On the Lookout: Streaking Warriors, Celtics on collision course

Published April 17, 2021, 5:00 PMMiguel Flores

Steph Curry, who has been on a tear as of late, will lead the Golden State Warriors in a tussle with the red-hot Boston Celtics, winners of five straight games.

Stephen Curry is playing like he asks, “What would Wilt do?” before every game. Since returning from injury, Curry has broken Wilt Chamberlain's Warriors scoring record and has been unstoppable, averaging 38.2 points on 54.5 percent shooting from the field and 47.1 percent from deep with 6.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

When Curry is on a tear like this, it doesn't matter who the Golden State Warriors are facing — it's going to be must-watch TV.  Add the fact that they’re facing the resurgent Boston Celtics Saturday on TV5 at 8:30 AM, and you get the perfect Sunday morning.

Boston, after looking lack-luster for most of the season, is starting to figure things out. Getting healthier has played a big part in their five-game win streak. Having most of their lineup available has also finally allowed the Celtics to develop chemistry between their core players. It's quite simple really: great players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Kemba Walker will figure out a way to win together.

Injuries and COVID-19 has kept those four from playing a ton of minutes. The five-game win streak has been a good indicator since that four-man lineup has closed out four tight games against solid teams, even blowing out a still healthy Denver Nuggets, 105-87.

Of the Celtics core four, Tatum has blown up the most, norming 30.4 points on 51 percent shooting with 8.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists over the last five games, highlighted by a 53-point explosion against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Celtics’ other All-Star in Brown has also found consistency after being cold after the midseason break, scoring at least 20 points over the last five games and hanging 40 points on the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Celtics have momentarily dug themselves out of the play-in tournament purgatory, currently sitting in fifth in the East with a 30-26 record. They’re still only two games ahead of the seventh place Miami Heat, so every win and loss are going to bring heavy implications.

Speaking of the play-in purgatory, the Warriors are praying they can ascend. Curry's hot streak withstanding, the Warriors are still only in ninth in the West at 28-28 – 4.5 games behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the sixth seed and an outright spot in the playoffs.

Most of the criticism of the Warriors have stemmed from their over-reliance on their egalitarian, heavy on-ball and player movement system. They won championships with that system when they had Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, and Andre IIguodala tearing up every team in the NBA.

But two of those guys are on other teams now. Klay is still recovering from an ACL tear. The pass-and-feel ethos of the Warriors hasn't exactly been easily adapted by the Warriors' new guys in Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr.

Many are already calling this a transition year for the Warriors. They recently shut down James Wiseman, after the 2020 second overall pick had surgery on his knee. Without Wiseman, the Warriors don't have a true center to match up against the West's threatening frontcourts.

Still, any team with Steph and Draymond is going to put up a fight: whether it be in the play-ins or in a seven-game series. Green, who at times has seemed allergic to taking shots this season, has continued to be the roaring heart of the Warriors, directing the flow on both ends of the court. Ignoring his 6.2 points average, Green has still been effective tallying 8.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds a game. Wiggins has also had his nights, consistently providing a threat to score 20 points while averaging his best effective field-goal percentage for a season at 54.5.

Tomorrow's game at Boston should have a good playoff feel, which Steph Curry relishes, traumatizing opposing home courts with his deadly-efficient play. The Celtics have bodies to throw at Curry in Smart and rookie Payton Pritchard. But other teams have shoved bigger, more athletic defenders at Curry, and still got buried in a torrent of 3s.

The same problem could arise for the Warriors, who don’t have an easy answer for Tatum, Brown and Walker. Judging off each team’s offensive and defensive rating, these teams match up pretty evenly, so this game has a great chance of featuring a close finish.