West-leading Warriors return home to face Celtics
Two teams fighting for home-court advantage in their respective playoff races duel Tuesday night when the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors meet in a battle of heavyweights in Oakland, Calif.
Neither team will take the floor in particularly good form, although the Warriors were able to salvage a 2-2 Eastern swing with a 120-117 win over the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.
The win produced good news for the Celtics, who were thumped 115-104 at home by Houston on Sunday. Despite the loss, Boston (38-26) was able to enter the week just 2 1/2 games behind Philadelphia (40-23) in the battle for the fourth playoff spot in the East and home-court advantage in the first round.
The Warriors (44-19) have an edge in their quest for home-court advantage throughout the Western playoffs, but the week began with just a slim 1 1/2-game margin over Denver (42-20). Golden State hosts the Nuggets on Friday night.
The Warriors and Celtics battled from tip to buzzer in Boston in January, with Golden State pulling out a 115-111 victory. Six players scored 20 or more points in the marquee matchup, with Kevin Durant pacing Golden State with 33 and Kyrie Irving the Celtics with 32.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr labeled Saturday's triumph at Philadelphia as "one of the best wins of the year." Stephen Curry added he believes it could have long-term ramifications.
"With 20 games or 19 games left, these feel-good kind of games where you just figure out how to win is very kind of playoff-esque," he told reporters after the game. "We want to build that kind of mentality and expectation down the stretch of the season."
Adding to the magnitude of the win was that it came against a 76ers team that had won 113-104 a little more than four weeks earlier at Golden State, and came without Klay Thompson, who was out with a sore knee.
The Warriors have had two days off since the win, but will not return Tuesday against the Celtics.
If there's been something positive to say about the Celtics in recent outings, it's that they've been healthy. The negative of having all hands on deck is that is has exposed a weakness: the bench.
The Celtics got just 31 points from five reserves in the loss to Houston. That came two games after opening a 1-2 homestand by getting just 13 points off the bench in a loss to Portland.
The lack of firepower has prompted some to suggest the club take a flier on Carmelo Anthony off the waiver wire. Coach Brad Stevens isn't one of them.
"(General manager) Danny (Ainge) has said this on a number of occasions: When we have six or seven guys playing well, we're pretty good," Stevens noted to reporters last week. "We've just got to get back to that."
Roster rumors also have been swirling around the Warriors, who are expected to re-sign Andrew Bogut. The center has finished his season in Australia is apparently interested in taking another shot at the NBA.
Bogut played four seasons for the Warriors, helping them win the 2015 championship and return to the NBA Finals the following season.
ESPN reported that Bogut needs FIBA clearance and a work visa, and that those steps could take from a few days to 10 days.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 5, 2019