Game Preview: Thunder at Celtics
The Boston Celtics managed to sweep their first back-to-back set this weekend despite the absences of star point guard Rajon Rondo and first-round draft pick Marcus Smart in the finale.
With Rondo slated to return Wednesday night, the Celtics will try to keep their first win streak of the season going by beating an Oklahoma City team that's struggled without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder, though, won in Boston last season with its two top players on the bench.
Rondo was forced to miss a visit to Chicago on Saturday because he was having screws taken out from his surgically repaired left hand, but Boston got enough contributions for a 106-101 victory. Evan Turner's season-high 19 points led seven players in double figures, and Kelly Olynyk provided 18 points and 11 rebounds.
The Celtics were also playing one day after Smart was carted off the floor in a 101-98 win over Indiana.
The No. 6 overall pick is expected to miss two to three weeks because of a sprained left ankle and bone bruise, but Rondo's absence is expected to be brief. He practiced Tuesday, but Marcus Thornton is day to day after hurting his ankle at that practice.
Boston (3-3) will try to secure its first three-game win streak since Feb. 2-7 and its first home win streak this season.
A visit from the short-handed Thunder (2-6) would appear to aid the Celtics' chances. Along with Durant (foot) and Westbrook (hand), Oklahoma City's other notable injuries are to Perry Jones (knee) and Andre Roberson (foot).
Boston coach Brad Stevens, though, remembers a 101-83 home loss on Jan. 24 to a Thunder team that played without both Durant (shoulder) and Westbrook (knee) for the first time since the franchise relocated from Seattle before the 2008-09 season.
Serge Ibaka had 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting and Jeremy Lamb contributed 19 off the bench in Oklahoma City's fourth win in the last five visits. The Thunder have won six of seven overall in the series, including the last three meetings.
"The team that we're playing is the team that drubbed us here last year," Stevens said. "We've got to do a great job of moving them. They're long and very agile."
The Thunder got guard Anthony Morrow back from a sprained left knee ligament in an 85-78 loss in Milwaukee on Tuesday and had 10 players in their rotation, but shot 33.3 percent - their worst performance in four seasons - while dropping to 0-5 on the road.
With a career-high 29 points, Reggie Jackson was the only player to score more than 14.
"We competed, but we could not make any shots," coach Scott Brooks said. "We've got to come back (Wednesday), look at some film and get better (Wednesday) night. That's the thing about the NBA, you can't worry about this game. You've got to focus on the next game."
The Thunder are off to their worst start on the road since beginning 0-7 in 2008-09 and have endured their longest skid there in one season since dropping eight in a row from Jan. 23-Feb. 27, 2009.