The Celtics will host the Warriors on Thursday night, marking the first meeting between the two squads at TD Garden since Boston’s NBA Finals loss on June 16, 2022.
The occasion is sure to draw attention from around the basketball world, but one thing that has become clear through the first half of this season is the fact that these are not the same teams that met up on the Finals stage.
On one hand, the defending world champion Warriors have struggled. Despite having Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole all return, the bench unit was decimated this offseason and has forced Steve Kerr’s hand into playing the likes of Jonathan Kuminga, JaMychal Green and Donte DiVincenzo on a nightly basis.
Why is that a bad thing? Well, their 22-22 record pretty much tells the story.
On the other hand, the Celtics have somehow continued to improve despite a tumultuous offseason that saw head coach Ime Udoka suspended and starter Robert Williams III sidelined for the first two months of the regular season.
None of that has seemed to effect Boston, who has a league-best 33-12 record.
How have the Celtics improved? Williams seems to have the answer.
“The biggest thing, for me, that I’ve seen improved on is mental focus and accepting criticism,” Williams said Thursday, per NBC Sports Boston video. “Not crawling in a hole when stuff isn’t going our way, and trying our hardest to fight out of it together.”
The Celtics have certainly done a great job of putting those two things on paper. Boston is 7-0 on the second night of back-to-backs and lead the NBA in come-from-behind victories. The criticism part is harder to quantify, however, as there has been much to like about these Celtics.
Boston lost it’s only matchup with Golden State this season, falling 123-107 at Chase Center in December. Now, back at the scene of the crime, the Celtics will get a real opportunity to show off that mental toughness Williams believes they’ve gained over the last six months.
Tipoff from TD Garden is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.