Thunder (3-game winning streak)
106.1 Offensive Efficiency (2nd)
99.2 Defensive Efficiency (14th)
96.2 Pace (4th)
Celtics (4-game losing streak)
97.9 Offensive Efficiency (23rd)
95.3 Defensive Efficiency (3rd)
91.0 Pace (29th)
The Thunder have been hot of late and the Celtics haven’t. The Celtics have had to deal with a lot of injuries and other reason for players missing games and have lost their last four. Kevin Garnett missed the last two games for personal reasons but is expected to return tonight. Rajon Rondo will also be out tonight serving the second game of a two-game suspension from earlier this week for throwing a ball at a referee. The odds are really stacked against the Celtics and the Thunder should have no problems tonight. James Harden and Nick Collison sat out two nights ago for the Thunder but neither had serious injuries and both could play tonight.
Thunder keys to the game
1. Durant and Westbrook
No duo has been hotter in the NBA than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and there’s no reason they shouldn’t continue to ride this hot streak right into the All-Star Break. The duo each scored 31 points in the Thunder’s win over New Orleans Monday night and combined for 91 the night before against Denver. In the first meeting against Boston this season when the Thunder won 97-88, Durant scored 28 and Westbrook 26, including a barrage of threes to close out the Celtics late in the fourth quarter. Tonight will be impressive to watch Westbrook as Avery Bradley will likely be assigned the task of guarding him. Bradley is one of the better defenders in the league and an athlete but he will just look like a poor man’s Westbrook tonight.
2. Fast break
The Celtics are one of the older teams in the league and play the second slowest pace. The Thunder are at their bets when they get out and run and without Rondo tonight Boston should really have trouble trying to keep up with the Thunder. Look for the Thunder to run every chance they get even more so than usual tonight.
3. Contesting every shot
It sounds simple but it is really important when playing to Boston to sell out and get a hand up on every shot. The Celtics are the worst team in the league on the offensive glass so it all comes down to stopping that first option on offense when playing them. Without Rondo the Celtics shouldn’t be able to get as many good looks as they normally would. Paul Pierce played his bets game of the season up to that point the first time these teams met and the load will be even heavier for him tonight. Oklahoma City just needs to make everything difficult and they should have no trouble blowing out Boston tonight.
Prediction: Oklahoma City wins 103-79.