GameThread at 7, be there!
Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Toronto-Dominion Banknorth Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
TV: Turner Network Television Only
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), WEEI Sportsradio 93.7 FM/850 AM
The Thunder and the Celtics couldn't be more opposite right now. One team is today's news, one team is yesterday's news. One team was painstakingly rebuilt, one team was built in a day. One team comes from an old East Coast town, one team comes from a young city in the Midwest. One team is old, one team is young. One team has 17 championships, one has none. Yet, despite all of these differences, these teams destinies are intertwined.
And we all know why. Right before the trade deadline in February of 2011, Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson were traded for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Robinson never played, and Krstic went to Moscow. Green is out for the season, but even before that, he looked lost in the Celtics' offense. You're left with Kendrick Perkins, who has become the defensive force in the paint the Thunder were looking for.
Right now, most Oklahoma City fans are laughing at this deal, especially after it came to light before this season that Danny Ainge actually tried to re-do the trade, offering Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green for Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins. But, this deal could have turned out very differently. Kendrick Perkins has historically been an injury prone player, and it's not far off to think that he could have re-injured his knee this season. All of a sudden, the Thunder are left with nothing, while the Celtics could be left with a young and healthy Jeff Green. I'm not saying Presti made a bad move by any stretch, but I am adamant that there was risk for both sides.
The Celtics four game losing streak heading into this one isn't as bad as it seems. Their losses were to last year's champion Mavericks, last years East #1 seed Bulls, and twice to the scorching Pacers. Despite the quality of that four game stretch, if Boston is a championship contender, they should be able to win at least one of those games. Why aren't they?
Well, the Celtics have a propensity for getting behind. In 6 of their 7 losses, they've lost the first quarter. And in the other loss, they tied their opponent at a measly 14. Their lackadaisical play early on isn't so bad when they're playing a lower quality opponent that they can easily shut out. But when they're playing an opponent that's at least as good as them, all they're doing is digging themselves a mighty fine hole that they must later climb out of. Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo is dripping 4.1 turnovers a game and averaging one less assist.
What do the Thunder need to do in order to win? Obviously, we need to establish our lead early on. Secondly, they need to identify the hot hand. The Celtics aren't going to be a team that has guys scoring consistently well every night, but they have a lot of good places to look. If the Thunder can shut down whomever happens to be getting hot, the Celtics will have trouble finding offense. Lastly, the Thunder need to win the rebounding battle, which shouldn't be too hard considering our size advantage.
I predict a sluggish defensive battle that ends after a last minute Celtics comeback is thwarted by a few trips to the Thunder free throw line.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 95, Boston 89