Time: 7:00 PM CST
Stream: TNT & FSOK
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
The Thunder (0-3) are back in action tonight in Oklahoma City, facing Kyrie Irving and his Boston Celtics (2-2) at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Though the Thunder is off to the worst start in franchise history (since relocation), Russell Westbrook returned on Sunday and appeared to already be in mid-season form — good news for a team in search of a quick turnaround against an Eastern Conference elite.
Tip-off is at 7:00 PM CST and will be televised on TNT and Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Celtics are 1.5-point favorites according to Odds Shark.
Update: Jerami Grant will start at power forward over Patrick Patterson.
- Alex Abrines: Probable — Eye/Mouth
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Aron Baynes: Out — Hamstring
Celtics: Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford
What to Watch For
Brodie Back: Russell Westbrook made his season debut in Sunday’s loss to Sacramento, posting a stat line of 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists. He certainly looked sharp in his first bit of action, but he’ll have his hands full defensively tonight against Kyrie Irving. Though Irving is off to a bit of a slow start this season (16.5 PPG, 5.8 APG), Westbrook’s ability to stay active on the defensive end will go a long way toward stealing a win.
All the Length: The Celtics are an extremely long, athletic team that enjoys an abundance of players that can play/guard multiple positions. While it’s impossible to know exactly how Billy Donovan plans to combat this, I wouldn’t be shocked to see plenty of Jerami Grant and Nerlens Noel — who’s averaging just 13.3 minutes per game but has the versatility needed if/when Boston goes small. (This also feels like a night for Hamidou Diallo, who logged 21 minutes the last time out.)
Big Steve: Though Boston has the ability to go small, this one features a good matchup at the center position. Steven Adams versus Al Horford — who does all the little things extremely well — will be fun to watch. One positive for the Thunder is that Aron Baynes is inactive due to injury, so there’s no one that can match Big Kiwi’s physicality down low. Big advantage for OKC there.
Shooting Guards: Ah, yes. Everyone’s favorite topic these days — the Thunder shooting guards. Though Ferguson hasn’t made many fans with his play, his length and athleticism will be needed on the defensive end and he’ll likely see heavy minutes if he’s engaged against the Boston wings. Diallo’s minutes are fluctuating early on here in the new season, but, theoretically, he’ll see action for the same reason as Ferguson. Abrines expects to play after suffering an eye/mouth contusion against the Kings — but it’s hard to love any of the potential match-ups he’ll see on the defensive end. Abdel Nader and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot aren’t actively in the rotation at this point, but I don’t see any reason to have them if you don’t utilize them against teams like the Celtics.
Avoiding Doomsday: While it’s silly to label anything “must win” with 79 games to go, the Thunder really need to avoid an 0-4 start — even if it means beating a Celtics team that many predict will win the Eastern Conference. All week the assertion has been that this offense is generating the looks it wants and the shots will eventually fall. The Thunder needs to show reason — any reason — for that to be believable.