The Celtics limp into matchup with OKC Thunder.

Boston Celtics (15-16) at Oklahoma City Thunder (25-7)
Wednesday, February 22
7:00 PM ET
Game #32 Road Game #13
Reminder: Celtics games are also available with League Pass on DIRECT TV.
Radio:  WEEI, WWLS
Chesapeake Energy Arena
Referees:  Marc Davis,  Mark Ayotte,  Nick Buchart
What's left of the Celtics continue their road trip in Oklahoma City where they will  face my very favorite player, Kendrick Perkins.    The Celtics are going to be shorthanded with Rondo missing his second game in a row due to suspension, JO and Chris Wilcox have also been ruled out for tonight with injuries they sustained against the Mavs, and Bass still being out.  The good news is that Kevin Garnett will return for this game.   

To say that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have been clicking on all cylinders would be an understatement.  Over their last 2 games, they have combined for 154 points between them.  The Celtics on the other hand, as a team, have combined for 153 points over their last two games.  Since the majority of OKC's points come from Durant and Westbrook, if Avery Bradley can manage to slow down Westbrook, they may have a chance.  A slim chance, but a chance nonetheless. 

These two teams have been going in opposite directions recently.   The Thunder lead the West with a 25-7 record while the Celtics have once again slipped below .500 with a 15-16 record.  The Celtics are 4-6 in their last 10 games while the Thunder are 7-3 in their last 10 games.  The Celtics have fallen to 4-8 on the road while the Thunder are an impressive 13-1 at home.  The Celtics have lost 4 in a row and the Thunder have won 3 in a row.

When Rondo received his suspension, Doc told him he could go back home but he stuck around with the team for this game.  This game happens to be on his 26th birthday and Perk has planned a birthday party for him in OKC.    He may be out of the game, but the party is still on.  And now, they can celebrate Rondo's selection to the All Star game as well.  

This is the final game before the All Star break for both teams.   Unless the very shorthanded Celtics can somehow pull this one out, they will be going into the break on a 5 game skid.  . Let's hope the second half of the season goes much better than the first half did. 

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Avery Bradley 4.1 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.2 APG  0.5 SPG
Russell Westbrook  23.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 5.5 APG 1.9 SPG

Shooting Guard

Ray Allen  14.3 PPG,  3.2 RPG, 2.6 APG
Daequan Cook    5.6 PPG,  2.6 RPG,  0.3 APG

Small Forward
Paul Pierce   17.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.3 APG
Kevin Durant  27.7 PPG, 8.2 RPG,  3.3 APG

Power Forward
Kevin Garnett   14.1 PPG,  7.8 RPG, 2.7 APG 1.1 BPG
Serge Ibaka    8.3 PPG,  7.6 RPG,  0.5 APG  3.3 BPG

Greg Stiemsma  1.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.4 APG  1.0 BPG,
Kendrick Perkins    4.4 PPG,  5.9 RPG,  1.2 BPG

Celtics Reserves

Marquis Daniels
Keyon Dooling
E'Twaun Moore
JaJuan Johnson
Sasha Pavlovic
Mickael Pietrus

Chris Wilcox (groin) out
Brandon Bass (knee) out
Rajon Rondo (temper) out
Jermaine O'Neal (wrist)  out

Thunder Reserves
Reggie Jackson
James Harden
Nazr Mohammed
Daequan Cook
Cole Aldrich
Royal Ivey
Ryan Reid


Eric Maynor (ACL)  out
Thabo Sefolosha (foot)  out
Lazar Haward  (orbital) out 
Nick Collison (quad) out
James Harden (ankle) questionable

Key Matchups
Paul Pierce vs Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is making a case for being the best player in the NBA 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 who continues to struggle with his game.

Kevin Garnett vs Serge Ibaka
KG is expected back for this game and will have his hands full with Serge Ibaka, who posted the league's very first triple double including blocks a couple of games ago.  Ibaka is very quick, athletic and physical.   He could give KG problems on both ends of the court.

Honorable Mention
Greg Stiemsma  vs Kendrick Perkins
Perk will always be a Celtic.  But he's also one of the more competitive players in the league.  As much as he loves his former teammates, they will be the enemy while he is on the court and expect him to be his snarly best in this game.  On the other side, the Celtics are running out of bigs.  It appears that Greg Stiemsma will get the start.  In his only other start this season he responded with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 assists over 21 minutes of play. But that was against the Wizards and Perk isn't JaVale McGee.

Keys to the Game
Limit Turnovers - The Celtics haven't appeared to be very focused in recent games and have turned the ball over way too much.  They need to focus on ball handling and on taking care of the ball and thus limit fast break opportunities for the Thunder off of steals.

Rebound the Ball    The Celtics have to crash the boards in order to prevent second chance points and fast break opportunities for the Thunder.   The Celtics have been out rebounded by a margin of 190-154 in their last 4 games, all losses.  Rebounding takes effort and desire and the Celtics haven't shown a lot of either when it comes to rebounding.  They have to put out more effort on the boards if they want to win.

Defense -  Defense has got to be the Celtics #1 priority.  They have been playing decent defense in spurts but other times, they allow teams to get to the hoop and to get their shots off way too easily, especially put backs and tip ins.   They must commit to team defense if they want to get back on the winning track.

Be Aggressive
- The Celtics have got to be more aggressive in going to the basket and not settle for jumpers.  If they are aggressive, they will get more calls and thus more points at the line.  They also have to be aggressive in going after loose balls and rebounds.

NO MORE INJURIES - This is pretty much self explanatory.  

Official Report
Marc Davis
Davis has been an NBA official for the past 14 seasons, working 802 regular season games and 35 playoff games, and the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. Davis officited his first two Finals games during the 2010-11 season. In addition to his NBA experience, Davis has three years of CBA officiating experience, and three
years of collegiate basketball officiating experience. Davis was investigated for threatening to whoop Allen Iverson's a** when AI complained about a call in a game in 2005, but was not suspended for it. The Celtics are 0-1 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with Davis officiating. The game this season was a 1 point loss in which Davis and friends ignored a very obvious foul committed against Paul Pierce in the final seconds of the game. The Thunder are 1-0 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Davis on the court. His home W/L record is 11-13.

Mark Ayotte
Mark Ayotte completed his seventh NBA season having officiated 418 regular season games. Prior to joining the NBA, Ayotte was a WNBA official for four years and a CBA official for three years. He spent one year officiating in the NBA Development League. Ayotte has 12 years of collegiate officiating experience. Ayotte also was an official for the preseason and postseason NIT. He has 10 years of high school officiating experience in the state of Arizona. The Celtics are 0-1 this season and 4-6 over their last 10 games. The loss this season was to the Mavs and the officiating was bad for both teams. In the 5 losses officiated by Ayotte last season, the Celtics shot 89 free throws to 123 free throws for their opponents. The Thunder are 1-0 this season and 8-2 over their last 10 with Ayotte. Ayotte was one of the refs in the Mavs/OKC game in which Marc Cuban was fined $75,000 for criticizing the referees. Ayotte has a home W/L record this season is 14-10.

Nick Buchert
Buchert is entering his second NBA season having officiated 65 games. He has nine years of collegiate officiating experience. Additionally, he has officiated the 2010
NBA D-League Finals and 2010 NBA D-League All-Star Game. He has only officiated 4 Celtics games in his career, all 4 being Celtics wins, 2 of which were this season. The Thunder are 6-2 in their 8 games officiated by Buchert. His home W/L record this season is 12-10.

The Celtics are missing some very key players and may have to end up playing VERY small ball for much of the game because they are running out of bigs.   About the only way the Celtics can win this game is if the Thunder underestimate them and don't play their hardest.  With Perk on the team, I don't see that happening though.