Three weeks of the season are complete and the Western Conference has shown that despite all the changes in the East that the balance of power has not shifted quite yet. In 45 head-to-head matchups between the two conferences, the West has won 30 games and the East 15. At this rate, the West would win a whopping 300 games against the East this season.
Only four Eastern Conference teams (Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, and Washington Wizards) have winning records against Western Conference opposition.
The West boasts six teams (Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Hornets, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs, and Utah Jazz) who are undefeated against the Eastern Conference. Three others (Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, and Sacramento Kings) have each lost just one game to their Eastern Conference foes. In total, there are nine Western Conference teams with winning records against the East.
This week the most compelling matchup between the two conferences pits the Western Conference’s young, up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder against the older, Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics.
(All statistics and records are through November 13)
Friday, November 19, Oklahoma City Thunder (5-3) at Boston Celtics (8-2), 7:00 PM ET on ESPN
In their November 7 matchup, the Celtics defeated the Thunder 92-83 and handed Oklahoma City their only loss to an Eastern Conference opponent so far this season. This will be the second and final meeting between these two teams this year.
If the Oklahoma City Thunder hope to force a different result this time around and avoid their second loss to the East, they must play the type of defense they played last season. The Thunder are currently ranked 27th in defensive efficiency (107.7). Last season they had a defensive efficiency rating of 101.6, which ranked eighth in the NBA. They are also ranked dead last in opponent field goal percentage, allowing opponents to convert 48.8% of their attempts. To have any chance at beating the Celtics, the Thunder will have to put forth a better effort on the defensive end.
Offensively, the Thunder will try to get out in transition to get some easy scoring opportunities. This will be extremely important for the Thunder who are averaging a league-low 15.8 assists per game. If the Thunder find themselves trying to score against the Celtics half-court defense possession after possession they will be in for a very long night. To avoid this they will have to force the Celtics into turnovers and use their defense to create offense.
The Celtics will try to limit the Thunder’s fast break opportunities by protecting the ball and keeping their turnovers to a minimum. Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics will try to create easy scoring opportunities for themselves by forcing the Thunder into as many miscues as possible. In their first matchup, the Celtics forced the Thunder, who average a respectable 14.4 turnovers per game, into 18 miscues.
This will be an intriguing matchup between a Western Conference up-and-comer and the reigning Eastern Conference Champions. If the Celtics force the Thunder to turn the ball over more than 15 times they should come away with the win.
Oklahoma City Thunder 2010-11 Game-by-Game Predictions
Boston Celtics 2010-2011 Game-by-Game Predictions
Information from ESPN.com’s NBA Schedule, 2010-2011 NBA Regular Season Divisional Standings, Boston Celtics vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – Box Score – November 07, 2010, Hollinger’s NBA Team Stats, 2010-11 Regular Season NBA Team Stats – Defense Per Game, and 2010-11 Regular Season NBA Team Stats – Miscellaneous Per Game was used for this article.