Celtics Fall to Thunder in Kendrick Perkins’ Return to Boston, Lose Five Straight for First Time in Big Three Era

Celtics Fall to Thunder in Kendrick Perkins' Return to Boston, Lose Five Straight for First Time in Big Three EraBOSTON — Russell Westbrook hit a 3-pointer and then shimmied his hands down his torso, bent his body at the knees and strutted down the sideline in celebration.

Just 39 seconds later — this time with less than a minute left in the game — he did it all over again.

Westbrook scored 26 points, including two of Oklahoma City's four 3-pointers in the final two minutes, to help the Thunder beat the slumping Boston Celtics 97-88 on Monday night. Kevin Durant scored 28 with seven rebounds for Oklahoma City, which won its seventh consecutive game.

"They started doubling K.D. later in the game," Westbrook said. "I just tried to be aggressive and find my open spots."

Paul Pierce scored 24 points, Kevin Garnett had 12 points and 12 rebounds and Jermaine O'Neal had 12 points and 11 boards for the Celtics. Rajon Rondo scored 12 points with nine rebounds and nine assists for Boston, which lost a fifth straight game for the first time in the New Big Three era.

"None of us likes to lose; that's the frustrating part," Pierce said. "I think I like where we are headed, there are just little things that are really killing us."

After trailing by 10 points to start the fourth quarter, the Celtics cut the deficit to two before Durant hit a 3 that made it 81-76 with 4:42 left. Garnett made a pair of free throws, then Durant threw down a tomahawk dunk.

Oklahoma City then hit four 3-pointers in a row — one from Thabo Sefolosha, two from Westbrook and another from Sefolosha that made it 95-85 with 24 seconds left. The Thunder were 2-for-11 from 3-point range in the first three quarters and 5-for-8 in the fourth.

"We stayed with it," Durant said. "We made some good shots. Our offense is predicated on the drive-and-kick; that's what we work on every day."

Kendrick Perkins had seven points and five rebounds in his first game back in Boston since the trade that sent him to Oklahoma City and broke up the starting lineup from the Celtics' 2008 NBA championship team. In the first quarter, his old team played a video on the scoreboard with highlights from his 7 1/2 years in Boston.

"Mentally, I was out of it," said Perkins, the 27th pick in the 2003 draft. "It was unbelievable. I really appreciated it. It was something they didn't have to do."

Perkins went over to the Celtics bench before the opening tip to hug the coaches and chest-bump some of his former teammates. Midway through the first quarter, a video tribute was played on the scoreboard. The crowd gave him a standing ovation, which Perkins acknowledged by walking to center court alone and waving.

"It was emotional for him. He grew up here," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "He's loved by his former coach, teammates and the fans, and rightfully so. He does everything that you want your player to do. … That's a classy organization, for what they did on the scoreboard."

Boston cut the deficit to 83-80 with 2:25 to play, but Westbrook cut across the lane and whipped a two-handed pass to Sefolosha in the corner for the 3. After Rondo scored on a putback, Westbrook hit a 3-pointer of his own — then celebrated by strutting down the sideline.

Garnett hit Mickael Pietrus to set up a Celtics 3-pointer, but Westbrook answered again to make it 92-85.

The Celtics had not had a five-game losing streak since they lost seven straight and eight of the last nine games of the 2006-07 season, a year when they also had an 18-game losing streak that was the longest in franchise history. That summer they began assembling the new Big Three — bringing in Garnett and Ray Allen to join Pierce, with Rondo and Perkins rounding out the lineup for a team that won the franchise's 17th NBA title.

Boston returned to the finals in 2010, but Perkins tore up his knee in Game 6 against the Lakers and missed Game 7, which Los Angeles won 83-79.

With Perkins' rehabilitation due to last well into the following season, general manager Danny Ainge signed Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal. Confident that they would remain healthy contributors, Ainge traded Perkins to Oklahoma City for Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green, but neither of them was able to remain in the lineup and the Celtics lost in the second round of the playoffs to Miami.

Green was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm during the offseason, requiring surgery that put him out for this entire season. He is now a free agent.

Notes
New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty and receiver Julian Edelman took time off from their preparations for the AFC Championship to attend the game. … The teams split their games last year, each winning on the road. Durant missed the game in Boston with a sore left ankle. … Thunder guard Reggie Jackson played at Boston College. … The Celtics had 19 turnovers that led to 24 Thunder points; Oklahoma City had 13 turnovers that led to two Boston points.