Boston at Golden State
Time: 9:30 PM CST (ESPN), Friday
The Boston Celtics are 9-1 and in first place in the Atlantic division as it travels to face the struggling re-made, potentially even rebuilding, Golden State Warriors. The Celtics have won nine straight since losing its opener to the Philadelphia 76ers.
For all the talk that losing Kyrie Irving would weaken the Celtics, it has done nothing of the sort. Boston ranks No. 7 in scoring while allowing just 106.9 per game, giving it a +9.4 point differential thus far through 10 games.
The Celtics are getting everything from newly acquired point guard Kemba Walker that it did from Irving. And perhaps more, considering that Irving was something of a chemistry disrupter with his moods and eccentricities. Walker is averaging 25 points, five rebounds and 4.6 assists per game while playing 33.8 minutes a night. Surprisingly, the No. 2 score is not Jayson Tatum, but Jaylen Brown.
Brown has ramped up his offensive game while continuing his lockdown defense. He is averaging 20.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while pouting a PER of 20.72.
The loss of Gordon Hayward to surgery will cost the Celtics a month-plus of absence from its starting small forward, but this is now a team with the depth and chemistry to make up for it. Tatum will take on a bigger role, and he is just a hair under 20 points per game as it is already. Marcus Smart’s role now grows with Hayward out, and while Smart is something of a defensive specialist, he can score fairly well (11.7 per game really underscores his talents, actually).
The Celtics still have been without starting center Enes Kanter, but Daniel Their and Robert Williams III are filling in for him quite seamlessly. Though both are somewhat undersized for 5s, they combine to average 12 points, 10 rebounds and almost four blocks per game. Williams brings a defensive presence and rim protection that Kanter will not, and he eventually figures to factor in heavy in the C’s rotation in the upcoming seasons. He is still developing as just a second-year center.
Also promising has been the play of second-round pick Carsen Edwards. While his role is somewhat small due to playing behind Walker, he has been good for the 12 minutes a night the Celtics have asked of him. Overall, there is enough depth and defense on this team that once Hayward is healthy it should be able to pose a threat to any team in the Association. Most expected the C’s to be good, but it is actually a team that is a serious contender, and not everyone was willing to grant that status to Brad Steven’s team entering this season.
The Golden State Warriors is just 2-10 on the season and in the last place in the division.
This is unfamiliar territory from a team that had boasted four All-Stars a season ago. Out is Kevin Durant, who signed with the Brooklyn Nets, while the Warriors are also without sharpshooter Klay Thompson. D’Angelo Russell is a dynamite scorer, but the Warriors are also without Stephen Curry for a long period this season due to an injured wrist. Draymond Green returned from injury last game, but he is the only one of the Warriors top-4 players from a year ago to suit up at this point.
For as good as Russell has been, it has not been enough to carry the Dubs to victories. He is averaging 26.3 points, four rebounds and 6.5 assists per game while pouting a PER of 24.38. The next on the list of active scorers though is rookie and second-round pick Eric Paschall. He has been impressive, almost like a more offensive (and of course less defensive), Draymond Green.
Former Utah Jazz swingman Alec Burks should add some more scoring, but the Warriors’ issues have been mostly on the defensive end. Golden State still averages better than 111 points per game. So, with a patched-up roster consisting of a lot of rookies, young talent, discarded reclamation projects (like Willie Cauley-Stein), the Warriors are simply not a team that stacks up to most of the other teams in the Association anymore.