Boston: 101.3 points/100 possessions (12th)
Oklahoma City: 106.7 points/100 possessions (2nd)
Boston: 100.5 points/100 possessions (18th)
Oklahoma City: 102.2 points/100 possessions (24th)
Probable OKC Starters: Russell Westbrook (PG), Thabo Sefalosha (SG), Kevin Wayne Durant (SF), Serge Jonas Ibaka Ngobila (PF), Kendrick Freaking Perkins (C)
View From The Opposing Bench: Daily Thunder
Kendrick Perkins’s impending return to Boston really drives home the fact that the real winner in all this was Perk himself. He left a declining superpower to sign a huge contract with what looks to be one of the top-three teams in basketball for the next five years. And nobody in Boston blames him for what happened–they feel sorry for him! He never had to awkwardly turn down a lowball offer from Danny Ainge in free agency and then apologize to Celtics fans for going to New York and saying “At the end of the day, this is a business.” Ainge bailed him out of all that! He’s going to get a very huge, very warm response from the crowd tonight, and that’s exactly what he deserves.
But after everyone claps, the baseline mop kids wipe up all the tears, and Perk commits a celebratory pregame technical foul, both teams will actually have to play each other.
The Thunder have won six in a row and are basically everyone’s favorite team outside their own city. They’re a giant Vegas favorite to win the West. Mark Stein put them 3rd in his last Power Rankings. Those are official.
OKC gets all this pub because their offense is cooking like Walter White. They’re one tenth of a point behind Orlando for the league’s best offensive efficiency, and Kevin Durant was the leading scorer in nine of their thirteen games (Russell Westbrook in two). Do not expect that to change tomorrow! This offense is super-good right now. I’m trying not to remember that the Thunder beat the Celtics last year with Durant on the bench (and before swapping Kendrick Perkins for two players who aren’t on the Celtics anymore).
The Thunder are a little more vulnerable than you think. A little.
Their scoring differential is actually some pretty mediocre sauce: they’re beating teams by an average of 4.7 points per game, only 8th in the league, just a tenth of a point higher than Dallas. A lot of their wins have been close, notably this one.
But if their offense is so good, why isn’t their scoring differential bigger? Because their defense has been shaky like a Fribble so far. That’s not strength-of-schedule dragging them down, either. Only three of the 13 teams they’ve played so far are in the league’s top 10 offenses: Orlando (1), San Antonio (5), and Phoenix (10). They’ve drawn Memphis (27) twice.
Why do they give up so many points? Ironically, a big part of the problem appears to be…defensive rebounding! Ironic because many have attributed the Celtics’ problems in that department to the loss of Kendrick Perkins (including me, repeatedly). But the Thunder, even though they got rid of maybe the worst rebounding PF in the league (Jeff Green), have been even worse at defensive rebounding than the Celtics! It’s just a weird, crazy world.
What does all this mean for the Celtics? It means that if they can make a partial shift back to last season’s form, they can take this game. If they get their defense back to top-five level to cancel out the Thunder attack, run an efficient offense through Rajon Rondo to take advantage of the Thunder’s weak D, and be the best rebounding team on the floor? They’d have a very, very good chance of beating their first good team this season.
Thunder 103, Celtics 100