Optimism is high in Boston


The excitement and optimism for the Boston Celtics is at an an all-time high at the moment. Coming off a 105-100 victory against the Chicago Bulls, fans now believe there is a strong chance that the Celtics will become the first team to defeat the Golden State Warriors. Of course some local experts believe that the Celtics could do that, before this most recent win. Beating the Chicago Bulls is a nice step forward, since they were 11-7, but it was in Boston. That is the nice part about facing the Warriors on friday since they will be coming to the TD Garden. But honestly, are Celtics fans aiming a little high too early?

I’ve heard it a lot of optimism on the Felger and Mazz’s show on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Many Celtics fans sounded very optimistic when they called in to the radio show, and I think got into Michael Felger’s head a bit. Even he believes this team has a legitimate shot against Golden State. It was as if he was replaced with Brian Scalabrine on the airwaves. But you hear it all over radio, television, and social media, about how the Celtics have a shot to win against the best team in the NBA.

I’m not here to rain on the fan’s parade, but I certainly feel as everyone is becoming too enamored with this team. I’m sure fans in Boston have watched many (or all) of the games, and know what they are capable of. However, it sounds strange when national media members think that Golden State might lose. In fact it’s really strange when I see articles that ask if the Boston Celtics are the best team in the Eastern Conference. There are clearly a lot of buyers in the Celtics stock this season.

The Celtics have a difficult task on Friday to stop this man from scoring. In case someone forgot, Stephen Curry is really, really good. Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

What probably helped people believe that a win is possible, was the fact that the Celtics won on national television instead of getting blown out. People watching last night’s game can see how well the Celtics play when they are on fire (eight players scored double-digit points). Jared Sullinger grabbed 16 more rebounds (20 in his last game), Isaiah Thomas dropped 20 points (5-15 shooting though), and Kelly Olynyk has continued his torrid pace off the bench (15 or more points in three of the last four games). There is a lot to like with this team, and they will certainly play the Warriors hard on Friday. That’s one thing people can expect from this Celtics’ team. They never give up, and always give teams a tough challenge. However, with this upcoming match, there is a a huge piece missing for Boston.

First off, the Celtics will have a tough time containing the best backcourt in the league without Marcus Smart. Smart might be one of the only guards in the league that can actually cause havoc on defense for Golden State (just ask Russell Westbrook). Not having him for this important matchup really is a downer to Celtics fans. I wouldn’t be surprised if Smart didn’t score over seven points in this matchup, but his defense is invaluable for this team. Stephen Curry must have felt relieved knowing that the former OSU Cowboy will be away from the court for. Boston is certainly hurting without their young guard, but it’s not like Golden State is in perfect health either (which is a rare change for the defending champions).

After dropping 39 points in their last game against the Toronto Raptors, Klay Thompson sprained his ankle in the process. Even with his injury, I do believe the Celtics will have issues containing him. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time where Thompson was invisible in scoring and Curry took on the load. 

Avery Bradley has the ability to guard him proficiently when they match up. However, when he’s teamed up with Isaiah Thomas, Bradley seems to be more offensively minded than he is when he’s playing with Smart. I just worry that Bradley and Thomas will try to get into a shooting match with the Warriors’ guards. They will not be able to win that kind of game against Curry and Thompson (no one can).

Did Boston fans forget how good these Warriors are this year? They haven’t just beaten a record, but smashed the record for the best start of an NBA season. They’ve won 27 consecutive regular season games (going back to last year), and look like they are primed to beat the record for longest winning streak in the NBA (33 games). That’s just the tip of the iceberg when looking at the numbers for this team. They lead the league in points per game, field goal percentage, three-point shooting percentage, and point differential. Their defense is no joke either, with it being a top-five defense in efficiency according to Hollinger’s team stats.

We could go into more of what Curry alone has been doing this season, but that would be overkill (spoiler, he’s been really good this season). It goes without saying that he has been tremendous this season, and will probably win another MVP award in the process. That’s who the Celtics are going to have to stop without their best defensive player. Sure the Celtics’ defense is one of the best, but they will be challenged against the most complete team in the NBA.

It’s not as if I think it’s impossible for the Celtics to win. If they play physical and contain Steph Curry, then they might have a slim shot. But it seems like many Boston fans think that they can go to Vegas and bet the house on this game. Please don’t. Yes the Celtics lead the Eastern Conference in point differential, and have a lot of depth on their roster. Not to mention the team is a top-three defense in the league according to Hollinger’s team stats. It could become a battle for the ages, if the Celtics can keep their end of the bargain. Just look at how hard the Celtics played them last year? Both games were decided by single-digits.

In fact, the Celtics had more than 20 points on the Warriors at one point (before they lost the game). The Warriors respect how good the Celtics are, but I think the fans are running away with that respect a little to far. It’ll be a fun Friday for the city of Boston, and the entire NBA world will be watching. However, this game is probably going to be just another win for the defending champions.

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*All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com and Hollinger’s Team Statistics

C.J Maffris is a writer for Hardwoodhoudini.com. He doesn’t want to seem like a stick in the mud, but he really doesn’t believe the Warriors will lose. Feel free to debate with him about the Celtics’ chances on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris