The Golden State Warriors make their only visit of the season to Boston on Wednesday night, making it a good time to ask if coach Mark Jackson’s team is a legitimate threat to win the Western Conference or if the Warriors clearly are on a tier below the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets.
Bovada oddsmakers seem to think the latter, as the other four West powers are at 15-2 or better to win the conference (the Thunder lead at 13-10) and Golden State is at 9-1 with the Portland Trail Blazers. Since the Warriors franchise moved from Philadelphia to the Bay Area before the 1962-63 season, the club has won a single conference title — in 1974-75, when a team led by Hall of Famer Rick Barry swept the Washington Bullets in the NBA Finals.
The next year, Golden State appeared to be set up for a possible Finals matchup with Boston, with the Celtics leading the Eastern Conference with 54 wins and the Warriors topping the West with 59. However, Phoenix upset the Warriors before falling to Boston in six games. The Warriors haven’t been back to the conference finals since.
Last season, the Warriors returned to the playoffs for the first time in six years. Golden State upset the Denver Nuggets in the first round and pushed San Antonio to six games in the conference semifinals.
This year’s Warriors, 20-1 to win the NBA title, enter the week at 36-24 and second to Doc Rivers’ Clippers in the Pacific Division. Golden State has one of the sweetest-shooting backcourts in the NBA in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Curry is seventh in the league in scoring (24.1 ppg) and leads the league in 3-pointers but also in turnovers. Thompson has been slumping. He’s averaging 14.3 points and shooting 41.5 percent since the All-Star break.
Golden State and Boston were trade partners earlier this season, with the Celtics sending Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks to the Warriors in a three-team deal with the Miami Heat that landed the Celtics big man Joel Anthony and two draft picks. Anthony rarely plays. The Warriors traded Brooks to the Lakers for backup guard Steve Blake because Crawford has disappointed. He is averaging 7.2 points and shooting 37.9 percent in around 16 minutes a night.
The Celtics likely will see a fatigued Warriors team, as Wednesday will be the end of a six-game road trip and comes the night after a game at the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers. Boston visited Oakland on Jan. 10 and played solid in a 99-97 loss. Curry hit the go-ahead jumper with 2.1 seconds left and finished with 19 points but was 7-for-18. Gerald Wallace, now out for the season, missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. That was loss No. 7 of Boston’s season-high nine-game skid.
Boston’s other two games this week will have live betting available at Bovada. The Brooklyn Nets, Friday’s opponent, have been one of the NBA’s best teams in the new year. The Nets are still a 33-1 long shot to win the East and are +250 to win the Atlantic Division with Toronto at -400. Brooklyn is 2-0 against the Celtics this year and won 85-79 at TD Garden on Jan. 26 in the return of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.