The Warriors come to Boston tonight, and this game is way more than just one win or one loss in the standings. The Celtics tonight are up against the team that is the ultimate barometer for how far away the Celtics are from a Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be rooting my ass off tonight hoping for the Celtics to pull out the W. But the Celtics aren’t expected to win, and the Warriors’ first loss would be overblown by the media. They’re still an all time team even if they lose to the Celtics in December in Boston without Klay Thompson. The real importance of the game, though, is seeing how well the Celtics face a telling test against the ultimate example of a championship team.
I need to see how well Avery Bradley defends against Stephen Curry. He’s the only one on the roster who has a chance of containing the MVP with Marcus Smart out. I trust Jae Crowder for some possessions when Curry is on the floor and Draymond isn’t (however rare that is), and Danny Ainge needs to know how Bradley’s defense against the league’s best affects his future membership among the next great Celtics team. My guess is Amir Johnson will cover Draymond Green, and if Johnson can contain one of the NBA’s best swiss-army knives, that bodes well for the Celtics’ future, even if Ainge trades him before his contract expires in 2017 (if the Celtics pick up his $12 million option next season). And can Isaish actually make a big impact against one of the league’s best defenses without being a defensive liability? You could ask those types of questions about everyone on the Celtics roster except David Lee (who should get some time in the 1st quarter to reconnect with his teammates and then ride the bench for the rest of the game), and that’s the beauty of the Celtics now. We don’t know which guys will take a leap and be a part of the Celtics next championship team, and that’s why a game like this is so important.
The ultimate test for the Celtics might be in Oakland on April 1st. The Celtics will be on a back-to-back after having played the Jazz the night before, and the Warriors will have a day’s rest. Hopefully, the Celtics will be healthy with Marcus Smart in tact and they’ll have a recent trade acquisition — whether it’s an Isaiah Thomas-level move or a franchise-altering one — and the Warriors will be gunning for 73 wins. Imagine what a game THAT will be.
This one tonight is pretty big, too. It’s too bad Marcus Smart is out, because he’s the one who’s growth most needs evaluation. But the Celtics will get their best measurement yet of where they stack up to a championship team. You should focus on that aspect of the game just as much as the final score.