The Boston Celtics started the season slowly, but they are starting to round into shape and have in recent games looked like one of the better teams in the NBA.
The Golden State Warriors, who have become the standard by which every contender measures themselves, are taking notice. In interviews with The Athletic’s Sam Amick, multiple Warriors chose the Celtics as the team with the best chance to beat them.
Kevin Durant needed prodding, but eventually he picked the Celtics over the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors, pointing to Boston’s depth and versatility.
“They’ve got a great coach, a great atmosphere, a great home court advantage, and they’ve got a lot of length,” Durant told Amick. “Those are usually the teams that give us trouble.”
Shaun Livingston noted Boston’s depth as well. Draymond Green pointed to star guard Kyrie Irving, who was instrumental in beating the Celtics in 2016.
“Kyrie is going to love that moment, to love being that guy that has been there and showing everyone else the way,” Green said. “And I think that’s what makes them a threat is that (reality that), yeah they have all the pieces, but Kyrie has the experience and I think that’s what makes them great.”
The Warriors’ respect for Irving has always been palpable, ever since he beat them with a last-minute triple in Game 7. Even Durant, who wasn’t on the team at the time, has expressed a lot of admiration for Irving’s game. Players generally respect other players who can handle the ball and beat opponents in isolation. Irving is one of the best iso scorers in the league (Durant is another).
The lack of Raptors love is interesting, given how good Toronto looks in the early going with Kawhi Leonard playing at a high level. Toronto has many of the same ingredients as Boston, including versatility and star power that has won championships before.
But the Warriors have repeatedly struggled with both the Celtics and Irving individually. Paired together, one can see why the Warriors respect the Celtics, even if they certainly don’t fear them.