The Golden State Warriors are the best basketball team on the planet. They are possibly the best basketball team of all-time. Two MVPs. Five All-Stars. The best shooter of all-time. One of the best pure scorers of all-time. The record holder for the most three-pointers made in a game, who broke the record previously set by the aforementioned greatest shooter of all-time. The list of accolades goes on and on for the two-time defending champions.
So who do these Warriors "fear"? No one.
Who's the biggest threat? That would be the Boston Celtics. At least that's what the Warriors think.
In a series of interviews with The Athletic's Sam Amick, Warriors players repeatedly mentioned the Celtics as their biggest threat to a three-peat.
Draymond Green, the Warriors' All-Star swiss army knife/emotional leader, immediately picked out the 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, Al Horford can switch onto guards. 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."
Green went on to praise Kyrie Irving, who knocked down the dagger in the 2016 Finals, and is a big reason why the Dubs don't have four consecutive championships. "Kyrie has been [to the Finals] and done that, and he’s going to embody that [spirit]. Kyrie is going to love that moment, to love being that guy that has been there and showing everyone else the way. And I think that’s what makes them a threat is that [reality that], yeah they have all the pieces, but Kyrie has the experience and I think that’s what makes them great."
Shaun Livingston, a 13-year vet and key bench piece, echoed Green's praise of Boston's depth. "With their young guys, they’ve got some forces, you know what I’m saying? 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."
Kevin Durant, whose efficiency and scoring has actually gone up this season, listed the Celtics with the Rockets, Lakers, Thunder, 76ers, and Bucks as potential threats. If he had to pick one? It'd be Boston.
"They’ve got a deep team. They’ve got a collection of talented scorers where it’s going to be hard to switch guys on. They’ve got a big man (in Horford) who can facilitate like Draymond. They’ve got a great coach (in Brad Stevens), a great atmosphere, a great home court advantage, and they’ve got a lot of length. Those are usually [one of] the teams that give us trouble."
He went on to praise the importance of Kyrie Irving's experience and elaborate on the challenges of facing Boston.
"Yeah, I mean [Kyrie's] the only veteran guy who has been through the grind of winning and losing the last game of your season in the playoffs. He’s the only one who has been through that. And those guys have been in Game 7s before, so I think that experience is going to help, along with Kyrie’s knowledge of playoff basketball. But I think they’re just young and spry and hungry. I feel like we’re the same way, but we’re just on a different – we’ve got all different experiences. We’ve experienced a little bit more than them, and I think that’s the only difference."
Durant continued, "You’ve got to play both ends of the floor at every possession (against Boston). Even when the scheme is to switch pick and roll, switch everything, you’ve still got to be ready for a scorer once you switch onto him. You’ve got to be ready for different actions. There’s a lot you’ve got to worry about out there. I think when you’re playing against a team that you know you can beat, you’re playing more so off of straight instincts, athleticism and talent, and a little bit of smarts. I think you have to use your smarts against Boston."
Steph Curry, whose numbers are blowing away what he posted in both his MVP seasons, mostly tip-toed around questions of "threats," but he spoke briefly on the Celtics after his dazzling 51-point performance last week.
"[Houston is] not shy about saying that they’re trying to be built to beat us, and this and that, from their GM [Daryl Morey] on down, [and] we won’t see a Boston until we get to the Finals. I would assume that Boston would be a team that’s in there, because they do have depth, they have a nice kind of spread of versatile players that can kind of spread the floor and play-make and things like that."
The Celtics have played the Warriors nearly even in the last few years. Over the last three seasons, Boston is 3-3 against Golden State. Four years ago, the Warriors won both matchups, but by a combined eight points.
The Warriors currently sit at 7-1, second in the West, and have the NBA's best offense. Boston is 5-2, good for third in the East, and own the league's best defense.
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