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Thunder vs. Celtics: Pregame Primer

Thunder vs. Celtics: Pregame Primer



Thunder (45-22, 18-13 road) vs. Celtics (39-28, 23-11 home)

TV: ESPN/FSOklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 6:00 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.5 (2nd), Celtics – 103.8 (11th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.7 (10th), Celtics – 100.2 (4th)

We’ve been down this rabbit hole before in the past month. The team struggles for a bit and then comes out and completely lays waste to an unsuspecting team. Then we as fans think to ourselves, “Okay, we’re back on track. We’re back to being the Thunder team that we all know and love.” But if recent history is any indicator, then our next game is usually a complete egg.

The Thunder completely dominated the Trailblazers after the first couple minutes of the first quarter. Once they figured them out, the Thunder found different ways to score on the Blazers, especially from the interior. Enes Kanter, Steven Adams, and Serge Ibaka combined for 54 points and 17 rebounds. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were their usual brilliant selves. And the defense was so good that the Thunder jumped up 3 spots in defensive rating.

Now comes the tough part….keeping that momentum going. The Thunder have gotten past the toughest part of their schedule. From here on out, the only tough part is that fact that 10 of their remaining 15 games are on the road. If the Thunder are serious about building any type of confidence heading into the postseason, this is the time to do it.

Series History

This is the 2nd and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Celtics. In the first meeting, the Thunder were without Kevin Durant and Marcus Smart went crazy from the field as the Celtics defeated the Thunder in OKC, 100-85.

The Opponent

The Celtics come into the game with a 39-28 record, having lost 3 of their last 4. Prior to the slump, the Celtics had won 5 games in a row. Injuries are starting to take their toll on this team as Jae Crowder will be out with a high ankle sprain. Kelly Olynyk has been out for almost a month with a shoulder injury, but should be back for tonight’s game.

With Crowder out, the Celtics have been deploying a three-guard lineup of Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Isaiah Thomas. That line-up has had varied degrees of success, but against bigger scoring wings, such as Paul George, that line-up struggles. Up front, Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson give the Celtics a unique front court that can rebound and score from different spots on the floor. Evan Turner is a good 6th man that has all-around ability, but struggles with 3-point shooting.

3 Big Things

1. Depth

The injuries to Crowder and Olynyk have killed the depth that is Boston’s strength. Now, they are having to play Terry Rozier and Tyler Zeller a lot more than they would like. In addition, the Thunder are starting to get a hold on what to do with their depth and have Dion Waiters back after a four game absence due to the death of his brother. The bench depth should definitely tilt in the Thunder’s favor for this game.

2. Rebounding

The Thunder (1st) and Celtics (6th) are two of the top rebounding teams in the league. Surprisingly though, the Celtics struggle on the defensive boards (33.4 per game – 16th in the league). If the Thunder can win this battle, this should go a long way to securing the win for them.

3. Durant

With Jae Crowder out, the Celtics will be forced to guard Durant either with a guard or with a slow footed big. This should definitely be a game where Durant reaps.

Thunder Killer

Marcus Smart – Smart has been struggling of late, but the sight of the Thunder could send him in a tizzy like it did the last time they met. Smart has the ability to get surprisingly hot from deep and he has done it before against this team.