The top three teams in the NBA will be on display Thursday, and the night will feature one of the league’s most anticipated matchups of the early season with the Warriors visiting the Celtics.
In addition, James Harden takes the Rockets to Phoenix, roughly a dozen miles away from where he spent his college days. TNT will have no shortage of intriguing content after this doubleheader.
Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics
If you’re a fan of basketball at any level it is impossible to not love this matchup.
On one hand you have the historically potent offense of the Warriors. Golden State scored 1,674 points in its first 14 games. The last team to hit that mark through 14 contests was the 1991-92 Warriors. No NBA team has averaged at least 119 points in nearly three decades (Warriors currently average 119.6).
The advanced metrics really love this team. Golden State’s 117.1 offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) is on pace to be the highest in NBA history, edging out Magic Johnson’s 1986-87 “Showtime” Lakers. The Dubs also have an effective field goal percentage of .597, which is 34 points higher than last year’s league record.
In the last 40 seasons just 10 teams have posted a sub-98 defensive rating. All 10 occurrences happened in either the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season or the 2003-04 campaign. In both instances one of those teams went on to win the NBA Finals. The Celtics are currently at 97.5, which is why they’ve been the best team in the East through the first month of the season. Boston is allowing just 94.0 points, which is by far the lowest in the league.
Golden State has had 15 different occasions with a player scoring at least 25 points. Boston has allowed three such games, two to Giannis Antetokounmpo and one to LeBron James. Kevin Durant may be the next-closest player to that mold.
Steve Kerr is 4-2 against the Celtics since taking over at Golden State in 2014-15. Four of those six meetings have been decided five points or fewer.
The Warriors win in what could very well be a Finals preview.
Houston Rockets at Phoenix Suns
Harden apparently loves going back to Arizona. The former Arizona State star has owned the Suns since his trade to Houston, winning each of his last seven trips to Phoenix and averaging 27.8 points, 8.8 assists and 7.8 rebounds with four double-doubles.
This year’s Suns have allowed an NBA-worst 115.1 points per game through their first 15 contests. In their defense (see what I did there), this is the league’s second-youngest roster. But, giving up 37 to Bradley Beal, 33 to D’Angelo Russell and 29 to Goran Dragic and Lonzo Ball is problematic with Harden coming to town leading the third-best offense in the NBA.
Phoenix can give any team a scare because of how explosive Devin Booker and T.J. Warren have been this year. Both are averaging more than 20 per night and the Suns are just a few days removed from beating Minnesota at home thanks to Booker and Warren combining for 70 points on 28-for-50 shooting.
Houston is 7-1 on the road, which includes wins against Golden State and Philadelphia. It would be a tall order for the youthful Suns to be a team that topples the Rockets.
Harden and company leave Phoenix with another road win.