This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Records: The Oklahoma City Thunder (45-28) vs. The Boston Celtics (47-26)
Time: 6:30 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
TV: KSBI-TV 52, Comcast Sports Net East
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Enemy Blog(s): CelticsBlog, CelticsGarden, There's Like a Million Others
Previous Meeting(s): Dec. 4
For Player Matchups, go here.
Backstory: The last time we saw the Celtics, we got throttled by what was a clearly superior team. But now, times have changed. The Celtics are only 2 games ahead of us in the standings. Paul Pierce is questionable for tonight. They've looked human as of late, dropping games to Utah, Milwaukee, and New Jersey. That's not to say that this team isn't better than us in almost every way, because they are. But their flaws are a lot more evident as of late.
The Celtics are a team that, like the Lakers, relies on it's stars to perform. They, also like the Lakers, have a weakness in their lineup in Perkins. But, unlike the Lakers, this team has a very strong supporting cast off of the bench, at least on paper. You have proven champions Rasheed Wallace, capable scorer Michael Finley, high-flying Nate Robinson, solid SG Tony Allen, and Rookie Sensation Glen Davis. If there was a way to help the Celtics along as their stars got older, the Celtics front office definitely found it. Heck, even their scrubs are good, as they have former Pacers star Marquis Daniels, draft bust Shelden Williams, and everyone's favourite white guy, Brian Scalabrine.
But, for all of the talent on paper that this team has, they still can exhibit some flaws simply by virtue of being old. Ray Allen isn't what he used to be, and can have some seriously off nights. Michael Finley is a shell of his former self. Rasheed Wallace can't start over Kendrick Perkins, and his rebounding and scoring have both suffered. As a whole, the team has a tough time winning defensive matchups, as a lot of their players are volume shooters.
In the end, I'd say that if Paul Pierce doesn't play and nobody from the bench steps up, there's no way that the Celtics win. But, if Paul Pierce does play, the Thunder will have to contain him and Allen while hoping that they can consistently score points on the outside, because the defense of Tony Allen and Rajon Rondo is seriously going to limit the scoring ability of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, respectively. You'a also got to have an X-Factor like Nenad Krstic or Serge Ibaka to step in and help out with the scoring effort on the inside. When it's all said and done, if Paul Pierce plays tonight, I don't think the Thunder will win. If he doesn't, I think we might have a nice raly like we did against the Bynum-less Lakers.
Prediction (With Pierce): Boston 101, Oklahoma City 97
Prediction (Without Pierce): Oklahoma City 109, Boston 103