Okla. City Thunder (45-28, 21-15 road) at Boston Celtics (47-26, 23-13 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 107.4 (14th), Celtics – 107.0 (17th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.4 (6th), Celtics – 102.4 (1st)
Pace: Thunder – 92.8 (14th), Celtics – 91.7 (21st)
View from the enemy: Celtics Hub
Playing Boston after two weeks rest at home isn’t easy. So playing in Boston on the second of a back-to-back definitely isn’t easy. The good news for the Thunder though is the a good numbers of their players got some rest in a blowout win over Philly last night and also, that Paul Piece likely won’t play tonight.
The Celtics are older and a little slower, but just like the Spurs, know what it takes to win. This is a classic young, fast and athletic team vs. the older, slower but wiser team. I like these type of matchups to watch the contrasting play.
Boston coming in: The Celtics lost Sunday at home against San Antonio by 20. They have won six of eight though, with some big wins over good teams. They’re a good home team at 23-13 and are tied for third in the East.
Kevin Durant lit the Celtics up for 36 on 13-19 shooting in the first meeting, but he didn’t get much help. And I actually thought Paul Pierce did and Tony Allen did a solid job on KD. No team has grabbed, pushed, pulled, punched and whatever else they did to Durant as much as the Celtics. So if Pierce is out, someone will attempt to rough up Durant. Maybe Allen, maybe Marquis Daniels or maybe even Ray Allen some.
What hurt the Thunder in the first meeting was the inability to match Boston’s strength inside. Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins beat up the Thunder big men so much that Scott Brooks actually inserted Etan Thomas just for the reason to get physical back. But now that Serge Ibaka has really matured and is kind of OKC’s de facto enforcer, things might be different. It will be big for Nick Collison, and Nenad Krstic to play well, because Jeff Green will have his hands full with Garnett for sure. (Perkins missed the last two games as Rasheed Wallace has been starting at the five, but Perk will likely return tonight.)
Rajon Rondo against Russell Westbrook will be a treat. Both are lightning quick, have great hands and are superb athletes. It’ll be fun to watch. The big matchup for the Thunder is Ray Allen against Thabo. Allen can get his shot off against anyone, but Thabo needs to bring the clamps. If Pierce is out, Boston could struggle to score and will really look to Allen to provide it.
The Celtic bench is deep with Michael Finley, Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, Daniels and Glen Davis. Not all are great players, but they sure can shuffle in a number of them. OKC’s bench was fantastic in Philly so another performance similar to that would be nice. Especially if OKC wants to hang in there.
There’s just something special about playing the Celtics. It makes everything a little more fun. But there’s also something special about beating the Celtics. A win tonight would be massive for the Thunder because it would ensure a winning road trip, as well as edge them up in the Western standings.
Tip at 6:30 CDT. Go Favorite Team.