The Golden State Warriors have dominated the NBA over the past four seasons.
With back-to-back NBA titles — and three in the past four years — the Warriors haven’t had to deal with a ton of adversity. They proved that by capping off the 2018 NBA Finals with a sweep of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, it appears several Warriors realize that there’s one team that could seriously challenge them in the postseason: the Boston Celtics.
“I just think with the tools that they have, and the way the game is set up today, with small-ball and all that stuff, [center] Al Horford can switch onto guards,” Draymond Green told Sam Amick of The Athletic. “That would be their five in that lineup. And then obviously, you’ve got Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Kyrie [Irving], Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris. They’ve got a lot of guys who fit right into that style of play, with the experience of playing with Kyrie, who isn’t backing down from anyone.”
The Celtics have stockpiled quite a bit of talent in a relatively short amount of time. In fact, Boston was forced to utilize a great deal of its young pieces much sooner than anyone anticipated.
Hayward suffered a season-ending ankle injury in his Celtics debut last fall and former third overall pick Jayson Tatum was thrust into the spotlight. Tatum carried the scoring load for the Celtics throughout their run to the Eastern Conference finals and averaged a team-high 18.5 points per contest.
On the other hand, Irving had complications from a previous knee surgery and saw his season prematurely end in March. Without Irving in the lineup, Rozier took over the starting point guard role and truly excelled with the extended playing time that he received. Rozier ended up averaging 16.5 points while also dishing out a team-high 5.7 assists per game.
“With their young guys, they’ve got some forces, you know what I’m saying?” Shaun Livingston told Amick. “They go one through 10. I mean Houston still is a threat, but you’ve got to throw that [Celtics] team in there. It’s the star power, and it’s the young depth. Cleveland had more older vets [when they beat the Warriors in the 2016 Finals], but they didn’t really have two-way guys [like Boston]. They’re the younger version of us. …They pose a threat. Yeah, they pose a threat.”
Jaylen Brown also found himself thrust into a very significant role after not playing a ton as a rookie throughout the 2016-17 season. Brown shot 39.3 percent from beyond the arc during the team’s playoff run, which was the second-highest clip on Boston’s roster. The former California standout averaged 18 points during the postseason and formed a very formidable one-two punch with Tatum.
The Warriors (8-1) have bulldozed through the majority of their regular-season schedule thus far. The only blemish was a narrow 100-98 defeat at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, who are viewed by many as a potential playoff team this season. One of the only issues for Golden State early on was the shooting struggles of Klay Thompson, but he has broken out of his slump in a big, record-setting way.
There’s obviously a ton of talent in both conferences in the NBA this season. However, the Warriors clearly know that there’s a target on their back and the Celtics certainly have the firepower to give them a run for their money.
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