Three weeks ago, the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors engaged in a high-quality, intense affair that belied its regular-season status. The Warriors won, 109-105, but there was a growing feeling in the building and around the league that these teams could well meet again under warmer circumstances.

Since then, however, the Celtics are 5-4, the Warriors are 4-4, and both have fallen out of first place in their respective conferences. But the new conventional thinking is that Boston is being exposed while Golden State is just catching its breath.

The discrepancy in reaction is largely because the Warriors are loaded and happen to be the defending champions. But the Golden State representatives at the All-Star Game – and other All-Stars, too – don’t share that opinion of Boston.

“It’s a long year,” Kevin Durant said Saturday. “Kyrie (Irving) is asked to do a lot out there to score for that team, and as a point guard that can be tiring. But they’ve got a lot of young guys that are still figuring out their way. You’ve got Jayson Tatum, who’s learning, who’s been thrown into the position of playing on a team that’s trying to win a championship. That’s rare as a third pick, so he’s learning, and Jaylen Brown’s getting better. And then you’ve got Al Horford bringing his veteran leadership, and you’ve got Terry Rozier who’s playing great ball.

“You’ve got a lot of young players mixed with a couple of vets, so you’re going to have, like, ups and downs and learning experiences through it all. And you might lose a few games, but who cares? They’re getting better, and you can tell they’re going to be one of the teams that it’s going to be tough to beat them in the playoffs.

“They play extremely hard, they’re well coached, and you can tell they care about the game.”


Draymond Green had good perspective on the Celtics, charting their journey through the season’s first several months.

“They’re a very good team,” he said. “They’re young. This is their first year together. Obviously Kyrie is one of the few guys, if not the only guy, with championship experience, so it takes a little experience to kind of figure things out.”

Then Draymond dug in, saying, “I think they went from going into the season with Kyrie and Gordon (Hayward) and Al kind of expected to be really good. With young guys like Jaylen, Jayson Tatum, they were expected to be really good. Then Gordon went down, and then there were kind of no expectations for them, and they completely outplayed that. So then it’s a different thing. All of a sudden, everyone is gunning for you and that takes some adjusting to.

“So I think they’re just adjusting to it and they’ll be fine. Everyone hits that rough patch in the season, and I think that’s what they’re going through right now.”

Another of the four Golden State All-Stars, Klay Thompson, still thinks the Celtics are in this for the long haul.

“Obviously they have a great coach in Brad Stevens and an amazing scorer-slash-leader in Kyrie, and I’m very impressed with their young guys,” he said. “Tatum and Brown are making a huge impact, and to do that in their first and second years is incredible. And my guy (fellow Washington State product Aron) Baynes has also carved himself a nice little niche out there, and they’ve got another All-Star in Al Horford.


“So I’ve been impressed with Boston, and I won’t be surprised if they were there in June.”

Thompson is, however, a bit shocked at the teams’ records since that Jan. 27 “finals preview.”

“Yeah, it is very strange,” he said. “I did not see that happening, but that’s the toll of the NBA season. It’s long, and every team has incredible talent, so you can’t really relax. Tough stretches are just the nature of basketball. We’ll both be all right.”

Added Steph Curry: “There’s ups and downs. You have good stretches; you have bad stretches. For different reasons – Boston being kind of a brand new team that had a great start to the season, has hit a rough patch, but I’m sure will be better because of it.

“For us, we’ve been at this thing at this level for four years now, and we’re human. It’s really hard to keep that level of intensity. As high of a standard as we hold ourselves to, it’s really hard to achieve that every night.”

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