Celtics (34-27, 12-18 road) vs. Thunder (46-16, 27-4 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 113.3 (1st), Celtics– 102.5 (24th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.2 (8th), Celtics – 102.1 (6th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.6 (8th), Celtics – 91.4 (18th)
Finally, Jeff Green makes his return to Oklahoma City. And he brings a strong Celtics side that has played some kind of inspired after Rajon Rondo went down with a knee injury. Since Rondo was hurt, Boston is 14-4 and has risen to sixth in the East, with an opportunity to get into the top four.
A lot of the reason for it has been the improved play of Uncle Jeff, along with Avery Bradley. And of course the steady play of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Celtics get by in the same way that old guy does at your Saturday morning pickup game — craftiness, smarts, toughness and select skill.
And most importantly, they’re a little desperate. A team with the kind of resume and chops like the Celtics along with being desperate to prove they’re not done makes them very dangerous. They’ve been bad on the road this season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything here. They’re a new team since Rondo went down.
Boston coming in: They’ve won five straight including an overtime win against Atlanta on Friday.
Three Big Things
1. Rebounding. The Celtics had two total offensive rebounds against the Hawks, one coming in overtime. This isn’t a team that crashes the glass. They’re going to get back in transition and try and get their defense set, building out from the paint. The Thunder have to take advantage of that by clearing the boards and making each Boston trip a one and done.
2. Russ vs. Avery. Very intriguing matchup. Bradley is one of the very few players in the league that actually appears to be able to match Westbrook. Sort of. He’s big, strong and quick. Bradley’s a dynamic defender and someone that’s very scrappy and tough. It’ll be fun to see if he can slow down Westbrook any.
3. Uncle Jeff. I don’t know if there’s anything special planned, but I’m excited to welcome him back. I still love the guy.
Tip at 12:00 CT. Go Early Tip.