Thursday, December 27
10:30 PM ET
The 23-3 Boston Celtics will continue their first western conference road trip tonight in Seattle, on the second night of a back-to-back. This game is highly anticipated to a lot of fans, to a certain extent, for many reasons. First off, Ray Allen is making his first appearance at Key Arena since the trade on June 28. Allen played five straight seasons in Seattle (2002-2007), and is loved by most fans in the area. He is surely one of those guys that will get a standing ovation rather than a chain of boo’s from his old home crowd.
For Boston fans, you’ve got another former fan favorite in action tonight as well – Delonte West. Due to his deficiencies at the point guard positions, some fans grew sour on West in the second half of last season, but there’s no question that he has more supporters than haters in the Boston area. You may not like Delonte’s game, but you’ve got to love his relentless mentality, his heart, and his unique personality that can get a team loose faster than Rajon Rondo can run a 50-yard dash. Let’s hope "D-West" can get some action on the court tonight, as he has recently lost his spot in the rotation to Luke Ridnour and played just roughly 23 minutes in the month of December.
Oh, and then there’s that Wally guy… If you’re not familiar with him, which I wouldn’t blame you for even if you’re a die-hard C’s fan, he’ll be the goofy white guy that sprains his ankle from getting up off the bench.
The other big reason a lot of fans are waiting to see this game is the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Kevin Durant. Many people will tell you that Durant is the most gifted perimeter talent to come out since LeBron James, and rightfully so. He can score inside and out, run the floor, finish at the rim, rebound the ball, hit big shots in crunch time, and he plays with a certain level of intensity. He is impressive, but far from a finished product. The 19-year-old star still needs to spend some time in the weight room, improve his shot selection (or get shot selection, period), improve defensively, and flat out gain experience. He may not be the instant megastar LeBron James was, but given a few years to develop, Durant should be a perennial All-Star in no time.
With that said, the Celtics won’t sympathize for the young man. The streaky Durant shoots just 40.5% as it is. Boston is still number one in the NBA in field goal defense, and don’t allow even the best shooters to get many clean looks. The rookie will have a tough time meeting his 20.0 PPG average against this Celtic defense, which many would argue is the best in the NBA.
Tonight’s game should certainly be fun to watch. From Ray Allen’s return, to Delonte West, to Kevin Durant – to Charles Barkley – fans will certainly enjoy themselves. Expect Seattle to push the tempo like mad-men out of the gate and throw up a ton of perimeter jumpers. They can score in bunches and make some noise at home, but the Celtics are far superior in nearly every aspect of the game. If the men in green can defend the perimeter well, win the rebounding battle, and take advantage of the mistakes Seattle will undoubtedly make, they should be in good shape to rack up that 24th victory.
C Kurt Thomas / Kendrick Perkins
PF Chris Wilcox / Kevin Garnett
SF Damien Wilkins / Paul Pierce
SG Kevin Durant / Ray Allen
PG Earl Watson / Rajon Rondo
Key Matchup: Kevin Durant vs. Ray Allen
On one hand, you've got the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft with potential as high as space shuttles can go. On the other, you've got a former Seattle favorite, also a 7-time NBA All-Star, who will be making his only appearance in Key Arena this season in front of his biggest fans. It will be interesting to see if Durant can handle Ray's methodical ways, and if Ray can handle Durant's size.
Celtics X-Factor: James Posey
Seattle is solely a jump shooting team. They don't care how many points they give up as long as they can run the opposition out of their shoes and throw up as many shots as possible. They are basically the mini-Phoenix Suns of the Northwest division. James Posey's job will be to come in and defend the perimeter tonight. He needs to make sure guys like Kevin Durant or Wally Szczerbiak get open looks.
SEA – Robert Swift (right knee tendonitis)
Celtics Keys to the Game
- Perimeter Defense
- Own the Boards
- Control the Tempo
- Take Advantage of Seattle's Mistakes
- Ball Pressure