Tip: 7:00 PM Court: Chesapeake Energy Arena Watch it: CSN, ESPN Hear it: WEEI
Referees: Marc Davis, Mark Ayotte, Nick Buchert
Russell Westbrook caught fire from 3 to hold off the late-charging Celtics. Rajon Rondo came an assist and a rebound shy of a triple-double and Paul Pierce scored 24 on 8-15 shooting.
Get it to: Paul Pierce
Without Rondo, Pierce is the point-forward. And it's been said a million times before, but the way you slow down an explosive scorer on the offensive end is forcing him to play defense. So if Pierce finds himself against Kevin Durant, he's got to make KD work. Do that enought and you might… MIGHT… wear him out enough to make him front-rim some shots on the other end.
Yes, I understand how hopeful that sounds.
Gotta stop: Russell Westbrook
The Celtics have problems with ball penetration. Westbrook makes a living beating people off the dribble and finishing with some ridiculously vicious dunks. I don't want to sift through a Westbrook highlight reel when I'm going through this game again tomorrow.
The Wild Card: Kevin Garnett
Back from two games away due to tend to a personal matter, KG will finally bring the C's a big who can stretch the floor. That is vitally important against the Thunder, who just had Serge Ibaka chalk up a 14 point, 15 rebound, 11 block triple double. If KG can get his shot going early, he might just open enough of a lane for others to get some points past the trees down low.
How we see it goin' down
So those are the "what if's." IF KG can hit shots and draw out a shot blocker… and if Paul Pierce can wear Durant out with some physcial offense… then the Celtics might have a shot at keeping this close.
But they won't keep it close. The Thunder are way too good. Durant is a 23 year-old kid who can run for days and barely get tired. Westbrook is on a ridiculous tear in February. Ibaka is a shot blocking machine and a menace on the boards. And if Perkins plays, that's one more defender we have to deal with.
Even if the Celtics manage to keep this close early, OKC will impose its will and walk away with a 104-83 win.