Watch It! - Thunder at Celtics

Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.

Rondo Playing Through Pain

Rajon Rondo will return to action after missing Saturday’s game to have a screw removed from his surgically repaired left hand. He’s back, but he isn’t 100 percent healthy.

“It’s a little sore,” Rondo said of his hand on Tuesday, “but nothing I can’t play with.”

The point guard went on to say that he was unsure of how his hand would react following his first practice after the removal of the screws. He revealed that there was potential that the hand could swell up as the day went on.

Let’s hope that Rondo can play – and play well – through the pain. The Celtics need him to break down this Oklahoma City defense and find teammates for easy looks.

Expect Some Rust

The Celtics are coming off of an impressive 106-101 victory Saturday night in Chicago, a game in which they led by as many as 19 points. They’ve had three days off since logging that win.

Having a three-day break is very rare in the NBA. The C’s will have only four other instances this season outside of the All-Star break during which they’ll have three or more consecutive off days. It’s a good time to rest, and it’s a great time to practice.

Still, though, lengthy breaks in the schedule typically affect teams in a negative way. It takes them a bit of time to regain their rhythm at both ends of the floor. As an example, the Celtics shot just 43.2 percent from the field last season following three or more days of rest.

Expect to see some rust out of Boston tonight, at least in the early goings. It might need to find its way throughout the first quarter.

Perimeter Shooting Will Be Critical

Brad Stevens met with the media on Monday and Tuesday, and he made it a point to discuss Oklahoma City’s length on both occasions. The Thunder have been playing with great size as of late, at times sliding Serge Ibaka over to small forward to play alongside two other big men.

Oklahoma City has been playing a lot of zone this season – approximately 30 percent of the time. Its length is difficult for smaller teams, like the Celtics, to handle.

While Boston leads the league in points in the paint with an average of 47.0 per game, it’s unlikely that it will reach that number tonight. Oklahoma City’s length is likely to lead to more shots on the perimeter for the C’s. They’re going to need to hit them.

Not So Thunderous

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been a perennial title contender for the past five seasons. They sure don’t look like one this season, at least in the absence of their two superstars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Durant is currently rehabbing from a fracture in his right foot and Westbrook is recovering from a fracture in his right hand, a similar injury to what Rajon Rondo suffered prior to training camp.

The Thunder’s defense has been downright porous without Durant and Westbrook. They currently have the third-worst record in the Western conference and the fourth-worst in the entire NBA, at 2-6. They’re coming off of a loss Tuesday night during which they managed to score just 78 points and shot 33.3 percent from the field.

It’s safe to say that this isn’t the Thunder team that NBA teams are used to facing. This one hasn’t been very thunderous thus far.

Don’t Overlook ‘Em

Oklahoma City certainly isn’t blowing its opponents away, but Stevens won’t allow his team to overlook the Thunder tonight. He has pointed to last season’s meeting with this team as motivation.

“The team that we’re playing [Wednesday] night is the team that drubbed us here last year,” Stevens said on Tuesday.

Ouch. Did you need to remind us?

The Thunder strolled into TD Garden on Jan. 24 of last season and crushed the Celtics without Durant and Westbrook. Ibaka (21 points), Reggie Jackson (14 points, eight assists) and Jeremy Lamb (19 points) led Oklahoma City to a 101-83 win.

All of those guys will be playing tonight, as will several other weapons. The Celtics cannot overlook this Thunder team, regardless of how poorly it has played thus far in the season.


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