The Saturday night prime-time national television spot is reserved for what the NBA anticipates will be premier matchups. Coming into the season, the game between the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors was seen as a potential finals preview.

While the Celtics haven’t lived up to expectations, fans are looking at this game as a measuring stick for Boston’s progression. The Celtics understand facing the Warriors isn’t the same as taking on Cleveland, but also are downplaying the magnitude.

“I mean, it’s a regular-season game but at the same time I do think it’s different,” Al Horford said Friday. “It’s just everything that they’ve done and how good of a team they are, it’s going to be a fun challenge for us.”

Pressed about this game being seen as a test, Horford said “I think we’re past the testing phase in my eyes. I think this is just us continuing to get better. It’s a regular-season game, like I said, but at the same time we know it’s going to be a much more intense game because it’s Golden State.”

“As a competitor, it’s what you imagine going against,” Kyrie Irving said. “They all respect us, we all respect them, it’s just a great, competitive game, another regular-season game.”

The Celtics have had some great regular-season games against the Warriors over the past few years, with huge wins on the road and a thrilling double-overtime loss in 2015. The last time they met, it took 13 points by Steph Curry over the final two minutes to hold the Celtics off. Now they’re adding DeMarcus Cousins to the mix.

“They look like they’re playing at an elite level right now,” Celtics Coach Brad Stevens said. “I think any time you add a guy like that, and he’s on a minutes restriction still, or at least he’s playing limited minutes, it just looks like everybody’s got a little more bounce in their step, and, they’re tough. I don’t know that I’ve seen them play better during the regular- season stretch since maybe the year they won 73.”

The Warriors are third in the NBA, behind Houston and the Celtics, in 3-pointers made, and Curry is perhaps the best shooter the league has seen, but that’s Stephens’ top defensive priority.

“We always talk about the 3s they make and they’re gonna get some of them, but they just kill you with layups,” he said. “If you give up layups it opens up the whole rest of the game.”