clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Boston Celtics (26-6) at Oklahoma City Thunder (22-9) Game #33 1/2/24

The Celtics look to win their 7th straight game as they complete their 2 game road trip against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Boston Celtics v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images

The Celtics close out their two-game road trip with a visit to the Oklahoma City Thunder. This is the first of two meetings between these two team this season. They will meet for the second time this season in Boston on April 3. These two teams were 1-1 last season with each team winning on their home court. The Celtics are 78-65 overall all time against the Thunder and 39-38 in games played in Oklahoma City.

The Celtics remain in first place in the East. They are 2.5 games ahead of second-place Milwaukee, four ahead of third-place Philadelphia, and seven games ahead of fourth-place Orlando and 7.5 games ahead of 5th place Miami. The Celtics are 10-6 on the road and 9-1 in their last 10 games. They are 5-2 against Western Conference opponents. They have won their last six games overall and they have won their last four road games.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are second in the West. They are one and a half games behind first-place Minnesota. They are half a game ahead of third-place Denver, and three games ahead of the fourth-place Clippers and fifth-place Kings. They are 13-5 at home and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 8-1 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have won their last four games.

The Celtics have played three of the bottom teams in the league over their last three games. They struggled to get the win against both the Pistons and the Raptors, but they did get the wins. Then they had a wire-to-wire blow out win against the Spurs. The Celtics were short handed for each of those wins. However, as of now, they have a clear injury report for this game. Things don’t get easier for the Celtics in January. They have the third hardest schedule with opponent winning percentage of .554 and four back to backs in the month.

The Thunder have wins over Minnesota, New York, Denver and Brooklyn in their four-game win streak. They have the 20th hardest strength of schedule in January, facing teams with a win percentage of .484 and they have five back to backs. The Thunder had a five-game home stand before playing at Denver and they are now playing in their second straight home game before heading out on a four-game road trip. The Thunder also have a clear injury report as of now.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Dalano Banton
Oshae Brissett
Sam Hauser
Al Horford
Svi Mykhailiuk
Payton Pritchard
Lamar Stevens
Jordan Walsh
Luke Kornet
Al Horford

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Drew Peterson
Neemias Queta

Injuries/Out
None

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Thunder Starters

PG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

SG: Josh Giddey

SF: Lugentz Dort

PF: Jalen Williams

C: Chet Holmgren

Thunder Reserves
Davis Bertans
Ousmane Dieng
Isaiah Joe
Tre Mann
Vasilije Micic
Aleksej Pokusevski
Cason Wallace
Aaron Wiggins
Jaylin Williams
Kenrich Williams

2 Way Players
Keyontae Johnson
Olivier Sarr
Lindy Waters III

Out/Injuries
None

Head Coach
Mark Daigneault

Key Matchups

Jrue Holiday vs Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 31.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.6 steals per game. He is shooting 54.6% from the field and 31.7% from beyond the arc. Jrue was questionable against the Raptors and then out with a sprained elbow against the Spurs. Thankfully, he is back in the starting lineup for this one, because they will need his defense to try to slow down SGA.

Kristaps Porzingis vs Chet Holmgren
Porzingis goes from one Rookie of the Year candidate to another, as he will be matched up with 7’1” Chet Holmgren. Holmgren is averaging 17.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.7 blocks per game. He is shooting 54.3% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. He is a difficult cover for any team.

Honorable Mention
Jayson Tatum vs Jalen Williams
Williams is averaging 18 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.0 assists. He is shooting 54.3% from the field and 41.6% from beyond the arc. Williams can score both inside and out, so the Celtics must stay with him on defense whether he is in the paint or on the perimeter.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Thunder average 121.3 points per game (fourth) and they are second with a defensive rating of 110.3. The Celtics average 120.8 points per game (sixth) and they are third with a defensive rating of 110.4. The Celtics need to tighten up their defense and make playing defense a priority, especially against this Thunder team that averages more points than the Celtics and have a better defensive rating. The Celtics need to especially defend the paint since the Thunder are seventh in the league with 53.3 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 28th with 41.0 rebounds per game while the Celtics are first with 47.3 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 first in the league with 20.3 points off turnovers per game. The Celtics have to move the ball because they are a much better team when they move the ball and don’t over dribble. But they must focus and 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 Focused and Ready for a Tough Game - The Celtics have had some easier games lately after facing Detroit, Toronto and San Antonio. The Thunder are at the other end of the league, sitting second in the West and are a very tough team defensively. The Celtics have to be ready to go to the basket if they struggle from three. They also have to be ready to shoot from midrange if both the paint and the perimeter are defended tightly. The Celtics must stay focused on playing hard for 48 minutes and on playing tough defense and on playing the right way.

X-Factors
On the Road - The Celtics are playing in their second straight road game. The Celtics have the advantage of having a healthy roster — but then, so do the Thunder. The Thunder have the advantage of being at home in front of their fans and they have great 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 Celtics should never be caught complaining to the refs while the other team goes in for a score.

And make sure to check out CelticsBlog’s Playback stream for a live conversation about the game. To participate, just create a free account, connect your LP sub if you have it, and join our community!

celticsblog

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Celtics Blog Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Boston Celtics news from Celtics Blog