Game 64 Pregame Primer: Thunder (39-24) @ Celtics (42-20)
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5pm @ TD Garden, ? Fox Sports Oklahoma
Projected starting lineups:
|PG: Chris Paul||PG: Kemba Walker|
|SG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander||SG: Marcus Smart|
|SF: Lu Dort||SF: Jayson Tatum|
|PF: Danilo Gallinari||PF: Semi Ojeleye|
|C: Steven Adams||C: Daniel Theis|
3 Big Things:
Home Sweet Road:
The Thunder started the season 0-6 on the road. They are now 19-11. Using some advanced analytics I was able to determine that this means they are 19-5 on the road since that horrid start. That is, uh, REALLY good. So good that it ranks as the fifth best road record in the entire league. Only the Bucks, Raptor, Lakers, and Mavs have a better road winning percentage. The Thunder are also on pace to pull off the rare feat of being a better road team than home team. They also have a lot of GOOD wins away from home— Utah, Toronto, and Houston immediately come to mind. Even with the recent slaughter at the Bucks, the Thunder have won 11 of their last 12 on the road. This all begs the question —WHY? There is clearly a focus and energy when these road games start that isn’t quite there at home. One key to this run has been getting off to hot starts. Curiously, the opposite has been true at home. At some point this will need to be addressed, but for now let’s just focus on the glass half-full and hope it continues in Boston.
Deja Vu: These two teams played exactly one month ago on a Sunday afternoon. My impression from The Peake that day was that I was watching a couple of pretty evenly matched teams. It was an excellent game. The Thunder got the best of the C’s in the first half, but Boston responded quickly out of halftime to take control. For a minute there it looked as if they might run away with it before the Thunder pulled out of a third quarter tailspin to battle it down to the wire. Interestingly, this is one of the only games since the early weeks of the season that did not go the Thunder’s way in the clutch. Boston has their share of money players as well, and Kemba Walker and Tatum both hit some huge shots that made the difference in the final minutes. It was a disappointing ending, but also an encouraging sign to watch that game and not feel as if you were watching a mismatch.
It kind of felt like, if these two teams played a 7 game series, each game would likely come down to a few possessions at the end. Even with Boston a little banged up today, I expect a similar type of game. It’s the slog part of the season and the first two games on this trip were both pretty meh in terms of interest-level. I’ll be up for this one, though, and I suspect the teams will be as well.
Law of Averages: One thing I hate about this game is that we are probably catching Boston at the worst possible time. Boston is really, really good (not sure I’m ready to call them great or elite yet), but they’ve lost three in a row at home. Really, really good teams don’t often lose three in a row at home and losing four in a row would probably be cause for alarm amongst their fans (doesn’t take much for alarm bells to go off in Boston). So, while they will be missing at least one key player it appears (Hayward), I anticipate the Celtics will be laser-focused from the outset. Conversely, at some point you have to figure the Thunder road bubble will burst at least a little bit— this pace over the past 25 road games is absolute insanity. Not just for great teams, but ALL TIME great teams. This is where a lifetime of watching NBA games dampens my hopes and brings me down from the clouds (often prematurely). That said, I’m proven wrong probably at a higher rate than I’m proven right, so fingers crossed.