Golden State Warriors overcame Boston 4-2 in the Finals Series at the end of last season and the two teams meet for the first time this year as the Celtics head to San Francisco seeking a bit of revenge for that series defeat.
Boston have made an excellent start to the season and they sit at the top of the Eastern Conference with a league-best 21-5 overall record as they bid to go one better and claim what would be a record 18th championship.
The Warriors have made a stuttering start to their own campaign and they go into the game outside the postseason spots as they sit in 11th place in the West with a 13-13 record.
Boston are rated at +350 to win the NBA Championship outright, while Golden State are +700.
What: Boston Celtics @ Golden State Warriors
Where: Chase Center, San Francisco
When: 20:30 Eastern Time, Saturday 10th December
How to watch: ABC, NBA League Pass
Odds: Boston Celtics -140 Money Line, Golden State Warriors +120
Ime Udoka guided the Celtics to the Finals Series in his first season in charge last year but the organization was thrown into disarray over the summer as Udoka was suspended by the team for the entirety of the current campaign.
Assistant Joe Mazzulla stepped up into the head coach role and the Celtics have essentially picked up where they left off and once again they are the dominant force in the East.
Mazzulla has implemented a few tactical changes and Boston appear a little slicker in offense, but the collapse - or at least difficult teething period - some pundits had predicted failed to materialize.
Golden State may be enduring a difficult season so far but star man Stephen Curry has continued to impress. However, the Dubs may be without their Finals MVP on Saturday as he has an ankle injury, which forced him to miss the 124-123 defeat at Utah Jazz last time out.
The two-time MVP had been playing despite his ankle not being at 100% but he then aggravated the problem further in a disappointing 112-104 loss at home to a shorthanded Indiana Pacers. Curry sat out the game against the Jazz and coach Steve Kerr is unlikely to call on the guard for the visit of Boston.
Curry isn’t Golden State’s only injury concern as Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala (both hip) and Andrew Wiggins (groin) are expected to miss out, meaning Kerr may be without three players who started the series clinching win in Game 6 of last season’s Finals series.
In contrast, Boston are virtually at full strength as Robert Williams and Danilo Gallinari are their only confirmed absentees, and both of those players are yet to feature this season.
The Warriors may be missing a few key men and their overall record this season is disappointing, but they remain a real threat at their Chase Center home and they have the joint best home record in the league with 11-2, level with three other teams including the Celtics.
If Curry is unavailable, this match-up against the Celtics still looks incredibly tough but Golden State’s home record does suggest they can make this game competitive even if their talisman is forced to sit out. That is reflected in the Point Spread as Boston are -115 with a -2.5 handicap, while the Warriors are -105 with a +2.5 points start.
The Celtics have the best overall record in the NBA so it shouldn’t really come as a huge surprise that they are the strongest team on their travels as well.
The Celtics have won 10 of their 13 trips so far and are yet to lose on the road to a team from the Western Conference, so this looks to be a big ask for the shorthanded defending champions.
Boston also head to Golden State seeking some revenge for last season’s finals loss, and star man Jayson Tatum is currently playing at an MVP level.
Tatum is averaging 30.5 points-per-game, 8.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists this season but the Celtics are strong in all areas and don’t rely too heavily on their star forward.
Tatum had a quiet game by his standards at Phoenix Suns last time out, managing 25 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes, but Boston still managed to claim a comfortable 125-98 win.
There is a real chance these teams could meet in the Finals Series once again this season as Golden State will surely improve as the campaign progresses, but given the injuries and form issues the hosts are facing this clash perhaps isn’t the potential Finals preview it could be.