The Celtics host the Oklahoma City Thunder for the second game of a 4 game home stand. They are coming off a big home win over the LA Lakers and will face Houston and Brooklyn before heading out on the road once again. The Thunder are playing in the second of a 3 game road trip. They lost a fairly close game to the Bucks on Friday and will head to Atlanta to close out their trip.
This is the first of 2 games between these two teams this season. They will play again in Oklahoma City on March 21. The these two teams tied the series 1-1 last season with each team winning on the road. Both teams are playing on the second night of back to back games. The Celtics are 2-1 in the second game of back to backs this season and the Thunder are 1-1 in the second game.
The Celtics are 3-3 at home and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 2-1 against Western Conference teams. They are looking for their second straight win. The Thunder are 2-5 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 0-4 against Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics are 75-64 all time against the Thunder and they are 37-27 against OKC in Boston.
Jaylen Brown missed his 7th game on Friday as he sat out the Lakers game. He is expected to miss this game also. Rob Williams sat out his second game against the Lakers and is listed as doubtful for this game. I’ve listed the starters with the assumption that they will both be out.
Derrick Favors sat out the Thunder’s game in Milwaukee on Friday night for rest. I’m assuming that he will be back for this game and have listed him as probable. Tre Mann has been sent to the Thunder’s G-League team and will likely miss this game. I’ve included the same starters as OKC used against the Bucks on Friday.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Dennis Schroder
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Grant Williams
C: Al Horford
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) out
Robert Williams III (knee) doubtful
Probable Thunder Starters
PG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SG: Josh Giddey
SF: Lugentz Dort
PF: Darius Bazley
C: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
Derrick Favors (rest) probable
Tre Mann (g-league) out
Two Way Players
Paul Watson, Jr
Marcus Smart vs Shai Gilgeous- Alexander
Gilgeous-Alexander is leading the Thunder with 21.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 41.9% from the field and 33.0% from beyond the arc. He is very talented and the Celtics need to pay attention to him on defense. Marcus Smart is coming off a very efficient 22 point, 8 rebound, 6 assist game and it would be great to get another big game from him on both offense and defense in this game.
Jayson Tatum vs Lugentz Dort
Dort is averaging 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. He is shooting 45.7% from the field and 29.2% from beyond the arc. Jayson Tatum has had 2 good games in a row after struggling to score to begin the season. He had an efficient game with 37 points and 11 rebounds. Hopefully he’s found his shot and will continue to play like the All-Star that he is.
Grant Williams vs Darius Bazley
Bazley is averaging 10.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. He is shooting 39% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc. If Robert Williams returns, it would likely be Al Horford matched up with Bazely. Either Grant or Al should be able to win this matchup.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Thunder average just 98.8 points per game and they are 13th with a defensive rating of 105.9. The Celtics are 11th with a defensive rating of 104.6. The Celtics defense was key in getting the win over the Lakers and it will be key in beating the Thunder. The Celtics need to continue to make defense their identity.
Rebound - Rebounding is also a key to winning. Much of rebounding is desire and effort and the Celtics have to put in the extra effort to grab rebounds. They need to rebound on the defensive end to keep the Thunder from getting second chance points and they need to rebound on the offensive end to give themselves extra possessions. The Celtics out-rebounded the Lakers 51-33 and they need to put out that type of effort on the boards in this game 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 team that plays harder. The Thunder fight hard and don’t give up and if the Celtics don’t match their aggressiveness then the Thunder may get the win.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics need to keep their focus and not turn the ball over. At times they have lost focus and have gotten sloppy and turnovers have led to losses. They have to move the ball but to make careful passes and not get sloppy. They also have to be aware when dribbling the ball so as not to allow the Thunder to get steals. Thunder average 16.1 points off turnovers and they will make the Celtics pay if they get sloppy.
Back to Back at Home - The Celtics are at home and they should get motivation from playing in front of their fans. The Thunder aren’t a good road team, going just 2-5 on the road and so the Celtics need to defend their home court and draw energy from their fans. Both teams are playing back to back and so bench play may be a factor to avoid fatigue down the stretch.
Injuries - It goes without saying that if both Jaylen Brown and Rob Williams can play in this game, it would be much better for the Celtics. For one thing, they will be fresh after sitting out with their injuries. Also, it give the Celtics two more defenders and also more scoring. The Celtics proved on Friday that they can beat a good team without them, but having them would make it much easier.
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. It all effects the outcome of the game and the Celtics need to play the right way and not allow the officiating to take them out of their game. They should never be caught complaining to the refs while the other team goes in for a score.