Celtics: Relishing big boy challenges
The Celtics are playing their best basketball of the season, and they’ll need to keep it that way if they want to win Friday against Atlanta and on the road Sunday in Oklahoma City.
The game against the Thunder should already be circled on your calendar. The Celtics are fresh off their most impressive road win of the season – an 83-81 win over the Indiana Pacers. Boston scored the game’s last 11 points including the final two with 0.5 seconds remaining.
But it’s how they feed off of a win like that that will matter.
“Hopefully this can propel us the rest of the year going into the playoffs,” Paul Pierce said on CSNNE after that win.
Boston is just 12-18 on the road this season, the worst road record for any current Eastern Conference playoff team.
In contrast, the Thunder have 27 home wins, the most in the Western Conference. So while a win in Indiana on the second night of a road back-to-back was huge, a win in Oklahoma City would be even more impressive.
It will be one of the hardest tests of the season.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook make up one of, if not the most lethal offensive duo in the NBA. Durant averages a league-leading 28.6 points per game while Westbrook ranks 6th with 23.6 points per game.
It’ll be tough to really limit those two players’ production. What Boston will have to do, however, is compete in the paint and on the boards.
The Thunder have two legit big men in their starting lineup: Serge Ibaka and old friend Kendrick Perkins. They average a combined 13.7 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game, and we already know that when it comes to big men for the Celtics, they have big problems.
How effective have the Thunder been from close, you ask? On offense, they’re converting 65.7-percent of their attempts less than five feet from the hoop, good for 3rd in the NBA according to NBA.com. They’re also allowing opponents to score on just 57.6-percent of attempts in the same area, 8th in the NBA.
That means a relatively undersized Celtics team will once again have their hands full down low and on the glass.
But if they can pull off a win, it’ll go a long way in preparing them for the future … and maybe even a possible rematch in June.