The Celtics are hoping to get back on track as they host the Oklahoma City Thunder, who at this point, are more interested in their draft position than in winning games. These two teams met on March 27 in OKC with the Celtics winning that contest 111-94. They split the series last season with each team winning by 1 point on the road.
The Oklahoma City Thunder is playing on the second night of back to back games. They are playing in Philadelphia on Monday night and then will have to travel to Boston for this game afterwards. They are 5-9 on the second night of back to back games and they are 0-6 on Tuesday nights. The Celtics are 12-13 against the Thunder in the OKC era. They are 4-8 against them in Boston.
The Celtics are in 6th place, half a game ahead of the Heat, who are in 7th place. They are 1.5 games ahead of Charlotte (8th) and 1.5 ahead of Indiana (9th). They are 1.5 games behind both New York (4th) and Atlanta (5th), both of whom lost on Monday night. The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 19-11 at home. They are 14-12 against Western teams. They have lost their last 2 games.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are 13th in the West. They are 4 games behind the 12th place Sacramento Kings and 3 games ahead of the 14th place Minnesota Timberwolves. They are 0-10 in their last 10 games and 11-20 on the road. They are 9-19 against Eastern Conference teams. They have lost their last 14 games.
The Celtics were close to being healthy with just Robert Williams still out in their last game, but once again, the Celtics will be missing 2 more of their regular starters. Jayson Tatum is out with an ankle injury and likely also for rest. Kemba Walker is out due to whatever side injury caused him to leave the game on Sunday and possibly resting on the front end of the back to back this time. Robert Williams was listed as questionable yesterday, but is now listed as out once again.
The Thunder are very short handed with 5 players out and 2 players questionable. Lugentz Dort missed Monday’s game and is questionable for this game with a hip injury. Tony Bradley is questionable with an ankle injury. Gabriel Deck (not injury related), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (foot), Josh Hall (knee), Al Horford (coach’s decision) and Mike Muscala (ankle) are all listed as out.
The Celtics have used 28 different starting lineups this season while the Thunder have used 27 different starting lineups. If Dort is out for the Thunder, Kenrich Williams, who started on Monday will likely get the start again. I’m going to take a wild guess that Marcus Smart moves up to the point, although Brad may start Payton Pritchard at the point. I’m thinking that Semi Ojeleye and Grant Williams may get the start in place of Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, but it could be any number of other combinations. Personally, I’d like to see Pritchard and Fournier start in this one.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Semi Ojeleye
PF: Grant Williams
C: Tristan Thompson
Robert Williams III (knee) questionable
Jayson Tatum (ankle) out
Kemba Walker (side) out
Probable Thunder Starters
PG: Theo Maledon
SG: Kenrich Williams
SF: Aleksej Pokusevski
PF: Darius Bazley
C: Moses Brown
Charlie Brown, Jr
Tony Bradley (ankle) questionable
Lugentz Dort (hip) questionable
Tony Bradley (ankle) out
Gabriel Deck (not injury related) out
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (foot) out
Josh Hall (knee) out
Al Horford (coach’s decision) out
Mike Muscala (ankle) out
Tristan Thompson vs Moses Brown
Moses Brown was one of the bright spots for OKC in their first game against the Celtics as he scored 21 points and 23 rebounds. He is averaging 8.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. He is shooting 54.3% from the field but has not attempted a 3 point shot this season. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint and off the boards in this game.
Marcus Smart vs Theo Maledon
Maledon is averaging 9.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He is shooting 37.1% from the field and 35.0% from beyond the arc. In the first game between these two teams, he put up 22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. The Celtics need to contain him in this game.
Grant Williams vs Darius Bazley
Bazley is averaging 13.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He is shooting 40.1% from the field and 28.9% from beyond the arc. He missed the first game against the Celtics with a shoulder injury. I’m guessing that Grant Williams will start here in place of Tatum, but who knows who Brad will actually start.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Thunder average just 105.6 points per game and they are 23rd with a defensive rating of 112.8. The Celtics are 12th with a defensive rating of 111.3. The Celtics played little to no defense against the Hornets for some reason, but they have been playing better defense in the month of April. The Celtics need to play tough team defense if they hope to get a win in this game.
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. They allowed Moses Brown to get 23 rebounds in their game in OKC and they need to do better on the boards in this game.
Be Aggressive - On Sunday, the Celtics seemed to be lethargic and didn’t show much fight at all. 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. Even a team like OKC that is looking to improve lottery odds will fight hard and if the Celtics don’t match their aggressiveness then, like against the Hornets, they will be handed another loss.
Play Fast and Move the Ball - During the Celtics’ win streak earlier this month, they were moving the ball and had upped their pace. They were making the extra pass and finding the open man on most plays. The Celtics looked energized and were playing with a bit of swagger. Over the last two games, that all changed and the Celtics were back to holding the ball and over-dribbling and they had just 18 assists vs the Hornets while the Hornets had 39 assists. The Celtics have to get back to trusting each other and moving the ball and playing with a better pace.
Effort - We saw little effort from the team against the Hornets. In what should have been an easy win, the Celtics allowed the Hornets to get whatever they wanted on the offensive end and offered little resistance to their defense, shooting just 38% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc. The Celtics allowed the Hornets to play harder than them on both ends of the floor. We know that young teams like the Thunder will play hard but will the Celtics match their intensity?
Home Game - The Celtics are back home with their fans in the building and they should get motivation from playing in front of their fans. The Thunder aren’t a good road team, going just 11-20 on the road and so the Celtics need to defend their home court and draw energy from the cheers of their fans.
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.