The C's, survivors of back-to-back overtime scares against Milwaukee and Chicago, hit the road this week to take on a slew of tough Western Conference clubs. First up are the Oklahoma City Thunder, everyone's trendy pick to rise into the West's elite class this season. If the C's want a win Sunday night, they've got to get past Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and an army of long, athletic young role players.
When and Where
Celtics at Thunder
Sunday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m. (CSNNE)
Oklahoma City Arena, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Head to Head
The Celtics and Thunder split two games last season, with each team losing on its home floor. The one common thread in the two contests? Kevin Durant went absolutely insane in both, going off for 36 and 37 points in his two meetings with the Celtics. It was OKC's 109-104 win in Boston on March 31, in which Durant got to the line 15 times and made all 15 of his free throws, that prompted the Celtics' Kevin Garnett to refer to Durant postgame as "Michael [expletive] Jordan." He's just about earned that title.
Paul Pierce vs. Kevin Durant
The Celtics' captain will try to do the impossible in this matchup — keep Durant away from the basket without fouling him. You can't let KD get to the line, because he's a great free-throw shooter. You can't let him sneak to the basket, because it's two guaranteed points. You can't give him open jumpers, because he makes them better than anyone in the game. Pierce's mission is to make Durant work hard for every single bucket, although even that may not be enough.
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Jermaine O'Neal
Point guard: Russell Westbrook
Shooting guard: Thabo Sefolosha
Small forward: Kevin Durant
Power forward: Jeff Green
Center: Nenad Krstic
Rajon Rondo leads the NBA in assists with 93. He's second in steals with 17.
Kevin Garnett leads the league with 54 defensive rebounds.
Ray Allen played four and a half seasons with the former Seattle SuperSonics, now the Thunder. His best season was in 2006-07, when he averaged a career-high 26.4 points per game.
Kevin Durant leads the NBA with 42.4 minutes played per game.
Serge Ibaka has made 20 of his first 30 field-goal attempts this season.
In four career games against the Celtics, Russell Westbrook has averaged 18.0 points, 4.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds.
Black and Blue
Shaquille O'Neal is unlikely to play due to a bruised right knee.
Avery Bradley is still inactive as he recovers from ankle surgery.
Kendrick Perkins has a torn ACL and hopes to return in January.
Nick Collison is out with a bone bruise in his left knee.
This will be the toughest test the Celtics have faced since opening night against Miami. They've beaten a couple of playoff-bound Eastern Conference teams this season, but traveling out West will be a whole new challenge for them. The Thunder are longer than you at every position, and they're deep enough to wear you down. It's not the kind of matchup the Celtics often see. It'll take a team effort to slow down Durant and Westbrook, and it'll take a solid game from the entire rotation to outlast the Thunder's deep bench. This one will be a challenge.