Game Preview: Celtics at Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder haven't dropped three straight regular-season home games since their first season in town after moving from Seattle.
The Thunder will be favored to avoid such a fate Sunday night, but there are signs that this matchup with the Boston Celtics might be tougher than expected.
Oklahoma City avoided a third straight loss overall Saturday by rallying from 13 down in the fourth quarter for a 115-111 win at Minnesota. The Thunder fell 98-94 at home to Portland on Tuesday and 95-93 to Brooklyn two days later.
The last time the club lost three straight at home was during the 23-59 season in 2008-09. It has been a contender ever since.
One problem Sunday for the Thunder is that they are 1-3 in the second half of back-to-back contests. And although it doesn't seem that the Celtics have any similarities with the Kevin Durant-led Thunder, that isn't totally the case.
Boston is among the league leaders in limiting opponents to 32.5 percent on 3-pointers, with Oklahoma City not far behind at 33.0.
This matchup features teams that lead the NBA in field goal percentage from between 10-14 feet. The Celtics were shooting a league-best 47.0 percent from that range with the Thunder second at 45.4 entering play Saturday.
That figure for Oklahoma City is deceiving since the injured Russell Westbrook shoots at 47.1 percent from that range.
One mistake the Celtics do not want to make is to talk trash late in the game to Durant, who responded with 23 of his season-high 48 points in the fourth quarter to key Saturday's win after the Timberwolves apparently ran their mouths.
"I just hear a lot of stuff and I just wanted to come through for my team in the fourth quarter," said Durant, averaging 7.2 points in that period.
He'll have to make sure he has something left for Sunday since he is averaging 23.8 points on 42.2 percent shooting in the second half of back-to-backs. Those figures are at 29.2 and 49.7 for the season.
The rebuilding Celtics are losers of six of seven with three of those defeats coming by three points or fewer, including Friday's 95-92 defeat to New Orleans.
"Yeah, it's frustrating, three one-point losses in the last three weeks," coach Brad Stevens said. "So that's a hard thing to swallow, but at the same time it's not like they're laying down."
Boston has dropped 17 of its last 19 road games against Western Conference foes, including all four this season. This is the start of a five-game West trip.
"You can't dwell on the past, we are headed on a five or six-game road trip," forward Gerald Wallace said. "We just got to try to figure out what's the problem and move forward."
The Celtics are led by former Thunder forward Jeff Green, averaging a team-best 15.8 points but just 11.9 on 37.1 percent shooting in his last nine games.
Green made 2 of 11 shots for eight points in his lone trip to Oklahoma City as a visitor, a 91-79 loss March 10. The Celtics have lost four of the last five meetings.
New England sports fans may be familiar with Westbrook's replacement, Reggie Jackson. The third-year Boston College product is averaging 11.4 points on 36.5 percent shooting along with 5.2 assists per game in the last five as a starter.