Celtics-Thunder Live: Kevin Durant Plays Aggressor As Celts Fade Late in 91-79 Loss in Oklahoma City

Kevin DurantFinal, Thunder 91-79: The Celtics made some second-half fixes and threatened most of the way, but they did not help themselves with their miscues on offense. The faster, more aggressive Thunder were able to generate more free throw attempts, which turned out to be a determining factor on a day when neither team shot particularly well.

Kevin Durant led the way with 23 points, with almost half of those coming at the foul line. The Thunder shot 27-for-33 from the free throw line, while the Celtics were just 14-for-20. The Celtics did not help themselves, either, shooting less than 38 percent from the field and committing 18 turnovers. They were within three points after three quarters but scored only 14 points in the fourth.

Fourth quarter, :37.4, Thunder 89-79: The Celtics certainly had a chance. After losing the ball on a reviewed out-of-bounds call, the Celtics stood tall on defense and forced a shot-clock violation. But they could not get a good shot on their own end, and after Westbrook got away with shooting his elbow at Bradley while dribbling at the top of the key, Ibaka tossed in a layup to probably put this one away.

Fourth quarter, 2:10, Thunder 87-79: Terry has caused a lot of grief in this building in recent years, and he could be up to his old Dallas-like tricks. Despite a cold shooting day so far, Terry drained a pair of corner threes to pull Boston within eight points. Terry was just 1-for-6 to that point.

The Thunder thought Bradley got away with a double-dribble and Garnett got away with a travel (they did), but it is hard for a team holding a 13-shot advantage at the foul line to really complain.

Fourth quarter, 4:20, Thunder 85-73: Kevin Martin is no James Harden, but the Western Carolina product is a shot-maker all the same. Martin’s funky step-back jumper is one of the more dangerous shots in the game, even if he has used it less this season alongside Durant and Westbrook. He showed it off to help OKC extend its lead, just before Westbrook was given two points on a dubious goaltending call. It appeared Westbrook’s layup attempt was on the way up, and replays showed it had not yet hit the backboard.

Fourth quarter, 5:41, Thunder 81-73: Being a person named Kevin is not very fun in this second half. Garnett and Durant are both struggling, with Garnett stuck at two points on 1-for-9 shooting in this half. He finally stopped his string of misses when he tipped home an errant layup by Crawford, but the Celtics as a whole are having a tough time converting at the rim. They are getting there. They just are not hitting the short shots.

Durant, meanwhile, has just five points on 1-for-6 shooting in this half. Like most of his OKC teammates, he is using free throws to get his offense.

Fourth quarter, 5:36, Thunder 78-67: Reggie Jackson probably has some fans in Boston, being a Boston College alum and all. But even diehard Eagles fans need to admit the OKC backup’s last couple of baskets have been as much luck as skill.

Jackson drew a dubious shooting foul after he had drawn Bass on a defensive switch. (Bass has actually played very well overall, and he played excellent defense on Jackson on that play.) He then swished a double-pump, falling jumper against Terry’s tight defense to extend the lead.

The next bucket by Martin was entirely the Celtics’ fault, though. Pierce failed to box out Collison, who grabbed an offensive rebound to restart the possession. Then Lee got caught ball-watching, and Martin slipped into the lane for an and-one layup.

This could be the put-away run by OKC we felt coming all along.

End of third quarter, Thunder 68-65: The Celtics have turned the ball over pretty much every time they have touched the ball and have given the Thunder 30 free throw attempts, yet they are somehow within three points heading into the fourth quarter.

Whatever.

The Celtics have stayed in the game by holding the Thunder to 41 percent shooting from the field and 29 percent from three. They also hold a 33-25 advantage on the glass, where Bass has been huge. Bass has a game-high 11 rebounds on a day the Celtics sorely need it.

Third quarter, 2:42, Thunder 68-60: The inability of the Celtics’ bench to hold onto the ball has officially become a problem. The breakdown of bench turnovers now stands at 10 for the Celtics, three for the Thunder. With that, it should be no surprise the Thunder are still successful in holding off the Celtics — well, that and the 18-free throw disparity in favor of the Thunder.

Third quarter, 6:22, Thunder 61-55: No matter how long the Celtics stick around, this has the feeling of a game in which the Thunder eventually will pull away. Whenever the Celtics get back within a possession or two — they have closed the gap to three or four multiple times — Westbrook or Durant find a way to score or get to the line to stem the tide.

The Celtics had a huge opportunity when Westbrook missed a pair of free throws with the Thunder ahead by four, but Garnett’s jump shot on the next possession was off, and Collison scored a layup high off the glass on the ensuing play. The Celtics just cannot seem to crack through.

Halftime, Thunder 50-45: The “Hangaround Guys” are, well, hanging around.

After falling behind by as many as 11 points, the Celtics burst back and pulled within five points on a fancy layup by Lee against Durant with four seconds left in the first half. The Celtics have climbed back with ball movement that has become crisper than it was in the opening quarter. The Celtics committed only three turnovers in the second frame, although they now have a too-high 12 turnovers in the game.

Durant has shaken off foul trouble to lead all scorers with 16 points, but OKC as a team is having a tough time finding good looks against Boston’s defense. The Thunder are shooting only 40 percent from the field, but they have used their 19-for-21 foul shooting to stay in the lead.

Pierce is having less of an all-around impact than he has of late, but he is 5-of-7 from the field to lead Boston with 12 points. Bass, who has been bottled up offensively, has made contributions in other ways by nabbing a game-high seven rebounds.

Second quarter, 2:42, Thunder 46-37: Forget Durant and Westbrook for a moment. (OK, not completely.)

The rest of the Thunder players are the people who are really killing the Celtics right now. Perkins is giving Brandon Bass a tough time on both ends, banking home a hook shot and troubling Bass into a turnover on the other end. Bass did slam home a putback with a strong move, but right now OKC’s secondary players have it over Boston’s. Defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha even has a key corner three to push the Thunder’s advantage back to nine points.

Second quarter, 7:25, Thunder 37-29: Well, that 10-2 run grew to a 12-2 run, which Pierce brought to an end with a three from the wing. But Pierce could not stop the bleeding before Durant crossed up Garnett and made him look silly. This tends to happen to 36-year-old guys. Remember Pierce’s run of rough defensive moments earlier in the season?

Second quarter, 8:47, Thunder 35-26: If you thought the Thunder did not have a run in them, you have not been paying very much attention. They have used a 10-2 run to burst into their largest lead of the game, giving one of the most energetic crowds in the NBA reason to cheer.

After Garnett flipped in a reverse layup from Terrence Williams to cut the deficit to one point, Nick Collison answered with a pair of free throws. Collison and veteran guard Derek Fisher put together the entire run themselves, in fact, with Collison adding a dunk and Fisher pitching in two 3-pointers — one the old-fashioned way with an and-one bank shot and another from beyond the arc.

End of first quarter, Thunder 23-22: The Thunder are controlling the pace, but the Celtics seem somewhat comfortable running with them. Although the Celtics have nine turnovers already, they are pushing the ball and passing it ahead to be even more aggressive with the run game than OKC. As a result, they have 18 shots, just three behind the Thunder’s 21 shots.

Durant was the high scorer earlier, which should not be much of a surprise. The good news for the Celtics was that they have forced him to pick up two early fouls, forcing the Thunder to play more than five minutes of the first quarter without him. Serge Ibaka also has two personals, which is one of the few ways to keep that shot-blocking menace in check.

First quarter, 2:57, Thunder 21-18: Kevin Durant started the game in a bit of a lull, but it did not take long for him to remind the Celtics he was still here. Durant beat Pierce for a backdoor layup and then saw Boston’s bench come in and decided it was time to turn it on.

Durant drew a shooting foul and then scored a layup as he became more aggressive attacking the hoop against Jeff Green. Garnett was not around to protect the basket, which made a huge difference for Durant’s driving abilities.

The Celtics managed to answer with four points sparked by their defense, though, drawing some alarm from OKC’s bench.

First quarter, 6:17, Thunder 14-8: The zeros will have to play like heroes for their respective teams to have a shot to win this game. Avery Bradley and Russell Westbrook, who both wear No. 0 on their jerseys, have been aggressively in each other’s chests early, with each clearly annoyed with the other’s presence. For both players, that is a mission accomplished.

Away from that matchup, the Celtics are struggling to generate easy shots at the rim. That is no surprise, since Boston tends to rely on longer jumpers anyway and the Thunder are the league’s best shot-blocking team, but the Celtics cannot stick with the high-scoring Thunder with 18-footers alone.

12:06 p.m.: The D.J. White-Shavlik Randolph era will continue in Boston.

The Celtics are expected to sign both players to second 10-day contracts, according the CSNNE. The two frontcourt players have not had many chances to impress their new employer, but they stand ready to perform if called upon.

This would be the last time the Celtics can sign either player to a 10-day contract. Once these 10 days are up, the Celtics either need to sign them through the rest of the season or let them go.

The projected starters, which do not include Randolph or White, appear below.

Celtics
Kevin Garnett
Brandon Bass
Paul Pierce
Courtney Lee
Avery Bradley

Thunder
Kendrick Perkins
Serge Ibaka
Kevin Durant
Thabo Sefolosha
Russell Westbrook

8 a.m. ET: At this point, we cannot put anything past these Celtics. By most measures, they should be a prohibitive underdog on Sunday afternoon in Oklahoma City. But riding a five-game win streak, the Celtics seem capable of anything.

The Celtics (34-27) have been here before, remember. When they welcomed the Thunder (46-16) to TD Garden earlier this season, just about everyone assumed the Celts were headed for a loss. Instead, they scored the win of their season (to that point) and gave a small glimpse of what they might be able to accomplish later.

Since then the Celtics have gotten better, but it could be said the Thunder have, too. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are helping with Kevin Martin, while Serge Ibaka is playing the best all-around ball of his career. The Thunder were tough before. Now they look like an even clearer favorite in the West.

Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 1 p.m. ET.

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