Fans at TD Garden are in for a show tonight as the Boston Celtics host Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7:30 PM EST. Durant, who is not embracing his new “Slim Reaper” moniker, has been the biggest story in basketball over the last few weeks with his otherworldly play. Here is just a sample of what Durant has been up to lately:
The Thunder have won five in a row and six of their last seven, in large part due to Durant’s performance. But it would be unjust to only credit Durant with the recent success of the team. Guard Reggie Jackson is doing a solid job of substituting for the injured Russell Westbrook, and is helping balance the offense when teams go to double Durant. Serge Ibaka has been playing outstanding basketball over the last two weeks, blocking shots and hitting mid-range jumpers. Diving deeper into the Thunder rotation, you can see the recent contributions of Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams, and old man Derek Fisher, allowing the Thunder to stay among the Western Conference elite until they are at full strength with Westbrook, who may return as soon as February 3rd.
As you can tell from the previous paragraph, the C’s have a lot on their plate this evening. Jeff Green is coming off his best game of the season and will share duties covering Durant, a task that I’d imagine will be dealt with by a combination of him and Gerald Wallace. The Celts will also still be without Avery Bradley, who would have had the best chance at bothering Jackson in the back-court. Rajon Rondo is expected to play tonight, and Jackson will be a good test for him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see my favorite, Phil Pressey, get some minutes with the starters and try his best against Jackson.
Though most fans will be watching what Durant does tonight, I think this contest is a big game for the C’s young big men. Jared Sullinger will be dealing with Ibaka and former Celts great Kendrick Perkins. Those are two very different matchups for Sully. It will be interesting to see how he handles Ibaka’s length and Perkins’ power. Kelly Olynyk will also be interesting to watch against the big men of the Thunder. While the Thunder front-court is very athletic, the Celts have a balanced group. Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass bring the athleticism while Sully and Olynyk bring positioning and intangibles. Again, I think this matchup of the night deserves a close watch for the entire group of C’s forwards and centers. Who knows, maybe we can get more Vitor Faverani minutes! Oh wait, that’s what Joel Anthony does now…
Prediction: Thunder 101, Celtics 88