Oklahoma City Thunder (17-12) at Boston Celtics (17-12)
Friday, December 23, 2016
7:30 PM ET
Game #30, Road Game #12
TV: NBA-TV. CSNNE, FSOK
Radio: 100.7 WZLX, WWLS 98.1 FM
Referee: Leroy Richardson, Steve Anderson, Matt Boland
The Celtics return from a successful 3-0 road trip to face the Oklahoma City Thunder. These two teams met on December 11 in Oklahoma City and this is their second and final meeting for the year. In the first game, the Thunder won 99-96 in front of their home fans. Even though the Thunder won, the Celtics ended Russell Westbrook's streak of 7 straight triple doubles.
Both teams have identical 17-12 records coming into this game. They also are both 6-4 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 6-5 at home while the Thunder are 6-6 on the road. The Celtics are looking for their 5th straight win while the Thunder are looking to win their second straight win.
The Celtics are playing in back to back games while the Thunder were off on Thursday. The Celtics are 3-2 in the second game of back to backs and have won their last 3 back to back games. All 5 back to back sets so far have been home/away. This is the first set where it is road/ home.
The Celtics are finally healthy with no players on the injured list. They were missing Isaiah Thomas in the first game while the Thunder were basically healthy. Victor Oladipo is out for this game with the wrist injury he suffered in the last game against the Celtics. Cameron Payne is also out with a foot injury.
Isaiah Thomas...Avery Bradley...Jae Crowder ...Al Horford...Amir Johnson
Russell Westbrook...Anthony Morrow...Andre Roberson ...Domantas Sabonis...Steven Adams
Cameron Payne (foot) out
Victor Oladipo (wrist) out
Isaiah Thomas vs Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook has been a one man wrecking crew this season. Without Durant to share the spotlight, Westbook is leading the team in points, rebounds and assists. He is averaging 31.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 10.8 assists. In the first meeting he finished with 37 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists. The Celtics can't expect to stop him but hopefully they can slow him down a bit.
Amir Johnson vs Steven Adams
Adams is a load inside and has size on Amir. Adams is averaging 11.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks. Amir has to try to keep him away from the basket.
Kelly Olynyk vs Enes Kanter
Kanter is averaging 12.6 points and 6.1 rebounds off the bench for the Thunder. Kelly needs to match his offense as well as to keep him out of the paint as much as possible.
Brad Stevens vs Billy Donovan
This is a matchup of 2 former college coaches who both came into the league highly thought of. Brad has a couple of years in the league on Donovan but there are still plenty of similarities between them. Donovan also happens to be Al Horford's former college coach.
Keys to the Game
Rebound - The Thunder are 4th in the league in rebounding with 45.7 per game. Their big front line of Sabonis and Adams (with Kanter off the bench) make it difficult for opposing teams to grab rebounds. The Thunder are 7-0 when they have 10 or more rebounds more than their opponents. They out-rebounded the Celtics by 9 in their first meeting. The Celtics need effort and hustle on the boards if they want to win this game.
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics will need to defend the perimeter as well as the inside because they have players who can score both inside and out. If there is one area where the Thunder are vulnerable it is in turnovers. They are averaging 15.4 turnovers per game. If the Celtics can force the Thunder to turn the ball over, they may turn to easy baskets.
Pace and Space - The Celtics need to set the pace and continue to run and to move the ball. When they slow down, they aren't near as effective as when they are running on every possession. They need to move the ball and find the open man. Hero ball rarely wins games. The Thunder like to run and the Celtics will need to match their energy and run as well.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be aggressive and fight for loose balls, 50/50 balls, and rebounds, and be aggressive on defense and in going to the hoop. They have to be the more aggressive team and the one that wants it more. They have won 4 straight games by playing harder than their opponents and they need to continue that in this game.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have had games where they play very well in the first half and build a lead but then let up in the second half. Then in other games they dig a hole in the first half and then play very well in the second half to come back. They have to play hard and be consistent from start to finish.
Back Home - The Celtics are playing in the first game back at home after a 3 game road trip. Coming back home after a successful trip is always a tough game and the Celtics have to guard against a let down. They need to draw energy from the home crowd and continue to play with energy and focus.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. How the refs call the game has a big influence on how the teams play. Will they let them play or call every little bit of contact? Will they call it evenly or will they favor one team or the other. Will they be influenced by the home crowd or will they call it fairly for both teams? It all effects the outcome of the game.