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4 keys for Celtics to beat Warriors

12.11.15 at 3:06 pm ET
Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry

Don’t let the Celtics fool you, this isn’t just another game.

The Celtics (13-9) have a chance to beat the undefeated Warriors (23-0) Friday night at TD Garden, and of course it’s not going to be easy. Reigning MVP Steph Curry is making a case for this year’s honor and leading the league’s best offense. Avery Bradley is going to do his best to pester Curry — make him uncomfortable, keep a hand in his face — but if the Celtics do knock off the Warriors it’s not going to depend on that.

The Warriors are a great team with a lot of weapons. If the Celtics are to pull off the upset, here are four things that would go a long way toward helping that happen.

1. Isaiah Thomas comes through with his season-best effort

No other Celtic has been more consistent than Isaiah Thomas. He’s averaging a team-high 21 points and leads the team in assists (6.3). The Celtics need a big night from their best scorer. If Thomas scores 30 or more points against the Warriors, it’s going to free up guys like Bradley and Jae Crowder. He’s only scored 30 points once this season (against the 76ers) but if there’s one Celtic you have to bet is going to score 30, it’s Thomas. Lately he’s been the second-half hero for the C’s. That has to end Friday night. Thomas needs to get it going early.

2. The C’s control the boards

Jared Sullinger has been a force on the glass lately, grabbing 36 rebounds in his last two games. But he is going to have his hands full guarding Draymond Green. Sullinger needs to out-rebound Green and keep him outside of the paint. The Celtics also are going to need all the second-chance points they can get. The C’s managed 17 second-chance points on 13 offensive rebounds against the Bulls, and they should be able to do the same against Green, Andrew Bogut and the Warriors.

3. The Warriors cough up the ball — a lot

The Celtics lead the league in opposition’s turnovers (18.7) and steals per game (11.1) — those spark their offense. The Celtics have been a defense-leads-to-offense type of team, and that has to be the case Friday night. The Warriors are seventh-worst in the league in turnovers committed (15.9). If the Celtics can force Golden State to commit 19-21, they will be in good shape. Crowder (who ranks sixth in the NBA in steals at 2.1), Bradley and Evan Turner have to stay active in the passing lanes. The Celtics naturally will shoot 40 percent or better if they’re forcing turnovers.

4. The C’s load up on assists

The Celtics are fourth in the league in assists (24.5). Who’s first, you might ask? The Warriors (28.9). But the Celtics have been able to pass like Golden State this season. The Celtics dished out 34 assists on 40 field goals last week against the Kings. If the C’s can get their offense going on that level, they will be able to knock off the Warriors. But it’s going to come down to their defense and it’s going to take a team effort. Guys like Turner, David Lee and Kelly Olynyk (who must stay out of foul trouble) will have to pick up the slack when the starters are resting.

Easy enough, right? Eh, not quite. As Kevin Garnett once said, we’re going to see a “bar fight” at TD Garden, and the underdog Celtics will need the stars to be aligned just right.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Stephen Curry
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