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2013-2014 Game 44 Preview: Thunder See the Celtics' Large Tank

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The Celtics would have a nice yard, but the landlord keeps placing a tank in front of their door....

Sometimes you wanna go....
Sometimes you wanna go....
William Bennett Berry
2013-2014 NBA Season
Won 5

Lost 1
January 24th, 2014
The Toronto-Dominion Banknorth Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
6:30 PM Central Standard Time
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Network New England
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM/640 AM), The Sports Hub 98.5 FM
Injury Report: Russell Westbrook (Out), Jerryd Bayless (Out), Avery Bradley (Out)
Previous Matchups: Jan 5th (Thunder Lead Season Series 1-0)
Probable Starters
Reggie Jackson PG Rajon Rondo
Thabo Sefolosha SG Gerald Wallace
Kevin Durant SF Jeff Green
Serge Ibaka PF Jared Sullinger
Kendrick Perkins C Kris Humphries
2013/14 Advanced Stats
98.4 (6th) Pace 96.0 (17th)
107.1 (5th) ORtg 98.7 (24th)
99.0 (3rd) DRtg 104.3 (T-18th)

You could look at the Celtics situation in a lot of ways. For one, they're 2-3 since the trade of Jordan Crawford. Their wins have come over reasonably solvent teams in Washington and Toronto, and despite management's efforts to downgrade a roster spot, the Celtics simply aren't losing. On the other hand, Rajon Rondo recently made a quiet return, and it's apparent that his recovery will be a long process. His poor performance was a definite factor to losses in Orlando and Miami, and he doesn't play the second end of back-to-backs. Adding complexity to the situation is new recruit Jerryd Bayless, who has continually posted poor shooting numbers. But he won't be a factor tonight, as a toe injury will keep him sidelined for a few weeks.

What does this all mean? Well, it means that the Celtics are a team whose bark is worse than their bite. By that I mean they're well-coached, have a decided gameplan based on their personnel, and are usually able to finesse their way into a competitive fourth quarter. But, as an organization, the Celtics objective right now isn't to win. It's to ensure the continued recovery of Rajon Rondo while auditioning young guys for the future of the franchise. They might be able to make a score look scary, but they don't have the talent or the consistency to put together a victory against top teams. Most of the time, anyway.

Does this mean the Celtics are going to roll over and let the Thunder win? Of course not. The Celtics very rarely get blown out, and they can rely upon known factors to carry them through the bad times. Veteran Jeff Green serves as the team's backbone, while Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Brandon Bass, and Jared Sullinger can all step up and be huge factors. It's hard to say exactly how the Celtics are good though, because they show up as middle of the pack in so many statistical categories.

The last time these two teams played, there wasn't much to take from it. It was the night they traded Courtney Lee, so the Celtics were forced to give extended minutes to Nets trade throw-in Keith Bogans. Meanwhile, the Celtics couldn't do much to exploit Oklahoma City's turnover problem, take advantage of the boards, or not foul down low. Thus, OKC rolled, only giving up points to Celtics shooters who exploited their aggressive trapping. The most unusual thing about that game was Kendrick Perkins, who took advantage of some serious size advantage down low on his way to 12 points.

Tonight, I wouldn't expect another blowout. The Thunder are on the road, and these Avery Bradley-less Celtics showed what they're made of against the Wizards on Wednesday night. The hottest name on their roster is that of young dynamo Phil Pressey, an undrafted free agent rookie. He had a career high of 20 at Washington, along with a number of impressive long-range bombs. You can tell that he wasn't having much trouble getting space against the slower John Wall, so it will be interesting to see how well he rises for jumpers against Derek Fisher, who is similarly slow.

But really, I doubt Phil Pressey will be able to carry the Celtics to victory tonight. Rajon Rondo will take up too many minutes with his recovery program, and nobody but Jeff Green has proven themselves consistently against the Thunder's defense. Kevin Durant's streak of 30 point games will likely end, but the Thunder's league-best streak of 5 wins won't. And that's what's important.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 103, Boston Celtics 92.

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