The Boston Celtics capped their first extended road trip last season with a convincing win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Celtics will try to open this season's first lengthy trip with their third straight victory at Oklahoma City Arena.
Coming off consecutive overtime home wins, Boston looks to improve to 6-1 for the third straight season Sunday when it faces a Thunder team trying to avoid its first back-to-back home losses since December.
Led by Kevin Garnett's 23 points and 21 in the first half by Paul Pierce, Boston won 105-87 in its last game in Oklahoma City on Dec. 4, finishing a 4-0 trip and handing the Thunder their most lopsided home loss of 2009-10.
Back home following a 1-1 West Coast swing, Oklahoma City (3-2) will host a Celtics team looking to build off its first set of back-to-back overtime wins since March 3-4, 2007. After Wednesday's 105-102 victory over Milwaukee, Boston (5-1) defeated Chicago 110-105 on Friday for its fourth straight win, and now begins a four-game road trip.
"We got some valuable experience in these overtimes, which is great," Pierce said Friday after missing 10 of 14 shots and scoring a season-low 10 points. "I thought we really kept our poise."
Trailing Portland by 13 with 5:27 left in the third quarter Thursday, the Thunder kept their composure and rallied for a 107-106 overtime win. Oklahoma City had lost its previous two by an average of 18.0 points.
"That was a big win for us. I just liked the way we competed and stayed with it," said coach Scott Brooks, whose team fell 107-82 at the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
While the Thunder are allowing 106.4 points per game and shooting just 41.3 percent, they have been one of the most aggressive teams in the league, going to the foul line an NBA-high 34.8 times per game.
Reigning scoring champion Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook, who each had 28 points and 11 rebounds Thursday, are a combined 82 of 90 from the foul line.
In Oklahoma City's last matchup with Boston, Durant hit all 15 of his free throw attempts and scored 37 points as the visiting Thunder won 109-104 on March 31, snapping the franchise's six-game skid against the Celtics.
"I thought we were playing Michael (expletive) Jordan the way he was getting the whistle," Garnett said after the Celtics became the last team to lose to the Thunder following the franchise's 2008 move from Seattle. "Durant damn near shot more free throws than our whole team."
While Garnett and Pierce will have to contend with Durant and Jeff Green, the point guard matchup between Rajon Rondo and Westbrook should also be an intriguing one.
Despite playing with foot soreness, Rondo has been remarkable, averaging 11.3 points, a league-best 15.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds.
Westbrook averaged 18.0 points with 7.0 assists versus the Celtics in 2009-10.
Ray Allen, acquired in a 2007 draft day deal that gave the SuperSonics the rights to the fifth overall pick they used to select Green, will try to continue his hot shooting after averaging 24.0 points on 56.3 percent shooting in the two OT wins.
"We don't want to be overconfident, but at least we're in a situation where we can start to roll," Allen said.
The Thunder, who lost 120-99 to visiting Utah on Oct. 31, haven't dropped two straight at home since Dec. 13-16.