The Oklahoma City Thunder travel to the TD Garden Arena on Friday night looking to secure a season’s sweep over the Boston Celtics.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Following a dual-edged Dec. 11 meeting vs. Boston, inconsistent play has characterized Oklahoma City Thunder basketball. While on that occasion the Thunder earned a phyrric 99-96 victory, OKC unfortunately lost standout guard Victor Oladipo to injury.
In Oladipo's absence, Oklahoma City has compiled a tepid 3-3 record. Minus its second-leading scorer, OKC’s first two setbacks were of the blowout variety. However, since, the Thunder has shown signs of renewed life.
One key element in the Thunder's mini-turnabout has been the stellar contributions of Russell Westbrook. Throughout OKC’s modest 2-1 run, Westbrook has averaged 38 ppg, 12 apg, and 10.7 apg —while shooting 48% FGA and attempting 12.7 FTA (89.5%).
Bolstered by these strong efforts, the Thunder has outscored its previous three opponents by a combined plus-22 total margin.
Meanwhile, Boston has won four consecutive, and at 17-12, sits at third place in the Eastern Conference.
Isaiah Thomas — who missed the season’s first meeting with OKC due to injury — has sparked the Celtics’ resurgence by providing 30.2 ppg and 6 apg amid his team’s winning streak.
Since Thomas’ return, Boston has defeated the likes of Memphis, Charlotte, Indiana, and Miami. The 5’9 Thomas scored 44 points opposite a quality Memphis unit.
Probable Starting Linueps/Injury Report
The Celtics have no injuries to report. Oklahoma City will again be without the services of both Victor Oladipo (wrist) and Cameron Payne (foot).
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
- PG: Russell Westbrook
- SG: Anthony Morrow
- SF: Andre Roberson
- PF: Domantas Sabonis
- C: Steven Adams
- PG: Isaiah Thomas
- SG: Avery Bradley
- SF: Jae Crowder
- PF: Amir Johnson
- C: Al Horford
As stated, following Oladipo's wrist sprain, the Thunder subdued the Celtics in a memorable Dec. 11 encounter. Although Westbrook’s lauded triple-double streak ended against Boston, the five-time All-Star dominated the fourth quarter en route to scoring a game-high 37 points.
In addition, an undettered Oklahoma City squad out-muscled the Celtics on the glass, compiling a 49-40 advantage. However, OKC’s most significant edge came at the foul line. An assidious Thunder iteration committed only nine team fouls; conversely, an undisciplined Boston collective was whistled for 22 costly infractions which helped Oklahoma City build a decisive -plus nine advantage in Free-throws made.
Oklahoma City Thunder -3
While Boston enjoys momentum, health, and home-court advantage, our partners at numberFire give the Thunder (17-12) a slight 50.5% win probability for Friday night’s encounter. OKC is fortunate to meet a Celtics grouping on the tail end of a back-to-back set.
Certainly, this contest will be a competitive duel between two playoff-hopeful rosters. While high-octane floor-generals Westbrook and Thomas comprise the marquee matchup, keep an eye on the center scrum between Steven Adams and Al Horford.
Finally, bench productivity will play a crucial role in the outcome of this east vs. west showdown.