Boston Celtics vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Preview (1/3/23): Prediction, Starting Lineups, Odds

The Boston Celtics (26-11) continue their Western Conference road trip versus the Oklahoma City Thunder (15-21). Robert Williams is questionable and may end up resting, while the Thunder will be without Aleksej Pokusevski, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Ousmane Dieng.

Can Oklahoma City kick off 2023 with a statement win? Odds, predictions, starting lineups, and key matchups are below.

Boston Celtics vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Betting Odds

Boston is heavily favored, as the spread is -8.5 Celtics with their moneyline at -375. Oklahoma City’s moneyline can be found at +315, so they must win 25% of the time to be profitable long-term. It’s worth noting that in the last four meetings, the Thunder are 4-0 ATS and the over is also 4-0.

Boston Celtics vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Prediction

Due to Oklahoma City’s injuries, I’m taking the Celtics to cover -8.5 here.

Jaylin Williams is certainly a promising rookie, but it’s clear he isn’t ready to start and is more suited for a power forward role. And Jalen Williams would thrive as a shooting guard or small forward, but he is dampened as a power forward. As a result, the Giddey, Williams, Williams front-court has a 94.6 Offensive Rating and 138.7 Defensive Rating when they share the court. Although the sample is small (34 minutes), these general trends of an inefficient offense and horrendous defense are accurate.

Because the Thunder must shade inside to protect the paint, I expect them to allow plenty of open three-point attempts. It’s a problem that has haunted them this season, as the chart below shows. It displays open and wide open 3PA allowed per 100 possessions and FGA within five feet of the basket allowed per 100 possessions.

Celtics Thunder Defense

As you can see, the Thunder struggle in both departments and gift their opponents excellent attempts. Against a Boston team that ranks 8th in 3PT% and 11th in FG% within five feet, these defensive deficiencies are a major red flag. And should the Thunder achieve a broken possession, the Celtics have Tatum and Brown to create offense out of nothing. Despite Dort’s presence, I’m nervous for Oklahoma City’s defense, especially since they bring a poor defensive center (Mike Muscala) off the bench.

Meanwhile, Boston’s defense limits open three-pointers and ranks 3rd in opponent FGA within five feet of the basket. In addition, they are 2nd in transition defense, and their offense is 4th in turnover percentage. Considering the Thunder’s offense is built on Gilgeous-Alexander drives, transition offense, and points off turnovers, Boston is a nightmare matchup for them. Gilgeous-Alexander will still score, but Boston’s length and versatility likely make him work for every step.

Finally, because of injuries, Oklahoma City’s bench is completely depleted. Boston owns one of the deepest, most explosive benches in the league, so the Thunder are completely outmatched there. Look for the Celtics bench to either extend a lead or erase any small deficit immediately.

Although the Thunder have a knack for covering, the Celtics are simply a terrible matchup for them. Add injuries to the equation, and Boston is a great play to cover -8.5.

Betting Trends

  • Celtics are 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 games overall
  • Thunder are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 home games
  • Celtics are 0-4 ATS in the last 4 meetings
  • Over is 4-0 in the last 4 meetings

Key Matchups

Which team will win the key matchups? Check out below for these vital battles.

Luguentz Dort

Dort’s defense terrorizes opponents, and Jaylen Brown will potentially be his next victim. However, his offense is utterly inconsistent, especially from deep. Take his last three games as an example: 1/5, 5/7, 1/4 from three. If the Thunder are going to keep pace with Boston’s intimidating offense, then it’s imperative that Dort hits his threes and avoids too many possessions with a horrible shot quality, which is far too often.

Al Horford

Horford is the key for Boston here. His excellent interior defense can meet Gilgeous-Alexander’s drives, and Horford is disciplined enough to restrain himself from fouling too much. On the other end, Horford must be aggressive and exploit Jaylin Williams. If Horford turns in a dominant two-way performance, then the Thunder’s chances of covering are slim.

Boston Celtics Starting Lineup

PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford

Oklahoma City Thunder Starting Lineup

PG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SG: Luguentz Dort
SF: Josh Giddey
PF: Jalen Williams
C: Jaylin Williams

Key Injuries

Boston Celtics Injuries: Robert Williams III (Q), Danilo Gallinari (O)

Oklahoma City Thunder Injuries: Aleksej Pokusevski (O), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (O), Ousmane Dieng (O), Chet Holmgren (O)

Braxton has been covering the NBA for Lineups since the 2022 season. He's worked with multiple collegiate coaching staffs regarding analytics and scouting, which has allowed him to understand the game on a deeper level. Braxton is also a contributor at Thunderous Intentions.

Hot NBA Matchup Previews Stories