The Daily Sweat: Warriors, Celtics have gone in different directions since NBA Finals

It’s hard to believe that the Golden State Warriors-Boston Celtics game on Thursday is a rematch of the NBA Finals about seven months ago. It feels like a lot longer than that, especially for the Warriors.

Golden State is 22-22, a surprising follow-up to its championship run. The Warriors have excuses for it. Injuries have hit them. There seems to be some championship hangover too.

On the other side, the Celtics look like a team that got very close to a title and wants to finish the job. Boston is 33-12, Jayson Tatum is in the MVP conversation and it feels like the Celtics are the team to beat this season.

Maybe the Warriors will get it together and have a say in that. Thursday night might provide some insight into that. The Celtics are favored by 5.5 points at BetMGM.

The first time the teams met, the Warriors played one of their best games this season. They won 123-107 in San Francisco. Tatum struggled from the field, hitting 6-of-21 shots. The Warriors rarely missed, especially from inside the 3-point line. The Celtics are a good defensive team and the Warriors did what they wanted. Which is what happened in the NBA Finals last season.

Even with the Warriors at .500 this season, this is still one of the marquee games of the NBA regular season. It’s smart to assume Golden State will look like its normal self by playoff time. Perhaps Thursday will be a preview of what’s to come.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, right, shoots over Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) in the first meeting between the teams. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Here's the first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday:

The rest of the NBA schedule

There are five NBA games in total on a fairly light night. Other than Warriors-Celtics, the highlights might be a pair of games with road favorites.

The Toronto Raptors travel to face the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have held their own without injured Karl-Anthony Towns. Toronto is a 4.5-point favorite. Then later on the Philadelphia 76ers are at the Portland Trail Blazers. The 76ers have won eight of 10, with James Harden playing well for most of that stretch (though he scored just six points in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday). Philadelphia is favored by 2.5.

Big Ten highlights college basketball

The two best games on the Thursday college hoops schedule might both be in the Big Ten.

Michigan State hosts Rutgers, which is very good this season but better at home. The Spartans are a 2.5-point favorite. In the second game of the Fox Sports 1 doubleheader, Indiana plays at Illinois, which is favored by 5.5. The Illini had a midseason lull but have looked much better lately and could be Purdue’s only real threat for the Big Ten title.

Big night in the NHL

There are 13 NHL games on Thursday night, including some good matchups. The NHL-leading Boston Bruins (-110) get a good test at the New York Rangers, a night after facing the New York Islanders. It's rare to get the Bruins at -110 odds and tempting to bet them, though they have a road game for a second straight night. The Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Edmonton Oilers (-110) in a game between two top teams. Also, the New Jersey Devils (-125) take on the Seattle Kraken in a game between two teams that should be in the playoffs.

What's the best bet?

I'll go with the Celtics. When Boston is on its game, it is hard to beat. The Celtics are the best team in the NBA and it's hard to argue otherwise. The Celtics will also want to give Golden State some payback for the first meeting, and perhaps still the NBA Finals as well. This is a game they should be up for.