|2012-2013 NBA Season|
|November 23rd, 2012|
|The Toronto-Dominion Bank Garden, Boston, Massachusetts|
|6:30 PM CST|
|NBA Television, Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Net Northeast|
|WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), WEEI 93.7 FM|
|Enemy Blogs: CelticsBlog, CelticsHub, Red's Army, Celtics Town, Celtics Green, Celtics Life, Celtics 24/7, Hardwood Houdini (Yes, these are all real.)|
|Previous Meetings: None|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Rajon Rondo|
|Thabo Sefolosha||SG||Jason Terry|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Paul Pierce|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||Brandon Bass|
|Kendrick Perkins||C||Kevin Garnett|
The Celtics have been this season's big enigma. Nobody really knows what to make of them. The old crew is still there, semi-intact. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo offer that degree of familiarity. But lots of new faces have joined the mix, and some of the team has gone through whole sale changes. Jason Terry now supplements the role Ray Allen left behind, providing bursts of scoring when the Celtics need it most. Jeff Green has returned from heart surgery last season, while Leandro Barbosa, Courtney Lee, and Jared Sullinger provide an interesting mix of veterans and youth.
Statistically, this Celtics team is still very similar to their 2011-2012 incarnation. They play good defense because they almost never go for the offensive rebound, continuing to rank dead last in that category. However, their defensive rebounding has taken a hit with the team's decreased size. They continue to be an excellent passing team, though much more of the burden has fallen on Rondo this year. Their three point shooting has taken a hit with the departure of Allen, but they've made up for it with a better ability to get to the line.
But overall, how good is this Celtics team? Well, they're alright. They're still hurting from the fact that they don't have a bona-fide center, using a rotation of Chris Wilcox and Jared Sullinger behind KG and Brandon Bass. Darko Milicic might have looked like their answer in the pre-season, but he quickly fell out of favor and recently returned to Serbia to be with his family. Jason Collins is there, but, well, he's Jason Collins.
They're win-loss record is pretty perplexing. They have quality wins over Chicago, Utah, and Milwaukee, but they've followed it up with a 20 point blowout loss to the lowly Pistons. Oh, and two of their wins are over the disaster known as the Washington Wizards. They are very capable of being competitive with higher-level teams, though.
It seems to me that the Celtics success really rides on their defense. Usually, they'll score around the same amount of points every game, all while shooting an absurdly high percentage from the floor and not rebounding. But whether they win is all up to how well they're able to stop the other team. Turnovers are a big issue for them as well, as they'll generally only win games where they manage to force as many turnovers as they let up.
As such, I think that the Celtics will be a legitimate challenge for the Thunder. The Thunder turn the ball over, struggle to rebound offensively, and don't shoot an insanely high percentage like the Celtics do. The slower pace of the Celtics will cause some problems for the Thunder transition game as well. But I do think the Thunder hold the slight upper hand, because they can force turnovers themselves and don't rely on passing the ball as much. The game really could go either way, though.
On a side note, tonight's matchup will be the first time that the Thunder will get to see Jeff Green since he was traded to the Boston Celtics on February 25th, 2011. How did this come about? Well, when he was traded in 2011, the Thunder had already finished up their season series with the Celtics. And in 2011-2012, he was out the entire season with a heart condition. So tonight will be the first time Jeff Green sees his old team, even though the trade feels like eons ago. His return to the Peake won't be until March 10th, over 2 years after the deal was done. And that's assuming that he's healthy.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 100, Boston Celtics 99.