Celtics, Warriors meet in matchup between NBA's top teams

ESPN Stats & Info

The Boston Celtics will put their 13-game winning streak on the line Thursday night as the defending champion Golden State Warriors come to Beantown.

It will be a matchup between two of the NBA's top teams this season, as the Celtics currently own the best record in the Eastern Conference and the Warriors are atop the West.

Top offense vs. top defense

Golden State has kept up its elite pace on the offensive end, while Boston has been stingy defensively. The Warriors averaged 113.2 points per 100 possessions in 2016-17, and they've improved on that mark so far this season, averaging 116.1 points per 100 possessions.

Overall, they're putting up 119.6 points per game, which is on pace to be the most since the Denver Nuggets in 1990-91. Golden State is averaging over eight points more than the second-highest-scoring team in the NBA, the Washington Wizards. That's one of the largest gaps in league history.

The Celtics, on the flip side, are leading the NBA by surrendering just 94.5 points per game. When comparing Boston's defense to the league average, it would have the second-best differential among all teams since the NBA-ABA merger -- one spot higher than the 2007-08 team that won the championship.

What makes the Warriors' offense so special?

Golden State's offense can be terrifying for opposing defenses, and there are a number of reasons why.

The Warriors get out and run, averaging 26.6 fast-break points per game. If they continue that pace, it would be the most by any team over the past 20 years.

They also move the ball well, averaging 31.3 assists per contest. The Showtime Lakers of 1984-85 own the NBA record for 31.4 dimes per game for a full season. And Golden State takes more uncontested shots in the half court than any team in the league, according to Second Spectrum.

Why Golden State should be afraid of Boston

The Celtics play the Warriors tougher than any team in the league.

Since 2014-15, Boston has played them six times and have been outscored by an average of just 2.2 points per game. That's a closer margin than any team in the NBA over that span. The Celtics are 2-4 in those games, with both wins coming on the road at Oracle Arena.

Another reason the Celtics could be dangerous when facing the Warriors: They have Kyrie Irving. He has hit some huge shots against Golden State during his career, including the Game 7 dagger to help capture an NBA title while with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 and the game-winner over Klay Thompson on Christmas Day the following season.

Since entering the NBA, Irving has made 47 percent of his shots during the final minute of one-possession games. Among the top 30 in attempts under those circumstances, Irving ranks first in field goal percentage -- more than any of the Warriors' stars.

Brad Stevens vs. Steve Kerr

In Stevens and Kerr, two of the better coaches in the NBA will be roaming the sidelines on Thursday night.

By winning 84 percent of his games, Kerr has overwhelmingly the best win percentage in NBA history. Phil Jackson is second at 70 percent. And the Celtics have improved in each season since Stevens took over in 2013-14 (by win percentage).

Boston has made three straight postseason appearances under Stevens, improving its seeding each year, while the Warriors have made three straight NBA Finals appearances, winning two of them.