By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The 2017-18 NBA Finals will tip off Thursday night at the TD Garden.
Yeah, it’s fun to dream and all, but it’s far too premature to consider Thursday night’s Celtics-Warriors showdown a preview of what’s to come this summer. Even January’s matchup between the two in Oakland will be an untimely assumption of what might be.
But one thing we can all agree on is Thursday night’s clash between the NBA’s two best teams is going to be a damn good time.
We’ll be treated to masked Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry trading shots, a June tradition over the last two years. Jaylen Brown will try to contain Klay Thompson while Jayson Tatum will try to earn his rookie stripes against a superstar in Kevin Durant. Al Horford (nearly perfect from the floor since returning from a concussion two games ago) is making a case to be the league’s defensive player of the year, and another strong showing against Golden State’s high powered offense on Thursday night will help cement that claim.
Not to be overlooked are hot heads like Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia sharing the court with Boston’s pair of Marcuses. Yes, Thursday night is going to be fun.
This battle pits the league’s best defense against the best offense, the golden standard of the NBA against a team hoping to get there. One has been together for years, winning titles in two of the last three seasons, while the other has been a team for just a few months. But despite their short time together, and the loss of Gordon Hayward on opening night, it’s easy to see why people are so geeked up about the Celtics. They’ve won 13 straight, fighting back from a pair of 18-point deficits during the streak. They’ve gone streaking because of their strong D, some resounding rebounding results and by keeping turnovers at a minimum. Their defensive toughness and ability to stretch the floor with just about anyone could prove to be the kryptonite against the NBA’s superior team.
Of course the Warriors have won seven straight by an average of 19.8 points, and are dropping nearly 120 points per night this season. There really isn’t anything to dislike about this game, even if you’re rolling your eyes at the hype.
Given it’s only November, we probably won’t learn much from the outcome. Things will change — a lot of things — over the next seven months on both sides, and even the disjointed Cavaliers may have things figured out by then. With LeBron James they’re always a threat to battle for another crown, and there are other impressive Eastern Conference teams that could knock the Celtics off their course to the Finals. The Rockets and Spurs even have a shot at keeping the Warriors from their fourth straight Finals appearance.
Let’s just appreciate this November clash for what it is: An early season battle of the current NBA titans. Nothing real will be won or lost on Thursday, and it may not even live up to the pregame billing. But in this long NBA season, it’s the perfect appetizer for basketball fans coast-to-coast.