Celtics and Thunder Clash in Game with Playoff Implications

[image] at [image]
Oklahoma City Thunder (45-28) at Boston Celtics (47-26)
Wednesday, March 31
7:30 PM ET
Game #74, Home Game #37
TV: KSBI, CSN-NE, NBA-LP 756,757
TD Garden
Referees:    Bob Delaney,  Bennie Adams, Zach Zarba 

The Celtics are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Spurs while the Thunder are coming off a heartbreaking home loss to Portland before their big win over the Sixers on Tuesday night. This team has a lot of confidence and are playing very well.  The Celtics would do well to take them very seriously!

 This game has playoff implications for both teams.  The Celtics are back to a tie for 3rd in the East after their loss to the Spurs and a win by Atlanta on Monday.  The Thunder are in the 6th spot in the West, 2 games behind Denver for the 5th spot and only half a game in front of Portland for the seventh seed and 1 game in front of San Antonio for the 8th seed.   They desperately want to avoid that 8th seed and the first round matchup  with the Lakers.   So, every game is very important to them and they are going to play like it.  

The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games and a disappointing 24-13 at home this season.  The Thunder are 6-4 in their last 10 games and an impressive 20 and 15 on the road.  The Celtics have had 2 days of rest while the Thunder are playing in the second of back to back games, having played in Philly the night before. 

The Celtics need to take this team seriously because they are for real.  The Thunder are the kind of young and athletic team that can give the Celtics problems.   The Celtics should be looking to redeem themselves after a terrible showing against the Spurs and hopefully will come out strong and take control of this game early.  We know that the Thunder are going to come out strong and play hard.  The big question is which Celtics team will show up for this one.  

Probable Starters
PG [image] Rajon Rondo
SG [image] Ray Allen
SF [image] Paul Pierce
PF [image] Kevin Garnett
C [image] Kendrick Perkins

Probable Starters
PG [image] Russell Westbrook
SG [image] Thabo Sefolosha
SF [image] Kevin Durant
PF [image] Jeff Green
C [image] Nenad Krstic

Key Matchups
[image] vs [image]
Paul Pierce vs Kevin Durant
When we play against Durant there will always be thoughts of what might have been if the Celtics had landed the 1st or 2nd pick in that draft instead of the 5th. Durant has blossomed into a star and is averaging an impressive 29.6 points per game along with 7.5 rebounds per game. In the first meeting between these two teams this season, Durant put up 36 points. Pierce will have his hands full trying to contain this young and athletic star.  If Pierce is not able to go because of his shoulder injury, Tony, Marquis or even Michael Finley may get the starting nod.   I'd go with Tony because of his defense. 

[image] vs [image]
Rajon Rondo vs Russell Westbrook
Westbrook is a very good point guard who could give Rondo problems in this game. He is averaging 6.2 points, 7.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Rondo outplayed Westbrook in their first meeting and so Westbook will likely be looking to even the score in this game. Rondo needs to come out focused and be aggressive on both ends of the court.

Honorable Mention
Kevin Garnett vs Jeff Green
This is another of those what might have been matchups. The Celtics picked Jeff Green with the 5th pick in the draft and then traded him to Seattle in return for Ray Allen and this was the trade that set the table for KG to come to Boston. KG has been playing very well and has height and experience advantages while Green has youth and quickness on his side.

Keys to the Game
Defense The team that plays the best defense is going to come out on top in this one. Both teams can put up the points and the team that stops the other team will have the advantage.

Rebound Rebounding is especially important when playing teams like the Thunder who will run on misses on the defensive end and who are athletic enough to get put backs on the offensive end. The Celtics have got to put out more effort in going after rebounds.

Play Team Ball
The Celtics had gotten back to playing team ball and moving the ball and finding the open man recently, but against the Spurs, they fell back into bad habits of holding the ball too much and not looking for open teammates. Ball movement and assists are very important to the Celtics' success.

Play 48 Minutes Once again, the Celtics played well in the first half and disappeared in the second half against the Spurs. They can't come out flat in the 3rd quarter and expect to beat playoff teams. They have to get back to coming out strong in the 3rd and dominating teams in the second half as well as the first.

Pierce's Availability