Oklahoma City Thunder vs Boston Celtics: 2011-2012 Game 33 Preview

Records: Boston Celtics (15-16) at Oklahoma City Thunder (25-7)

Time: 6:00 PM Central Standard Time

Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Cox Sports Television

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), KMEZ 106.7 FM

Enemy Blog(s): CelticsBlog, CelticsHub, Red's Army

Previous Meetings: Jan. 16 (Thunder leads series 1-0)

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You can find the CelticsBlog preview here.

The Boston Celtics are in the Chesapeake Arena tonight for the two teams' second game of the season. Boston has struggled of late, dropping their last four games and falling below .500. Meanwhile, the Thunder have had one good offensive game (Nuggets) and one good defensive game (Hornets) this week. OKC would love to go into the All-Star break by winning another two in a row, but the Celtics are standing in their way. It is interesting to note that in this Thunder-Celtics series, the road team has won the last five games in a row. In fact, Boston has won every game that has been played in OKC, and Kevin Durant has never beaten the Celtics while wearing his home colors (0-4).

The Thunder have a good chance of finally ending that dubious streak tonight. Despite the Celtics' past success, they are struggling now and it is questionable who will even dress for the game. Rajon Rondo is serving the second game of a suspension for throwing a ball at a referee (Per CelticsBlog, Rondo still made the trip because his best bud Kendrick Perkins is throwing a birthday party for him. Awwww). Kevin Garnett has been out due to personal reasons, but is tentatively scheduled to play tonight. Brandon Bass has been dealing with a knee injury. Most recently, the C's also lost Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O'Neal in their loss to Dallas on Monday.

Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers:

"We've got to get our guys back. At one point, I had five guards out there. We were just trying to mess up the game...I'm scared to talk to the medical staff because they don't give me good news. We've got to hold the fort until we get bodies back."

OKC is far from a picture of health as well. Aside from missing Eric Maynor for the season, Thabo Sefolosha is out for another four weeks, and James Harden and Nick Collison both sat out of Monday's win against New Orleans. Given the Celtics like to play a physical brand of defensive basketball, these lingering health issues could level the playing field tonight.

Regardless of who dresses tonight, the Thunder know that the Celtics are still going to come out and play strong defense and look for opportunities to capitalize on OKC's tendency to turn over the ball. The Thunder clearly have more talent suiting up, but they must make sure they do not marginalize it by giving away the ball or presenting the Celtics with additional scoring opportunities off of the glass. I expect that this dynamic is going to be what tips the game in OKC's favor - as long as they can protect the basketball, their talent will rise to the surface and bring home another win.

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Prediction: Thunder 101, Celtics 92

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