The Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors will be well-rested, but still not at full strength, when they go head-to-head Saturday night in San Francisco in a rematch of June’s NBA Finals.
The Warriors claimed the championship in six games, rallying from a 2-1 deficit with three straight wins, including two in Boston.
Neither Celtics center Robert Williams nor Warriors swingman Andrew Wiggins, both of whom played critical roles in last year’s respective playoff runs, will suit up for the first of two regular-season meetings this season. The clubs will duel again on Jan. 19 in Boston.
Boston’s Al Horford (health and safety protocol) and Golden State’s Andre Iguodala (strained left hip) also will be absent from the reunion.
Williams is recovering from knee surgery after an injury that often kept him out of action last season. Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla upgraded Williams’ status to day-to-day.
Without Williams, the Celtics have gone to a smaller look this season with impressive results. Jayson Tatum (30.5 points per game) and Jaylen Brown (26.7) have become one of the most potent forward tandems in the league.
Each had 25 points when the Celtics steamrolled the Phoenix Suns 125-98 on Wednesday night in their third consecutive road game. Boston has had the last two days off.
Golden State also hasn’t played since Wednesday, when it saw a late lead get away in a 124-123 road loss to the Utah Jazz. The Warriors played without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, both of whom were resting minor injuries, and also Wiggins, who will sit out a third straight Saturday with right adductor tightness.
Wiggins garnered Finals MVP attention when he spearheaded the Golden State comeback with double-doubles in Games 4 and 5, averaging 21.5 points and 14.5 rebounds in those wins.
Curry was voted the Bill Russell Award winner as the series MVP after leading the Finals in scoring at 31.2 points per game.
Curry has scored at a similar rate this season (30.0), but the Warriors have yet to recapture the magic that allowed them to win 16 of 22 postseason games a year ago.
The Warriors have lost two in a row to fall to 13-13, but don’t appear to be fazed by it nor the showdown with the Celtics. In fact, Curry was preoccupied during the run-up to the showcase contest accepting the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year award and applauding the return of women’s basketball star Brittney Griner.
“It is amazing that Brittney’s home,” Curry said of the United States-Russia prisoner exchange. “Shoutout to President Biden and his administration … all of the athletes, activists, people who used their platform to speak on her behalf.”
The Celtics, meanwhile, have been all business in running up the league’s best record at 21-5 and opening a six-game trip with wins at Brooklyn, Toronto and Phoenix. They will swing through Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Monday and Lakers on Tuesday before heading home.
Brown, a former University of California standout, insisted that last June’s disappointment against the Warriors is not forgotten.
“Losing at the highest point in the NBA Finals, there’s nothing more humbling than that,” Brown said. “There’s nothing that can bring forth humility like losing in the biggest moment of your career. Transferring to this season, we were all humbled and I think that’s a part of our make-up. We’re playing from the heartbreak.”
–Field Level Media