Golden State Warriors star Zaza Pachulia: London fans could be watching us soon | Other | Sport

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The smart money at the start of the season had been on a rematch between the reigning champion Warriors and LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the championship.

But Pachulia believes the Boston Celtics are now a major threat to beat LeBron and the Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals.

That would mean the Celtics, who face the Philadelphia 76ers at London’s O2 Arena on January 11, going on to meet everyone’s favourites to defend their title in the finals. 

Pachulia said: “I really like the way they’re playing. They have really talented players. Really well-coached, and the fan base apparently is amazing. They definitely have a chance to come out of the East.

“It’s going to be interesting. As a conference, there are a couple teams that can definitely have a chance to go to The Finals.”

Boston are punching above their weight this season behind the stellar play of Kyrie Irving, who quit the Cavs to join them in a blockbuster off-season trade.

Critics had written them off after All-Star free agent signing Gordon Hayward suffered a serious injury, but they still sit top of the Eastern Conference, with the Warriors second in the West.

Center Pachulia said: “It’s very unfortunate that they had this injury with Gordon Hayward, very sad. Hopefully, he’s going to be back soon because as a colleague and as an athlete, basketball player, you don’t want anybody to go through that pain and the injury. 

“But they’re still playing at a high level. They’re still playing great and have really good talent over there. Kyrie is leading this team, really good player.”

Pachulia believes there is already a budding rivalry between the defending champs and the Celtics, who are the most successful franchise in NBA history but haven’t won a championship since 2008.

Boston scored a nailbiting 92-88 victory over the Warriors last month to win their 14th straight game and mark themselves out as contenders.

Pachulia said: “At the same time, when we played them we were up by pretty big and we just lost that game. I kind of blame it on ourselves that we just lost the concentration towards the end. 

“We’re looking forward to playing them again here at home in Oracle.”

The Warriors face LeBron and the Cavs first on Christmas Day – for the third year in a row!

The 33-year-old Georgian said: ” Yeah, this is going to be my second since it’s my second year with this team. Obviously, we all know the history. 

“We all know what this team has done the last couple years. It’s very special, first of all, to be playing on Christmas Day and a great opportunity to play in front of the millions and millions of people all over the world where Christmas is a holiday. 

“Everybody is with their families. People love watching basketball, NBA games, and the best teams competing against each other.

“Obviously playing against the Cavs, it’s even more special because the teams faced each other a couple times in a row in The Finals now. 

“It’s going to be pretty interesting, a pretty intense game, a lot of attention, and especially since one team is from the East and the other team is from the West, so it’s only [one of two matchups in the regular season]. 

“We’re really looking forward to it, but at the same time, we understand that we have two more games until that game, and win or lose, it’s not the end of the world. 

“We had the experience last year where we lost [on Christmas Day at Cleveland] by just one point, but then we ended up winning the championship. 

“This game doesn’t kind of decide anything, but at the same time, of course we would love to win. We’re going to do our best to win because it’s for our confidence and it’s for our fans.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Golden State Warriors as part of a very special NBA Christmas Day. Catch all five NBA Christmas Day games from 5pm live on BT Sport and via NBA LEAGUE PASS at www.nba.tv



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