So far, it's been a relatively relaxing week for the Celtics. After a tough road trip last week, the C's have come home to enjoy a day off, two practices, and then an easy 114-83 victory over the Washington Wizards. But things might get a bit tougher come Friday.
The C's will play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the TD Garden. They beat Kevin Durant's offensive juggernaut once on the road on Nov. 7, but completing the season sweep won't be easy. Durant's taken control of the NBA scoring leaderboard and he's got a head of steam going into Friday's showdown with the Celtics.
WHEN AND WHERE
Thunder at Celtics
Friday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m. (ESPN, CSNNE)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
HEAD TO HEAD
The Celtics split two contests with the Thunder last season, but Durant was an absolute beast in both games, going off for 36 and 37 points in the two meetings. Then he killed the C's again in their first meeting this year, dropping 34 last week in Oklahoma City, but the road-warrior Celtics won anyway, withstanding a fourth-quarter charge and hanging on for a 92-83 victory. The C's have had just enough firepower to outdo OKC's one-man wrecking crew.
Paul Pierce vs. Kevin Durant
Durant is big, he's tall, he's long, he's athletic, he's aggressive, he's fearless and he's an unbelievable pure shooter. He can also get his teammates involved when the moment's right. He's as close to a perfect offensive player as we have in the NBA today, so needless to say, Pierce will have his hands full on Friday night. He needs to be athletic but not too athletic — he needs to conserve his energy for the offensive end, too. He needs to be physical but not too physical — you can't let Durant beat you at the free-throw line, as he's wont to do. Durant's the toughest cover Pierce will see all season.
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Shaquille O'Neal
Point guard: Russell Westbrook
Shooting guard: Thabo Sefolosha
Small forward: Kevin Durant
Power forward: Jeff Green
Center: Nenad Krstic
- Rajon Rondo has a league-leading 164 assists through 11 games this season. He's on pace for 1,223 in 82 games this season, which would shatter John Stockton's all-time record of 1,164 set during the 1990-91 season.
- Paul Pierce is 48-for-51 from the free-throw line this season, a league-best 94.1 percent.
- Ray Allen led the Celtics with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting the last time the Celtics played the Thunder.
- Kevin Durant is the NBA's leading scorer with 28.0 points per game. He led the league with 30.1 points per contest last season.
- Russell Westbrook had 21 points and 12 assists in the Thunder's win Wednesday night over Houston. It was his fourth double-double of the season.
- Serge Ibaka leads the Thunder in rebounds per game (7.9) and blocks per game (2.6).
BLACK AND BLUE
- Avery Bradley is nearing a return from offseason ankle surgery.
- Jermaine O'Neal is out with a knee injury.
- Kendrick Perkins has a torn ACL and will be out until 2011.
- Jeff Green is questionable. He has missed five of the Thunder's last six games with a sprained ankle.
- Nick Collison returned earlier this week from a bone bruise in his left knee.
The C's beat the Thunder last time, but not before OKC helped expose a flaw the Celtics have had for years — their inability to hold leads in the second half. The C's led by as much as 22 in the third quarter last time these two teams met, but they had to hold off a scary late charge from Durant and Russell Westbrook to survive with a win. The C's will need to use their bench this time — if Glen Davis, Marquis Daniels and Delonte West can play well off the bench throughout the night, then Doc Rivers can rest his veteran Big Three and keep their legs fresh for crunch time. He might need them.