Celtics Tough Road Trip Begins with Thunder

Boston Celtics (5-1) at  Oklahoma City Thunder  (3-2)
Sunday, November 7
7:00 PM ET
Game #7 Road Game #3
Radio:  WEEI, WWLS
Oklahoma City Arena

Referees:  Ron Garretson, Olandis Poole, Sean Wright

This is the first game of a tough 4 game road trip for the Celtics.  It is also the first of back to back games with a game vs the Mavericks  looming on Monday night.   The Thunder are 1-1 at home while the Celtics are 1-1 on the road.   These two teams will meet again for the second and final time on  November 19 in Boston. 

The Thunder are 51-66 overall and 29-29 at home all time versus the Celtics, including their time in Seattle as the Sonics.  The Thunder are the 3rd youngest team in the league with an average age of 24 years old.   They are 2-0 so far against Eastern Conference teams, having already beaten the Bulls and Pistons.  

The Thunder haven't exactly been a defensive juggernaut so far, allowing 106.4 points per game.  They have been aggressive on offense along with getting friendly whistles from the refs in that they are averaging a league high 34.8 free throws per game.   Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are a combined 82-90 from the line in their 5 games.   The friendly whistles for Durant didn't escape Kevin Garnett's attention last seas as he had this to say after a loss to them last season, "I thought we were playing Michael (expletive) Jordan the way he was getting the whistle.  Durant damn near shot more free throws than our whole team."
Probable Starters
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo  11.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 15.5 APG .483 FG%
Russell Westbrook  22.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 6.6 APG, .418 FG%

Shooting Guard

Ray Allen  18.0 PPG,  3.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, .470 FG%
Thabo Sefolosha    3.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG,  2.0 APG,  .333 FG%

Small Forward
Paul Pierce   19.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, .458 FG%
Kevin Durant  26.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG,  1.8 APG, .374 FG%

Power Forward
Kevin Garnett   15.7 PPG,  9.8 RPG,  1.8 APG,  .500FG%
Jeff Green    19.4 PPG,  7.2 RPG,  0.6 APG,  .440 FG%

Jermaine O'Neal   6.4 PPG,  2.6 RPG,  1.9 BPG,  .500 FG%
Nenad Krstic    6.2 PPG,  4.8 RPG,  0.0 BPG,  .414 FG%

Boston Bench Mob
Marquis Daniels
Glen Davis
Luke Harangody
Nate Robinson
Von Wafer
Semih Erden

Kendrick Perkins (knee) out
Avery Bradley (ankle) day to day
Shaquille O'Neal (knee) day to day
Rajon Rondo (plantar fasciitis) probable
Delonte West (Suspended)

Thunder Reserves
Serge Ibaka
James Harden
Eric Maynor
Cole Aldrich
Daequan Cook
DJ White
Royal Ivey
Byron Mullens
Mo Peterson


Nick Collison (knee) out 

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Russell Westbrook
Rondo once again faces one of the top young PG's in the league.  These two PG's were vying for a spot on Team USA before Rondo withdrew and were was talk about which was the better PG.  Rondo always has a little extra motivation playing against the rising PG's in the league.

Paul Pierce vs Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is making a case for being the best player in the NBA and is already in MVP talks for this season and  Pierce will have his hands full trying to guard him.  Durant is also a good defender so this may be a tough game for Pierce all the way around.

Honorable Mention
Kevin Garnett vs Jeff Green
This is the matchup that most favors the Celtics.  KG has a height and an experience advantage and should be able to use both of those to boost him to a big game.

Keys to the Game
Take Care of the Ball -  The Celtics have been up and down in this area but they tend to get sloppy for portions of games and turn the ball over way too much.  They need to take care of the ball and limit turnovers.

Rebound - After doing a good job on the boards in most of their previous games,  the Celtics were out-rebounded 43-31 by the Bulls, which is one of the reasons the game was so close.  They have to do a better job on the boards to limit the Thunder's fast break and second chance opportunities.

Defense -   The Celtics need to get back to their defense first mentality.   In the last two games, they have allowed way too many easy shots.  They have been turning on the defensive pressure when they need to down the stretch, but keeping up the defensive pressure all game would go a long way toward eliminating their tendency to give up big leads.  

Bench Play -  After a few disappointing outings, the Bench Mob finally came alive against the Bulls, outscoring their counterparts 37-19.  The starters have been playing way too many minutes and they need the bench to step up and given them a boost when they come in.

Odd Fact
Thunder is a fitting moniker for the Oklahoma City franchise, not only as a reference to powerful storms in the area known as Tornado Alley. The Oklahoma City-based 45th Infantry Division carries Thunderbirds as its nickname, and that's a reference to the state's Native American heritage.

Rondo's Feet
As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics for the most part.  The Celtics need him healthy and in the lineup.  If he is limited or unable to play, they are in a bit of trouble, especially until Delonte comes back.