Boston Celtics (3-1) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (1-2)
Wednesday, November 5
Oklahoma City, OK
7:00 p.m. CST
TV: Fox Sports Net Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
It’s no secret what tonight brings. An opportunity to really make a statement or an opportunity to lose to a really, really good team. Either way, this is a great chance to see where the team is at and where it needs to get. I said the same thing about the game in Houston and the Thunder was competitive throughout the night, but it’s tough to win in the other guy’s place. Now the Celtics come to the Thunderdome and with 10,000 free “fanbanas” the place should be nuts (Fanbana likely to be sold on Ebay next week by some jerk trying to make a buck if you miss out on getting one tonight.)
One thing to watch:
Rajon Rondo vs. Russell Westbrook. Many have compared Westbrook to Rondo. Similar body styles, similar type of game, similar defensive… uh, good-ness. While Rondo is just in his second year, he already was the point man on a championship team. It helps that three of the best players in the world were in his starting lineup, but regardless, that’s good. Westbrook and Rondo should have a good showdown with both trying to slash and both playing Saran wrap defense on each other.
Three reasons the Thunder has a chance:
1. The most important one – the Celtics are coming off a grueling win over the Rockets in Houston last night. All the starters played 35 plus minutes and the team expended a ton of energy to win that game. There’s a chance they may come out flat against a lesser opponent.
2. The Thunder feeling a little momentum and a little less pressure after getting that first win out of the way. A few players admitted to being nervous and tight during the home opener versus the Bucks. Now that the home win is out of the way, hopefully they can relax and just go play.
3. It’s tough to win on the road in the NBA, especially when you’re playing at a place with maybe the loudest fans in the league. The Ford Center should be loud and excited tonight with the defending champs visiting.
In order to win… three things are key.
1. A fast start. This is vital. Absolutely vital. If Boston kicks off with a 10-2 run to start the game and is leading 30-18 after one quarter, the Ford Center faithful will likely sit on their hands the rest of the night and clap for a made bucket. But if Kevin Durant can come out firing and Russell Westbrook ignite a few fast breaks early, the fans will start to build and maybe put the team on its back and push them to keep it close. A sluggish start will kill any crowd bump. As mentioned, the Celtics are a candidate to come out with heavy legs and look sluggish for a half. The Thunder needs to jump on that.
2. Intangibles. Every loose ball, every free throw, every possession is so key for the Thunder. There’s no wiggle room when you’re playing a team like this. You just can’t afford to give away points at the free throw line or because someone out-hustled you to the ball.
3. Someone “different” needs to get hot and stay hot. Whoever it may be – Jeff Green, Desmond Mason, Chris Wilcox, Johan Petro – someone needs to play well and continue to play well throughout the night. I remember in some upset Hornets’ wins, some random guy would step up with a 22 point game – most often my man, Big Marc Jackson. Tonight, OKC needs a Marc Jackson. Whether it be Damien Wilkins sneaking out of Coach Peej’s doghouse for a couple minutes and then promptly hitting back-to-back threes and playing a great game or Petro getting hot from 17 feet out and nailing that little J all night. Either way, someone needs to play above their head.
Prediction: I’m not saying Oklahoma City will win, but I’m also not saying it doesn’t have a chance. I foresee the club playing extremely hard for 48 minutes and staying with a tired Celtics team. OKC has had two days off and should be fresh while the Champs are probably a little heavy. The Thunder stays close all the way through and even leads for a few extended stretches, but in the end, there’s a reason Boston is Boston. Celtics 96, Thunder 91.