Oklahoma City Thunder (45-22)Boston Celtics (39-28)
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
7:00 PM ET
Game #68, Road Game #35
TV: ESPN, CSNNE, FSOK, TSN
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, WWLS 98.1 FM
Referees: Ken Mauer, Tre Maddox, James Williams
The Celtics return home to host the Oklahoma City Thunder for the second and final game between the teams this season. The Thunder are on a 3-game road trip that will take them through Philadelphia and Indiana after they begin the trip in Boston. The Thunder are 18-13 on the road while the Celtics are 23-11 at home.
In their first meeting in Oklahoma City, the Celtics beat the Thunder 100-85. However, the Thunder were missing Kevin Durant in that game. Now, with Durant back in the lilneup, the Thunder will be looking to avenge that loss. especially without Jae Crowder in the Celtics lineup to try to keep him in check. Marcus Smart struggled against the bigger Paul George on Tuesday, and now he must face the even bigger Kevin Durant.
After their loss to the Pacers on Tuesday night, the Celtics are tied with the Heat, but remain in the 3rd spot by virtue of owning the tie breaker between the two teams. The Heat are idle on Wednesday but will host the 6th place Hornets on Thursday. The Celtics have fallen to 6.5 games behind and are just 1 game ahead of 5th place Atlanta. The Thunder are 3rd in the West, 11.5 games behind second-place Spurs and 2 games ahead of the 4th-place Clippers.
Kelly Olynyk tried to give it a go on Tuesday night but still has some soreness in his shoulder and will once again be a game-time decision for this game. It would be a huge boost if he can return for this game. Marcus Smart filled in for Jae Crowder against the Pacers and may also start once again against Kevin Durant or Brad Stevens may decide to go with another player to try to stop the former MVP. The Thunder have no injuries reported.
Probable Starting Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs Russell Westbrook
Avery Bradley vs Andre Roberson
Marcus Smart vs Kevin Durant
Amir Johnson vs Serge Ibaka
Jared Sullinger vs Steven Adams
Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) day to day
Jae Crowder (ankle) out
Isaiah Thomas vs Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook has been a one-man wrecking crew this season. He is averaging 24.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 10.4 assists. He can score from outside as well as drive into the paint and if he gets double teamed, he will find the open man. We may see Avery on Westbrook if Isaiah struggles to defend him.
Durant is a very tough matchup for anyone and without Crowder to keep him in check, Marcus is going to have to step up his defense to stay with him. Durant is averaging 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists. Like Westbrook, he can score outside or take it to the hoop. And also like Westbrook, if he is doubled, he can find the open man who is likely to hit his shot.
Amir Johnson vs Serge Ibaka
Ibaka is a tough matchup because he is athletic and can score inside and out. He is averaging 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. I think Mickey would matchup better with Ibaka, but then, that may just be my wishful thinking to get to see more of him.
Keys to the Game
Rebound - The Thunder lead the league in rebounding with 48.3 per game. Their big front line of Durant, Ibaka and Adams (with Kanter off the bench) make it difficult for opposing teams to grab rebounds. The Celtics need to put out some grit and hustle on the boards in order to prevent the Thunder from owning the boards in 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. The Thunder are 2nd in the league in scoring at 109.8 points per game. If the Celtics allow them to get open shots, then they will have a tough time getting a win. If there is one area where the Thunder are vulnerable it is in turnovers. They are 5th in the league with 15.8 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 nearly as effective as when they are running on every possession. They need to move the ball and find the open man. 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, 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.
Focus on Offense - The Celtics' biggest problem against the Rockets and the Pacers in their last 2 losses was their inability to hit shots they should make. They missed them all - layups, mid range, and long distance - shooting just 37% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc against the Rockets and 38.5% from the floor and 25% from beyond the arc vs the Pacers. They must find a way to score because shooting that poorly won't win many games.
Home Court - The Celtics saw an end to their 14 game win streak at home, but they have played well there and they need to be energized by the home crowd and get back to winning in the Garden once again.
Officiating Factor- As I have said every game, officiating is always an X-factor. Will the refs let them play or call every little ticky tack foul? Will they call it even or favor one of the teams? Will they even be competent in making the calls? The officiating is always like Forrest Gump's box of candy. You never know what you are going to get.
Ken Mauer has officiated 1,666 regular season, 150 playoff, and 14 Finals games during his 28-season career. He was also a member of the crew that officiated the 1993 Europe Tour in London and the 2005 All-Star Game in Denver. Mauer’s resume includes six years of CBA officiating experience, nine years of collegiate officiating experience and 12 years of high school officiating experience in Minnesota. After spending most of his life in Minnesota, Mauer has settled in Ft. Myers, Fla. where he can still watch his cousin, Joe Mauer, with the Twins in spring training. Mauer was a three sport athlete in college at Minnesota where, in 1977, he recieved All Big 10 baseball honors. Mauer regularly supports the Salvation Army, as well as other organizations. He is often a guest speaker at basketball camps and clinics, church groups and officiating groups.
Mauer is very quick to call technicals and in one game, once ejected Doc Rivers less than 3 minutes into a game, and that was before the "Respect the Game" rules were instituted. In one Timberwolves game he might have set the record by calling 5 technicals in a 10 second span. The Celtics have to be on their best behavior with Mauer calling the game.
Mauer was one of the refs charged with tax evasion and obstructing federal tax laws for receiving substantial taxable income from 1989 through 1994 and failing to declare it. He was one of the refs in the controversial Miami/Dallas Finals where the foul calls were totally lopsided, giving the Heat the title. In a Suns/OKC game three seasons ago, Mauer told Zabian Dowdell not to be a bitch about the calls. Dowdell asked him if he'd say that off the court and Mauer ejected him from the game for it.
The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games with Mauer officiating. This is his first game with the Celtics this season. In the 2012 ECF Game 2 vs the Heat, the Heat shot 47 free throws to 29 for the Celtics. He failed to call a foul on Wade for hitting Rondo in the head on a layup even though he was in position to see it clearly. He also failed to call a foul on Wade for kicking KG who was going up for a layup when he was again the ref in position to do so. He called a questionable clear path foul on Pietrus. Pierce fouled out on a very questionable call, joining Pietrus and Dooling with 6 fouls. LeBron James took 24 free throws himself and was called for just 1 foul in spite of dipping his shoulder or using his off arm to clear his way to the basket on almost every possession.
In a win 2 seasons ago vs the Raptors, the Celtics shot 35 free throws to 19 for the Raptors and the calls seemed to favor the Celtics. In 4 other games with Mauer last ago, they let them play and the officiating was even. It's hard to tell which Mauer will show up, the one that lets them play and is fair or the one that tries to micromanage the game and make it about himself. The Thunder are 5-0 this season and 8-2 in the last 10 games with Mauer. He is a veteran official that isn't usually swayed by the home crowd. His home W/L record this season is 26-24.
Tre Maddox enters his fifth NBA season having officiated 211 regular season games. Maddox’s experience includes four seasons and 158 games officiated in the D-League. He also has five seasons of NBA preseason game experienece and worked in NBA summer camps for five years. In addition to his professional experience, Maddox officiated collegiate games for six years in the PAC 10, West Coast and Pac West Conferences and has eight years of high school officiating experience.
The Celtics are 1-0 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 games with Maddox as a ref. He has been a decent ref for most of those. but in a game last season vs the Hawks, that the Celtics won, there were quite a few terrible calls down the stretch. They ignored obvious fouls by the Hawks and called ticky tack fouls and phantom fouls on the Celtics. Ken Mauer was the head official and made the majority of the bad calls, but Maddox was part of the crew. The Thunder are 5-1 this season and 8-2 over their last 10 with Madcox. He is a homer ref with a home W/L record this season of 30-18.
James Williams enters his sixth NBA season having officiated 278 regular season games and 3 playoff games. Williams owns 10 years of experience in the collegiate ranks, having officiated for the NCAA from 2001-2010. He also officiated two seasons in the WNBA, and has worked two NBA D-League Finals as well as the 2010 NBA D-League All-Star Game.
There hasn't been a lot of controversy with James Williams as a referee. None of his games stand out as terribly bad as with some refs. Williams called the game against Miami earlier this season and for the most part they let them play. However, he made a head scratching call against the Celtics. With just over a minute left, he called a foul on Amir Johnson, when Johnson and Bosh were both scrambling for the ball and Bosh landed on Amir. That gave Miami possession in a close game. Other than that, he's been decent in the games he has called for the Celtics. The Celtics are 4-1 this season and 9-1 in their last 10 games with Williams while the Thunder are 2-0 this season and 6-4 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 26-26.