Despite being down 3-2 in the series, the Boston Celtics have put up a serious fight against the Warriors so far. Thanks to tenacious defense and an explosive arsenal of scorers, the C's managed to win a pair of games against the 3x champions and could force a Game 7 with a win on Thursday.
Yet, despite all of that, the mental challenge of facing the Celtics is nothing compared to LeBron James. According to Draymond Green, James' basketball brilliance makes him a different kind of opponent and it's what separates him and his Cavs teams of the past from this current Celtics crew.
“It doesn’t compare to mentally playing against LeBron James, who I think is arguably the smartest guy to ever play this game,” Green said when asked to compare the two matchups. “Not one of, he is arguably the smartest guy to set foot on a basketball court. To say that it compares to that, it’s disrespectful to LeBron and it’s a lie to you."
“...[This is] not as much of a chess match as it is when you’re playing LeBron, who is dissecting every play in that computer of his, like in real time. Like that’s just a skill that not many people possess. Not many people can come and sit here and find a random stretch from seven minutes to four minutes in the second quarter and give you every play like to the T and not miss a beat. There’s not many people that can do that.”
Of course, that's not to say he doesn't respect the Celtics as an opponent. Draymond credits them in other ways...
“Now, in saying that, it is a challenge mentally because these guys are super athletic,” Green said. "They are super young and fast and strong, and all the things that we know and have heard throughout the course of this series. They are those things. And then obviously they are super talented, and so when you are facing that, you have to try to out-think a guy. If a guy is faster than me, how can I beat him to a spot? I have to anticipate and I have to think. I have to try to understand what he’s trying to get to. So I think that’s been huge in this series from a mental standpoint and just trying to understand and be a step ahead of them."
"They do have a guy over there in Marcus Smart who is extremely smart, who it’s like a chess match going up against him. He is kind of the brain of that team. I think every team you kind of have that guy, that’s the brain of that team, and they have that in Marcus Smart, a guy who I have a tremendous amount of respect for and his basketball IQ. So it’s a challenge for sure. Ime is extremely smart. We know his pedigree.”
The Warriors will have their hands full trying to close the series. If they want to win on Thursday, they will have to best the Celtics on their home court, which will not be an easy task.
If not, they will have to battle in a Game 7. Either way, it's going to be a challenge for the Warriors, just like it was a challenge against LeBron James.
But at least, this time, they don't have to deal with Bron's genius basketball mind at every turn.