|2012-2013 NBA Season|
|March 10th, 2013|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|12:00 PM CST (Don't forget DST!)|
|American Broadcasting Corporation Only|
|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: Nov. 23rd (Celtics Lead Season Series 1-0)|
|Injury Report: Rajon Rondo (Out), Jared Sullinger (Out)|
|Avery Bradley||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Courtney Lee||SG||Thabo Sefolosha|
|Paul Pierce||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Brandon Bass||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Kevin Garnett||C||Kendrick Perkins|
Yes, this is the first time we'll see Jeff Green play in Oklahoma City while not wearing a Thunder uniform. When we traded him in February of 2011, we had already seen the Celtics. And during the 2011-2012 season, he was sidelined with heart surgery. So his appearance today, almost a full two years later, will be his long belated return. (D.J. White will be returning as well.)
However, in light of what the Celtics have done, Green's return is almost a footnote. Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you know that Rajon Rondo tore his ACL back in late January. At the time, the Celtics were 3 games under .500 and appeared to be headed towards a mediocre finish. But, somehow, the Celts miraculously endured. They've gone 13-4 since the injury, and have locked themselves firmly in the Eastern Conference playoffs. As it is, they're within striking distance of home court advantage in the first round, and they even stand a chance of winning their division.
How have things gone so swimmingly in Boston? Well, it all starts with the bench. Getting Jordan Crawford from the Wizards at the trade deadline was a huge help for that unit. He provides another option from three, moves the ball well, and rebounds well for his size. Before he was there, the Celtics went big with Jason Collins, and the team wasn't very dynamic or flexible.
The Celtics have also seen other bench players step up. Former Thunder member Chris Wilcox (Weezy) has really been able to step it up on the offensive end, working as the team's primary pick and roll option and post clean up man since an injury sidelined him in January. Jeff Green has seen an increase in both minutes and production, and appears to have found his role as an offensive option. The JET has been as inconsistent as ever, but when he's on, the Celtics definitely feel his presence.
Looking beyond the bench though, it's clear that the Celtics have been able to replace Rondo's excellent distribution abilities by using those of everyone on the team. Trying to replace Rondo outright would have been suicide, because nobody on the roster has nearly that amount of ability. Instead, the team relies on all three of their back court players to provide a degree of ballhandling ability. With everybody knowing their role, the team can still run successfully. If you don't believe it can work, just look at Perk's PPG average before he moved down south. Yeah, this team passes well.
Last time these two teams faced off, the way the Celtics operated was entirely different, so everything that happened should be taken with a grain of salt. However, one thing that does ring true no matter what is the Thunder's inability to defend the three point line in that game. The Celtics are darn near one of the league's worst three point shooting teams, and they were able to shoot 9-17 while the Thunder shot 6-24. Gambling for steals against the Celtics is pointless anyway, because they always get back on defense in transition. (This is evidenced by their league low offensive rebounding numbers.) So, please Thunder, just stay alert near that triple line!
Anyway, tonight's game should be quite the contest, and critical to both team's hopes for a high playoff seed. It could very well be the last time we see this generation of Celtics gunning for a title, so be sure to take it all in while you can. I fully expect the lead to swing back and forth, but in the end, I feel like this will be a nice comeback game for the Thunder. If they can keep the Celtics in check on the perimeter, they should be able to take advantage of the ball control situation by outrebounding them. Still, this game is kind of a prediction crapshoot. Don't go to Vegas just yet....
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 99, Boston Celtics 97.
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