Oklahoma City Thunder 2012-13 Preview: Boston Celtics

Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks.

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Boston Celtics Team Overview

Just when you thought the Boston Celtics would go away, they go out and have a great offseason essentially keeping their team afloat and competitive for at least another year.

The Big 3 era is now officially over with Ray Allen signing with the Miami Heat this offseason. But the Celtics did re-sign Kevin Garnett and replace Allen with some good talent which should still keep the Celtics among the top teams in the East.

The Celtics also added this offseason Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo, Kris Joseph and Jason Collins. They are parting ways with Allen, Greg Stiemsma, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twuan Moore, Ryan Hollins and Sean Williams.

Despite losing Allen, who was very ineffective for them by playoff time last season, the Celtics managed to improve their roster. Terry and Lee are basically upgrades from what Allen gave them last season. Keeping Garnett for the next three years at a decent price was a great move. As Rajon Rondo continues to evolve into a superstar, the Celtics are in just as good of position as last year to compete in the East.

The Celtics were able to get to the Eastern Conference Finals last year where they lost to the Miami Heat in seven games. They made it that far largely in part to the Chicago Bulls getting bounced in the first round after Derrick Rose got injured.

The Celtics had two chances to beat Miami in a closeout game and advance to the Finals. But it was simply LeBron’s time.

Last year

The Thunder and Celtics played twice last year with the Thunder winning each time.

On Jan. 16, the Thunder handed the Celtics their fifth straight loss beating them 97-88 in Boston. Russell Westbrook led the way with 26 points and a few big 3-pointers late in the game. The Thunder held the Celtics to 39.1 percent shooting and won the turnover battle 12-18 as well.

Kevin Durant scored 28 points but made only 9-of-20 shots from the field. His counterpart, Paul Pierce, played well scoring 24. Rondo was big for the Celtics with a near triple-double with 12 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

The Thunder then easily beat the Celtics 119-104 on Feb. 22 for their 11th straight home victory. The Thunder led by 23 at halftime before the Celtics came back to make the final score respectable.

Durant had 28 points, six assists and nine rebounds in the game. Westbrook led the Thunder with 31 points. James Harden chipped in with 17 points and the Thunder were plus-23 in the 34 minutes he played. Harden had just five points in 27 minutes in the first meeting.

The Thunder shot 50 percent from the field in the game, had 22 assists and Boston had just three offensive rebounds.

The matchup

The Celtics had a decent offense last season but there’s no area where they match up well against the Thunder and can easily exploit them. The Celtics get most of their offense from spot-up shooting and were the 15th most efficient team on those shots last year. The Thunder were 10th in the league defending spot-up shooting.

The Celtics then get a lot of their offense from the pick-and-roll but were just 26th in the NBA last season scoring in pick-and-roll plays. The Thunder ranked 11th in the NBA vs. the pick-and-roll.

Boston then gets some offense from the post where they were 14th most efficient in the league. The Thunder were 4th best defending the post.

The athleticism of the Thunder really make it easy for them to match up with the Celtics who just seem to have to work so much harder to get offense vs. OKC. It didn’t help either that Boston was one of the worst offensive rebounding teams ever last season, although they did manage 15 offensive boards in their first game vs. the Thunder last year.

The Boston defense was very strong last season vs. isolation plays and the pick-and-roll. The Thunder were 2nd and 3rd best in the NBA at those plays on offense while Boston was 3rd and 1st best defending them.

The offensive flow was a little more difficult for the Thunder against the Celtics in the half court but they easily overcame that in other ways.

With Boston not hitting the offensive glass, it makes it easier for the Thunder to get out and run where they can really hurt the Celtics. The Celtics were 19th in the NBA vs. transition last season while the Thunder were the 6th best in the league at it.

Next year

The Thunder and Celtics will again play twice next year. The first meeting will be Friday, Nov. 23 in Boston. That game will be on NBATV. Then the Celtics will travel to OKC on Sunday, March 10 with the game being on ABC.

Even with their new additions this offseason, the Celtics will have a very tough time matching up with the Thunder. If the Celtics can maintain the very efficient defense they had last season, they could be in position to catch the Thunder on an off-night and beat them.

The key matchup whenever these teams play is Westbrook vs. Rondo. If Rondo can dominate Westbrook then the Celtics will have their best chance.

Garnett has a really tough time scoring from the post when Serge Ibaka or Kendrick Perkins are guarding him and he turns into strictly a jump shooter. The Celtics did have success last season going with small lineups and Garnett at the five but that’s something the Thunder should have no problem matching up with.

The area the Celtics really want to improve at is the inside on offense. Sullinger could be a real help for them scoring some in the post and getting offensive rebounds.

It should be a pretty similar team in Boston next season, one that will have a tough time matching up with the much more athletic and talented Thunder.

For more Boston Celtics coverage, visit Hardwood Houdini.

Topics: Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder

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