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Preview: Celtics-Warriors

12.28.09 at 10:20 am ET
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Strange things have been known to happen to the Celtics in the city by the bay. Just last year, Stephen Jackson shot the C’s right out of the building in an amazing display that had to be seen to be believed. Of course Captain Jack is no longer with Don Nelson’s F Troop, having sulked/forced his way out of town. Perhaps Jackson is smarter and savvier then he is often given credit for.

With a third of the roster on the injured list, what’s left in Golden State is an odd collection of talent, mismatched in every which way and also said to be very available to anyone who would like anything from a long-range gunner (Anthony Morrow) to a 6-10 ball of weirdness (Anthony Randolph) and everything in between.

The Warriors problems don’t really interest the Celtics all that much who have given away their cushion on this west coast swing with their shoddy late-game performance against the Clippers Sunday night. It is impossible to take the Warriors seriously, but their enigmatic makeup marks them as seriously dangerous. Sometimes.

CELTICS (23-6, 8-2 last 10)

Points Per Game: 100.6

Points Allowed: 91.5

Differential: +9.1 (First)

Offensive Efficiency: 109.6 (Sixth)

Defensive Efficiency: 99.3 (First)

Pace: 91.8 (23rd)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: Paul Pierce (knee surgery), Marquis Daniels (thumb surgery)

WARRIORS (8-21, 2-8, last 10)

Points Per Game: 107.2

Points Allowed: 112.3

Differential: -5.1 (26th)

Offensive Efficiency: 105.4 (19th)

Defensive Efficiency: 110.4 (26th)

Pace: 101. 4 (First)

Likely Starters: Monta Ellis, Steph Curry, Anthony Morrow, Corey Maggette, Anthony Randolph

Injuries: Kelenna Azubuike (knee surgery), Raja Bell (wrist surgery), Andris Biedrinis (ab strain), Mikki Moore (heel surgery), Brandan Wright (shoulder surgery)

Key Matchup: Randolph vs. Garnett

Who knows if they will even match-up with each other, but Garnett symbolizes what Randolph could become in a parallel universe if Randolph took the game as seriously as KG and had access to a stable team situation. Randolph has been mostly a beguiling tease throughout his young NBA life. When your career highlight involves dominating Summer League, you know you have room to grow. Just as there have been way too many “Next Michael Jordans” any time a young skinny athletic player with raw talent comes along, the inevitable “Next KG” comparisons are sure to follow. While Randolph has yet to show much in the way of tangible progress, his talent level assures a level of interest that far outstrips his actual production.

The Celtics in a Paragraph: It was bound to happen at some point. Faced with a pair of free throws that could have decided a game, Rondo went to the line and bricked both. As Ray Allen — the Zen master of the charity stripe — said earlier this season, Rondo has yet to develop a workable routine at the line. The whole point of the free throw routine is to have something else to concentrate on beside the time and score and Rondo’s newest construction, which involves a herky-jerky motion at the end, has far too many moving parts for him to rely on late in the game. Given all that he has accomplished at this point of his career, it seems likely that Rondo will master this aspect of his game at some point, but for now his inability to put games away at the line remains a serious chink in his armor.

The Warriors in a Paragraph: In his younger days, Nelson may have cobbled together these disparate parts into a cohesive something, but Nellie’s best days are as dated as his old Bucks teams of Sidney Moncrief, Paul Pressey and Jack Sikma. It’s a shame too because San Francisco remains one of the country’s great NBA cities. A greater shame would be if the Warriors wrangled the top pick in the draft and managed to make a mess of Kentucky phenom John Wall.

What to Watch For: The one thing you can rely on with the Warriors is that they will push the pace. Golden State averages almost 10 more possessions per game than the Celtics and while the C’s are an underrated fast break team they prefer to pick their spots. You can’t stop the Warriors from running any more than you can turn Maggette into a passer, but something in between — say a 96-possession game — would be just about right.

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