Something has to give as Warriors, Celtics tangle

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Two teams riding long winning streaks meet in Boston when the Golden State Warriors take on the Celtics on Saturday night.

The first head-to-head of the season between the top team in the Western Conference and the fifth-best in the East pits a Warriors club that has won nine consecutive games against a Celtics team that has captured five straight.

Golden State (34-14) has won eight in a row on the road. Boston (30-18) has won 10 in a row at home.

When these teams met in Boston in November of last season, Boston won 92-88 to win a 14th consecutive game while snapping Golden State’s seven-game winning streak.

That showdown was played on the defensive-minded Celtics’ terms, with the Warriors held to their fifth-lowest point total of the season. Boston won despite shooting a season-worst 32.9 percent from the field.

Two of the marquee performers, Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving, typified their team’s struggles. Curry scored only nine points, making just 3 of 14 shots, including 2 of 9 from 3-point range. Irving managed 16 points, but did so on just 4-of-16 shooting.

The backcourt standouts, both selected as 2019 All-Star Game starters, enter this game on quite a roll.

Curry had 38 points in the Warriors’ 126-118 win at Washington on Thursday. It was his seventh 30-point outing in his last 11 games, a stretch that also has included 41-, 42- and 48-point efforts.

Curry has made eight or more 3-pointers in four of the past nine contests.

Irving, meanwhile, is averaging 30.1 points in his past four games, shooting 60.3 percent overall and 14 of 25 (56 percent) from 3-point range in that stretch. He did sit out Wednesday’s 123-103 romp over Cleveland due to illness.

Both teams feature a different look than the one that saw them split last year’s season series, with the Warriors getting a measure of revenge in a 109-105 home win in January.

Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins and Celtics forward Gordon Hayward have returned from major injuries, and both seem to be warming up.

Cousins has played in three games since sitting out almost a full year with a ruptured Achilles. His minutes have gone from 15 to 21 to 24 in the three outings, with his point total reaching a season-high 17 in the win over Washington.

“We still have to figure out the right balance in terms of getting him the ball inside and keeping the flow going,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said to reporters after Thursday’s game. “You can see, when he gets down there (on the low post), it’s pretty tough to stop him. It’s amazing that he’s on our team and that we have this new weapon to use.”

If catching the Warriors in a bit of an in-season transition is supposed to be a good thing, Celtics coach Brad Stevens isn’t having any of it.

“Have you seen them play recently?” Stevens asked reporters this week.

“I don’t know that anybody in the league should say it’s an ideal time to play them. We’re not as good as we want to be, but we don’t expect to be as good as we want to be. That’s part of being your very best at the end of the year and continually growing and improving.

“We’ll find more about ourselves on Saturday night.”

Hayward has seen action in 43 of Boston’s 48 games this season after breaking his leg in last year’s season opener.

Like Cousins, he made a splashy season debut with double-figure scoring in his first three games, but he has since been wildly inconsistent, going for 30 or more points twice, while held to nine or fewer 21 times.

He’s coming off one of his better games, an 18-pointer in the win over Cleveland.