Oklahoma City at Boston
TV: ESPN, CSN
Boston: 107.7 points/100 possessions (7th) (HoopData.com)
Oklahoma City: 107.8 points/100 possessions (6th)
Boston: 98.8 points allowed/100 possessions (5th)
Oklahoma City: 108.3 points allowed/100 possessions (28th)
Thumbnail: Gotta love those NBA schedule-makers. No, I’m serious, actually. The Celtics are in vintage early-season form and the Thunder aren’t quite firing on all cylinders yet. No better time for the Celtics to go for the season sweep. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City will try to avenge that 92-83 loss to the Celtics a couple weeks ago and give Boston its first home loss of the season.
Probable Oklahoma City Starters: Russell Westbrook (PG), Thabo Sefolosha (SG), Kevin Durant (SF), Serge Ibaka (PF), Nenad Krstic (C)
***UPDATE: Kevin Durant (ankle) is unlikely to play tonight, according to a report from Darnell Mayberry. Durant suffered the sprain against the Rockets on Wednesday. Obviously, this changes things for the Celtics-Thunder match-up tonight. I would imagine that shooting guard James Harden would take Durant’s spot in the starting lineup, with Sefolosha moving to the 3. I liked the Celtics’ chances in this one even before hearing this Durant news. If he’s not able to go, I just don’t see where the Thunder possibly find enough scoring.
UPDATE 2: Kevin Durant will not play tonight
WHAT THE THUNDER DO WELL:
WHAT THE THUNDER DO POORLY:
PLAYERS WHO MAKE ME WORRY:
Durant and Westbrook: Hayes wrote a great piece about the +/- statistic the other day. Regardless of whether you really buy into it or not, it can’t be a complete coincidence that Westbrook has been a “+” in all seven Thunder victories, and a “-” in their four losses. I understand the whole let-the-opposing-team’s-best-players-get-their-points-and-just-don’t-let-the-role-players-beat-you mentality, but I couldn’t disagree more with this approach against the Thunder. The Thunder go as these guys go. That’s not to say Durant and Westbrook still won’t combine for 55 points, but how hard will the Celtics make them work for it? Defense needs to be the priority for Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce tonight.
PLAYERS WHO DON’T MAKE ME WORRY:
Ibaka and Krstic: At the very least, you know these guys aren’t going to pull a Chris Bosh and just want to “chill” all night, but talent only takes you so far. Rondo-Allen-Pierce is more or less a wash against Westbrook-Sefolosha-Durant, but the Celtics big advantage will be inside tonight. Ibaka has started the past five games in place of an injured Jeff Green (ankle sprain) and has actually played well this season, averaging 12 points and 8 rebounds. But KG held him to 8 points on 4-11 shooting last game, and I would expect something similar tonight. Green is listed as day-to-day, but I wouldn’t expect OKC to rush him back against the Celtics. He’s exactly the type of under-sized power forward that Garnett typically dominates with his length and positioning.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE FROM THE CELTICS TONIGHT:
In all honesty I was half-expecting Shaq to Tweet something from the Harry Potter premiere at like 2:30am last night. But as far as I can tell, it looks like we’re in the clear. Hopefully he’s feeling rested and can go put up a 15-8 against Krstic like we all know he can. The key will be getting Shaq involved right away, because his good offensive nights this year have come in games when he gets early looks.
PREDICTION: Celtics 103, Thunder 99. Durant comes out firing and it’s the Celtics that come back from a double-digit 3rd quarter deficit.