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OKC Thunder at Boston Celtics Game #53

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The Celtics return home to host the OKC Thunder for the second and final game between them this season.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

After a one game trip to New York, the Celtics are back at the TD Garden to host the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder are on the final game of a 3 game road trip. This is the second and final game between these two teams this season. The Celtics won 101-95 in Oklahoma City on October 25.

The Celtics moved into 4th place, half a game ahead of the Indiana Pacers after their win over the Knicks. But, with the Pacers win over the Wizards on Saturday, they are once again tied with Indiana holding the 4th spot because they hold the tie breaker. The Celtics are just half a game behind the 76ers for 3rd place after the Sixers lost to the Kings on Saturday. They have won their last 3 games and are 8-2 in their last 10. They are 9-9 vs the West and are 21-6 at home.

The Thunder are 3rd in the West and have won their last 7 games. They are 3 games behind both Golden State and Denver, who are tied for first place. They are also 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 16-11 on the road and an impressive 15-4 vs Eastern Conference teams.

The Thunder have won 4 of their last 5 games at the TD Garden. They are 12-9 vs the Celtics since moving to OKC. They are 5-6 at home and 7-3 on the road against the Celtics since moving to OKC. They are on a 7 game win streak, which includes winning their last 4 games on the road.

After one game with everyone healthy, the Celtics announced that Aron Baynes will miss this game with a foot contusion. Robert Williams is also out with a sore back. They will miss his physical presence against Steven Adams. We need Yabusele and Theis to both step up in this game. For the Thunder, Andre Roberson (knee) is out.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris
C: Al Horford

Celtics Reserves
Daniel Theis
Jaylen Brown
Guerschon Yabusele
Semi Ojeleye
Brad Wanamaker
Robert Williams
Aron Baynes
Gordon Hayward

abari Bird (personal) out
Aron Baynes (foot) out

Two Way Players
P. J. Dozier
RJ Hunter

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Thunder Starters

PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Terrance Ferguson
SF: Paul George
PF: Jerami Grant
C: Steven Adams

Thunder Reserves
Alex Abrines
Hamidou Diallo
Raymond Felton
Abdel Nader
Nerlens Noel
Patrick Patterson
Dennis Schroder

Andre Roberson (knee) out

Two Way Players
Donte Grantham
Deonte Burton

Head Coach
Billy Donovan

Key Matchups

Kyrie Irving vs Russell Westbrook
Westbrook is averaging 21.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 10.9 assists. He has put up 5 straight triple doubles and is a threat to both drive and pull up for a jumper. He is shooting just 24.9% from beyond the arc so he is more dangerous if they let him drive. We may see Smart cover him more on the defensive end.

Jayson Tatum vs Paul George
George is averaging 27.6 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Tatum will need to play play solid defense both in the paint and on the perimeter because George is a threat both inside and out and is shooting 41% from beyond the arc. In spite of Westbrook’s triple doubles, George is their best player and is much more efficient.

Honorable Mention
Terry Rozier vs Dennis Schroder
Schroder has been playing very well of late and is averaging 15.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He has had some big games against the Celtics and seems to dislike the Celtics so may play extra hard against them. Rozier has struggled when coming off the bench, but the Celtics will need him to play well in this game.

Al Horford vs Steven Adams
Adams is a traditional center and doesn’t shoot 3 pointers. He is averaging 15.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists. He is big and strong and will be a tough matchup for Al. The Celtics will miss Baynes’ size and strength against him. Yabusele and Theis both need to step up in order to keep Adams from taking over the paint.

Keys to the Game
Rebound - Rebounding is very important to winning. The Celtics can’t win if they don’t have the ball and they need to rebound in order to get extra possessions. The Thunder are a very good rebounding club, pulling down 48.1 rebounds per game. The Celtics are averaging only 45.3 rebounds per game. The Thunder third in 2nd chance points with 14.8 per game and 5th with 52.7 points in the paint. The Celtics will need to put out extra effort and hustle in this game to out-rebound the Thunder.

Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics will need to defend the perimeter as well as the inside because the Thunder have players who can score both inside and out. The Celtics and Thunder are tied for 2nd with a defensive rating of 104.6. The Thunder are 5th in scoring with 114.5 per game while the Celtics are 13th averaging 112.4 points per game. The Celtics have got to make defense a priority if they want to win this game.

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 plays harder consistently through the game. They can’t afford to back off and let the Thunder out work them.

Take Care of the Ball - The Thunder are first in steals with 10.2 per game and are also second in points off turnovers with 20.6 per game. The Celtics have to keep the ball moving and avoid playing hero ball but they also have to make crisp passes and focus on avoiding turnovers and deflections by the Thunder’s quick hands.

Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics can’t afford to have a lull like they do in many games. They have to come out and get a strong start and not let up in the second quarter. They also can’t come out and play sluggishly after the half. They have to play hard from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

Back Home - The Celtics are playing at home once again. They have struggled on the road but have played well at home with a 21-6 record on the parquet. The Thunder are a good road team with a 16-11 record. They are playing in the final game of a 3 game trip. The Celtics need to draw energy from the home crowd and play with heart and hustle.

Focus - It’s been a rough week with all the rumors and the trade deadline coming up. Players have to be thinking about whether they will be traded or whether they will have the same team back after February 7. They have been playing very well lately and need to continue to focus on playing their game and not worry about what may happen in the future. Also, hopefully their minds are on basketball today and not football.