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HELLO, HOOPSOK, it's derby time at the Ford Center.

That's the way Thunder center Nenad Krstic describes Friday night's game against the Boston Celtics.

A native of Serbia, Krstic said playing in a big game in Europe is referred to as "a derby."

When you're talking about the 17-time World Champion Celtics, hey, nothing gets lost in translation.

Wednesday night offered four local teams playing at three in-state locales - the Thunder at the Ford Center; Oklahoma at the Lloyd Noble Center; Oklahoma State and Tulsa at the Reynolds Center - but Friday night belongs to the Thunder and Celtics.

The Thunder properly prepped for the derby by beating Philadelphia 117-106 on Wednesday before a crowd of 17,332, but there's a huge difference between disposing of a 5-14 team now riding an eight-game losing streak and facing a 14-4 machine dressed in green.

"They're a good team," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Boston during his post-Philly interview session, and he said it at least five times.

The Thunder roster is so young, they relate only to the Celtics in their current state, the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

Thunder forward Nick Collison, who is all of 29, said he can recall the Larry Bird and Kevin McHale days because his father was a big Celtics fan.

"I didn't hate 'em or love 'em while I was growing up," said Thunder rookie guard James Harden, age 20. "All I noticed is how well they all played with each other. They're a great team. They have every position."

Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha was born in Switzerland, so he's pretty neutral on his feelings toward just about everything, including the Celtics.

His team's top defender, Sefolosha said he isn't sure what assignment he'll draw on Friday. "I'll guard whoever coach tells me to guard," Sefolosha said.

Presumably, he'll start out on future Hall of Famer Pierce, but also figures to spend some time on future Hall of Famer Allen. Sefolosha might as well guard the ghosts of Bird, Jo Jo White, John Havlicek and Sam Jones while he's out there. It's tough to ignore the Celtic mystique.

"It's going to be a tough game, but it's going to be a fun game having a challenge like that," Sefolosha said. "We're playing pretty well, so it'll be a good chance to see where we stand against those guys."

Brooks was kind enough to share what his team's focus will be from now until tipoff.

"We definitely just have to compete," Brooks said. "They will defend as well as anybody. That's how they win games." A simple plan that's not so simple to execute.

The Thunder could be catching Boston at a vulnerable moment. Friday will be the final stop in the Celtics' four-game road trip that took them to Miami on Sunday, Charlotte on Tuesday and San Antonio tonight.

Then again, are teams as good as Boston ever really vulnerable?

"They're good," Brooks repeated. "They're good from their (top) guy to their last guy ... They do a great job of just playing Basketball ... It's always good stuff ... They're such smart players."

If you have to face the Celtics, it's got to help somewhat getting to face them the night after they played at San Antonio.

Brooks smiled and said it would help if tonight's Celtics-Spurs game goes into triple-overtime.

Post time Friday is 7:05 p.m.

John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.

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Added: December 5, 2009


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