|2014-15 NBA Season Game 9
|November 12th, 2014
|The Toronto Dominion Banknorth Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
|6:30 PM Central Standard Time
|TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Network New England
|Injury Report: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Perry Jones III, Mitch McGary, Andre Roberson, Grant Jerrett (Out), Vitor Faverani, Marcus Smart, Marcus Thornton (Out)
|Previous Matchups: Jan 5 (W 119-96), Jan 24 (W 101-83)
Coming off an ugly loss to the Milwaukee Bucks not 24 hours ago, the Thunder can't be feeling great about their game against the Boston Celtics tonight. The Celtics are just as deep as the Bucks were. I mean, CelticsBlog has articles talking about whether they're going to be able to get rid of Brandon Bass. Not because Brandon Bass is bad, but because they want to develop Tyler Zeller and Vitor Faverani, when the latter returns from injury. I swear, the writers on tanking team's blogs are insane. I never wanted to cut Nick Collison loose to get minutes for Cole Aldrich or B.J. Mullens, even when I thought either of those guys might be worth something.
Except in this season, of course. The Thunder are an ugly 2-6, and still feeling the effects of the injury bug. Anthony Morrow's return to the lineup yesterday in Milwaukee brought the lineup to 10 players, but it's by no means an ideal situation. Morrow was reportedly limited to from 10 to 17 minutes before last night's game and ended up playing 14 minutes. He likely won't go the distance tonight, either. Furthermore, the lineup still contains three point guards, two of whom are shaky. It also contains Lance Thomas and Jeremy Lamb, both of whom have really struggled to contribute more than half the time on both ends of the floor.
That said, the Thunder will have to rally around a couple of players as secondary scorers tonight if they want to win. I'm imagining that the minutes of Morrow and Smith will be too limited for them to contribute in such a capacity. Thus, it's going to come down to the contributions of Lamb, Thomas, and Ibaka. At least two of them need to have decent games for the Thunder to score above 90. I say that because if the Thunder can't score above 90, they aren't going to beat many teams in the NBA, much less the run' n' gun Celtics.
Can Lamb, Thomas, and Ibaka have good offensive nights? I'm skeptical. Ibaka can perform well anywhere, but the Celtics specialize in mobile bigs that can run the floor. I'm betting that Ibaka will still nail a few, but might have trouble finding space when it counts. Thomas is a big wild card, but should be able to generate points as long as he plays within himself and finds seams within the defense. Lastly, Lamb has the biggest potential for success and failure in this game. Generally, he can't shoot and struggles when saddled with lots of offensive responsibility. But the Celtics interior D is weak, and Lamb is awesome at slashing from the weak side and drawing fouls. He can definitely produce points and somehow pull out a Thunder victory.
Other than that, the Thunder will be putting their usual amount of heavy responsibility on their third year point guard, Reggie Jackson. He was close to drawing criticism from teammates a few weeks back during a team road trip to Brooklyn and Toronto, but his play has improved since. A legitimate performance in crunch time against Sacramento had to have improved locker room spirits, as would have Jackson's overall solid performance against Milwaukee. There's no huge reason to believe that Jackson will overly struggle against the Celtics, though Rondo's defense has been solid on the year so far. Rondo's only notable defensive slip up was against Kyle Lowry, and that's completely forgivable.
On the other end of the floor, the Thunder will be worried about the big scoring presence of Avery Bradley and Jeff Green. Both players have scored over 30 points this year on separate nights, and could definitely go off against the Thunder. Bradley's threes will kill Lamb's inattentiveness on the weak side. Bradley could also surely score on Morrow, Telfair, or Smith with ease. Green will also have his way against the Thunder, just because I don't see Lance Thomas or any other out of position player giving hims much trouble. The Celtics have a lot of offensive options, and the Thunder are defensively flawed.
The story tonight, barring miracle individual performances by players from either team, will be whether the Thunder can overcome the Celtics somehow. The most likely way would be an effective zone combined with some cold Celtic shooting. Or maybe the Thunder will have an unusual amount of luck on their offensive sets. Or maybe the Celtics will be pressuring too much on D, leaving the rim wide open. Or maybe the Celtics will be intimidated by the Thunder's long arms and turn it over a lot. Who knows? Really, I'm expecting the Thunder to get blown out. C'est la vis.
Prediction: Boston Celtics 122, Oklahoma City Thunder 93.
What do you think of tonight's game? Drop some comments and let us know!