Celtics vs. Thunder preview (Game 8 of 82)

celtics vs. okc logo

  • When: Friday, 03 November 2017 at 8:30 pm CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
  • TV: ESPN/FSOK
  • Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
  • Line: OKC -6.5 | O/U – 205.5

Seven games in and the Oklahoma City Thunder are still looking for that statement victory. They beat the Knicks, Pacers, and Bulls pretty handily, like they were supposed to. And for as good as Giannis Antetokounmpo has been, the Bucks are still an inconsistent, middle of the conference team in the East. The three games against sturdier competition have resulted in losses.

So the Thunder still find themselves in search of that one signature win. As they continue figuring out the puzzle pieces that is their revamped team, the pendulum seems to be swinging towards the direction of them getting this thing figured out. Each player now has a role of what role they play on this team. Will that change as the season progresses? Probably. But the most important part of knowing what to do, how to do it, and when to do it seems to no longer be puzzling the Thunder players. And that is a scary thought for the rest of the league. 

The Opponent

The Celtics come into this game with a 6-2 record, having won their last 6 games by an average of 14.1 points. The injury to Gordon Hayward shocked Boston a little when it occurred in the season opener. But they’ve recovered nicely since then thanks to some stellar defense. The Celtics are first in the league in defensive rating at 95.1.

Many thought the departures of Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder would weaken the Celtics’ defense, but instead, they’ve become better as a collective. They are great at transition defense and their long wing defenders can recover on shooter pretty quickly. In addition, they are rebounding the ball extremely well, which is something different from last season, where they finished 27th in rebounds per game.

Offensively, Kyrie Irving is currently The Man on this team. He is averaging 21.8 points per game on 36% shooting from deep. Second year players Jaylen Brown has improved his game immensely and is averaging 16.3 points per contest. Al Horford continues to be his efficient self, taking the ball inside on smaller players and making big men pay for leaving him open on the perimeter. And rookie Jayson Tatum is making Danny Ainge look smart for trading the top pick to Philadelphia for Tatum.

Injuries

  • Oklahoma City – None
  • Boston – Gordon Hayward (ankle)

Three Big Things

1. Westbrook vs. Irving matchup

Kyrie Irving has always given Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder problems. Over the past four seasons, in games in which Irving played 10 minutes or more against the Thunder, he’s averaged 25.8 points on 48.5% shooting from the field and 46.7% shooting from deep. The Cavaliers were 3-2 over that span. Irving attacks about as much as Westbrook does, but with a better jumpshot. It will take a team effort to keep Irving corralled as much as possible.

2. Take it inside

The Celtics are top-10 in nearly every single defensive metric, except for opponent points in the paint. They rank 21st in that category, allowing 46.3 point in the paint per game. Tatum, the small forward, leads the team in blocks per game at 1 per. This is not a rim-protecting team, so look for Westbrook, Adams, and George to take advantage of this.

3. Defensive Landmines

Boston can put OKC in precarious positions dependent on who they have on the floor. If they start Horford and Aron Baynes, the Thunder will find themselves with Anthony guarding Horford. If the Celtics start Horford at center, then Steven Adams will be sucked out of the interior where he is most comfortable defensively. Jerami Grant and Patrick Patterson will likely play a lot of minutes in this game. Their versatility will help the Thunder combat the Celtics’ array of big men (Horford, Baynes, Marcus Morris, Semi Ojeleye, and Daniel Theis).

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