Sometimes great teams don’t get their seasons off to the best starts. That has been the case so far for the 2-2 Boston Celtics and the 0-3 Oklahoma City Thunder.
Both squads were expected to finish near the top of their respective conferences this season and will meet in Oklahoma City today (8 p.m. ET Thursday on TNT).
For both, the big problem has been offense. The Celtics are shooting a measly 41.2 percent from the field and 31.2 percent from three-point range. The Thunder are getting to the free-throw line a ton, but their corresponding shooting percentages (39.0 and 23.9, respectively) are even worse than Boston’s.
They will likely get back on track at some point, but they’d prefer to do it earlier rather than later. Let’s preview the matchup between these two talented teams before predicting how the game will relate to the posted betting lines for it. We will end with our Boston Celtics vs OKC predictions and recommended picks.
Will Steven Adams’ Rebounding Change the Complexion of This Game?
Adams is the best offensive rebounder in the NBA. Last season he averaged 5.1 offensive boards in just 32.7 minutes per game. This year he is up to 6.0 offensive rebounds in 34.3 minutes.
The Celtics are a decent rebounding team as a whole because of how many players are able to contribute in that area, but starting center Al Horford isn’t the greatest on the glass. He is considerably smaller and doesn’t have the brute strength of Adams.
Boston needs to dedicate multiple bodies to boxing out Adams. However, the Celtics need to somehow figure out a way to do that doesn’t leave them susceptible to other Thunder players getting offensive rebounds. Also, their defensive rebounding strategy must still allow them to get runouts in transition, where the team is dangerous.
Can Boston Attack the Rim More Aggressively?
The Celtics have all sorts of dribble-driving perimeter slashers on their team, including Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart. Somehow, though, they rank last in the league in free throws per field goal attempt. Boston just isn’t drawing fouls at the rate it should.
If the Celtics were being more aggressive on their drives, opponents would foul more, or at least have to rotate and leave shooters open. Boston could certainly use both more trips to the free-throw line and cleaner looks from three-point range to get their outside shooting going.
The Thunder have an athletic group of defenders who can contain perimeter players well if they aren’t aggressive. Boston needs to get OKC into foul trouble and make the team scramble more on defense.
Will Dennis Schroder Settle Into His Bench Role?
On paper, the Celtics have an advantage from their bench. Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes is a fantastic core of reserves.
However the Thunder have the most explosive bench scoring weapon on their side in Dennis Schroder. Schroder has been bad this season (just 28 percent shooting from the field), but he is coming off a season where he averaged 19.4 points per game with the Atlanta Hawks. Including playoffs, he has 34 different games with at least 25 points in his career.
Schroder’s talent around him on the bench (Jerami Grant, Nerlens Noel and Hamidou Diallo, mainly) is not at the level of Boston’s reserves. That’s why he will need a big performance.
Our Preview’s Boston Celtics at Oklahoma City Thunder Betting Picks & Predictions
The Celtics’ roster is just too deep with good players for the Thunder right now. Considering that Russell Westbrook is still working his way back from a knee injury, Alex Abrines is questionable to play and Andre Roberson still isn’t back, there are already enough question marks for Oklahoma City.
I think Boston’s offense is much more likely to get back on track than Oklahoma City’s in this game. The Celtics also have better defensive personnel.
So the Celtics vs Thunder predictions for today’s game go something like this:
- Oklahoma City is the slight favorite here, which is surprising. The Celtics are the better team and have more potential to play better on both sides of the ball, even on the road. Put your money on the Celtics +1.5 @ -110 with Intertops. All the other bookies have shortened their odds on Boston from this position.
- The U.S. Oddsmakers are counting on continued offensive struggles from these teams, it seems. The total points of 212 is one of the lowest over/unders you will see for an NBA game this season. Both teams should play too fast to be under that number, plus I see Boston figuring out some of its offensive issues. The second of our picks is to bet the over 212pts @ best odds of -105 with Bovada.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.