup with the Cavs. Even if the Cavs aren’t their old selves, they beat a Celtics team who would struggle to score without an elite player in Irving.
Shaun Powell: Right now I’d say the Celtics. Kyrie Irving will be asked to do heavy lifting in terms of minutes and production in the playoffs for a team that really lacks a reliable second option, and he can’t do that if he isn’t 100 percent or worse, suffers a relapse. Yes, the Celtics are perhaps a year away from being taken seriously as title contenders anyway, but Kyrie at least gives them a chance in case something freaky happens to Toronto or Cleveland. The Warriors can deal with little or no Stephen Curry in the first round or perhaps against any team not named the Houston Rockets. Kevin Durant and company can buy time until Curry’s good to go.
John Schuhmann: I’m neither a doctor with expertise on either injury nor am I on the inside of either organization. But personally, I’m more stressed about the health of Stephen Curry. Kyrie Irving is one of two All-Stars on the Celtics, while Curry is one of four on the Warriors, and the absence of Marcus Smart makes Irving’s health more important than it would be otherwise. But, given Gordon Hayward’s injury, Marcus Smart’s injury, and the young talent they have, the Celtics’ timeline is more focused on the future. The Warriors, meanwhile, are built to win a championship right now, they have a legit challenger this season, and they’ve shown the effects of having played into June each of the last three seasons. Even with three other All-Stars, Curry is their most important player. They’ve been more than 14 points per 100 possessions better offensively with Curry on the floor with Thompson and Durant (121.6) than they’ve been with the other two on the floor without Curry (107.2). And the champs could be facing a dangerous opponent — Utah (23-4 over the last nine weeks) or Minnesota (with Jimmy Butler back) — in the first round. There’s a lot to look forward to in this postseason, but the biggest intrigue is with seeing the defending conference champs (Cleveland and Golden State) against the best teams in each conference this season (Toronto and Houston). I want to see those matchups with all four teams at full strength.
Sekou Smith: The Celtics … and it’s not even close in my eyes. They don’t have three other All-Stars to lean on if Kyrie Irving’s return from his knee procedure takes longer than expected. The Celtics don’t have a player every bit as good (and in the estimation of most) who is better than Irving (as the Warriors do with Kevin Durant). This isn’t a temporary stress either. Given Irving’s injury history with his knees, there’s even more stress for the Celtics long-term. Having both Irving and Gordon Hayward in street clothes to start the playoffs has to be a painful sight for coach Brad Stevens, given the investment they’ve made in both players. The key to Boston’s chances of going deep in the Eastern Conference playoffs rested on Irving’s ability to play the role of big-game assassin. Without him — for however long he’s out — the Celtics seem more vulnerable than they would be otherwise.