Can Boston Slow Down the Warriors?

The last road loss for the Golden State Warriors was on June 9. That was exactly 154 days ago. They have played 15 road games since that loss to the Cavs in the NBA Finals, and they have gone 15-0. They have had three tough gut-em-out victories this season and the rest have mostly been Steph Curry walkovers. They trailed the Clippers in the 4th quarter and had a tremendous comeback to win in Los Angeles. They had a tight game in Utah. Questionable shot selection by the Jazz, long range jumpers instead of ball movement, sealed their fate. The Raptors had the best chance at ending the streak. Kyle Lowry had 41 points but he missed free throws late as did DeMar DeRozan.

So much about this streak is talent and confidence and a little luck. And so much about this streak is scoring. The Warriors are going to make incredible shots, back breaking shots and the only way to stay in it with them is to score too. 6 out of their last 8 road opponents have scored 100 points or more. The key is to be able to score and to slow them down a little, so they aren’t putting up 131 points like they did against the Pacers on Wednesday night. The Celtics simply cannot go through a scoring drought.

But what is so complicated about the Warriors is that they are such a great road team.

They score more points on the road (118.0) then they do at home (112.9). They take more shots, they make more threes, they go to the line more, and they turn the ball over more on the road. It is this rapid offensive pace that teams just can’t handle even though the Warriors have fewer assists, rebounds, blocks and steals on the road.

The Celtics are the third best defensive efficiency team in the NBA. They are a good defender of the three but no one puts more pressure on the perimeter than Steph Curry. Largely unnoticed is Curry’s dribbling skills which creates space for his teammates and himself not to mention that everyone on the Warriors is in constant motion. Their movement without the ball is the silent weapon that keeps them a high efficiency team. They create space for open shots; everyone on the Warriors cuts and moves quick and passes the ball.

The Celtics haven’t beaten the Warriors since the Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett days. It was in 2013, in March, when the Celtics outshot the Warriors. The Warriors shot 21% from three. Curry was a medicore 27% from three. Times have changed since then, Curry being the best three point shooter in the game today and perhaps in history.

Can the Celtics guards handle his activity? His perimeter shots are like layups. With Isaiah guarding him he’ll just shoot over him. The Celtics are better switching with 6-2 Bradley who is still too small to bother Curry but he can be physical which is the one thing teams never do with the reigning MVP. It’s like they still think it is 1995 and a three point shooter is going to get tired. Curry roams around the court dribbling and scoring with a freedom star players never get. He’s never double teamed. He is never touched.

Is that the answer?

The Warriors are stockpiled with shooters. Unlike last year, they are finding out what it is like for players to go down. First it was Harrison Barnes and now Klay Thompson who is a game time decision. Even though the Warriors are 22-0 and the season has been a spectacular showcase for their extroverted fast paced play, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the champs. They have had their dips in the road here and there. They have trailed in 4th quarters. They have had lifeless efforts. But they don’t last. They wake up and remember who they are.

To stay close enough to get a win the Celtics have to remember who they are and what is at stake. Tonight they can make their enemies a little happier by keeping the Warriors from 23-0. The Miami Heat’s record of 27-0 will be safe. The Lakers record of 33-0 will be safe. And the Celtics will have their third win in a row as they hit the road for Charlotte and prepare for LeBron on Tuesday.

photo via llananba