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Boston Celtics (26-11) at Oklahoma City Thunder (15-21) Game #38 1/3/23

The Celtics look to get back on track as they take on the Thunder in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Boston Celtics Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

The Celtics continue their road trip as they visit the Thunder in Oklahoma City. This is the second and final game between these two teams. The Celtics won the first meeting 126-122 in Boston on November 14. The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season, winning both at home and on the road. The Celtics are 15-14 against the Thunder in the OKC era. They are 8-5 in OKC and 7-9 in Boston.

The Celtics are first in the East, 1 game ahead of the 2nd place Brooklyn Nets, who have won 12 straight games. They are 2.5 games ahead of the third place Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics are 11-6 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 11-3 against Eastern Conference opponents. The Celtics had won 4 straight games before losing the first game on the road trip to the Denver Nuggets.

The Thunder are 13th in the West. They are 2.5 games behind the 10th place Utah Jazz and 4 games behind the 9th place Golden state Warriors. They are 6 games ahead of last place Houston. The Thunder are 10-9 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They are 6-9 against Eastern Conference opponents.

The Celtics are playing in the 2nd game of a 4 game Western road trip. They will play the Mavericks and the Spurs before heading back home. The Thunder are playing in their 2nd straight home game. This is the first of back to back games for them and they will play the Orlando Magic on the road on Wednesday night.

Danilo Gallinari remains out for the Celtics as the rehabs his torn ACL. Robert Williams was added to the injury list as questionable due to injury management for the knee that kept him out for the first part of the season. For the Thunder, Ousmane Dieng (wrist), Chet Holmgren (foot), Aleksej Pokusevski (leg), and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (ankle) are all out.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford

Celtics Reserves
Malcolm Brogdon
Grant Williams
Sam Hauser
Payton Pritchard
Blake Griffin
Justin Jackson
Noah Vonleh
Luke Kornet

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) questionable

Head Coach (Interim)
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Thunder Starters

PG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SG: Josh Giddey
SF: Lugentz Dort
PF: Jalen Williams
C: Jaylin Williams

Thunder Reserves
Darius Bazley
Isaiah Joe
Tre Mann
Mike Muscala
Aaron Wiggins
Kenrich Williams

2 Way Players
Eugene Omoruyi
Lindy Waters III

Pokusevski_Aleksej (leg) out
Ousmane Dieng (wrist) out
Chet Holmgren (foot) out
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (ankle) out

Head Coach
Mark Daigneault

Key Matchups

Marcus Smart vs Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Marcus Smart will have his hands full trying to defend Gilgeous-Alexander who is averaging 30.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 block per game. He is shooting 49.9% from the field and 35.4% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, he finished with 37 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. The Celtics need to find a way to slow him down.

Jaylen Brown vs Josh Giddey
Giddey is averaging 14.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. He is shooting 46.7% from the field and 32.6% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, he finished with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists and 1 block. Giddey is a good all around player and the Celtics need to stay with him to slow him down and keep him off the boards.

Honorable Mention
Jaylen Brown vs Lugentz Dort
Dort is averaging 13.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 40.5% from the field and 32.6% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics he finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Thunder average 115.8 points per game (10th) and they are 11th with a defensive rating of 112.1. The Celtics average 118.6 points per game (1st) and they are 7th with a defensive rating of 110.6. The Celtics defense left much to be desired against the Nuggets as they allowed them to shoot 57% from the field and 56.7% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to tighten up their defense and make playing defense a priority once again. The Celtics need to especially defend the paint since the Thunder are 3rd in the league with 55.4 points in the paint per game.

Rebound - Rebounding is also a key to winning. The Celtics 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 Thunder are 8th with 44.6 rebounds per game while the Celtics are 12th with 43.8 rebounds per game. Much of rebounding is desire and effort and the Celtics as a team have to put in the extra effort to grab rebounds.

Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics need to keep their focus and not turn the ball over. The Thunder are 2nd in the league with 19.7 points off turnovers per game. The Celtics have to move the ball but 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. The Thunder will make them pay if they get sloppy and turn the ball over.

Be Aggressive and Stay Focused - 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, especially if the threes aren’t falling once again. They have to be the more aggressive team and the team that plays harder. The Thunder play hard and never give up and the Celtics have to play harder and not let up until the final buzzer. They also have to stay focused on taking and making good shots. The Celtics need to show more effort than they did against the Nuggets.

On the Road - The Celtics are playing in their 2nd straight road game. The Celtics have the advantage of having a mostly healthy roster while the Thunder have the advantage of being at home in front of their fans. Can the Celtics overcome the distractions of playing on the road and get a win in this one?

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. The refs have been quick to call techs for complaining this season and the Celtics need to remember that. Also, they should never be caught complaining to the refs while the other team goes in for a score.

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