Celtics Come Up Short Against Russell Westbrook, Thunder

Celtics Come Up Short Against Russell Westbrook, ThunderFinal: Thunder 89, Celtics 84. The Thunder just proved that they don't need Kevin Durant. With their MVP candidate watching from the bench, a young OKC squad just took down the Celtics on their home floor.

Russell Westbrook comes up with 31 points to lead the way, and the Thunder hold off a late Boston onslaught to earn a hard-fought win.

Rajon Rondo gives the Celtics 14 points, seven assists and four rebounds early, but he's off the floor late in favor of Delonte West. Rondo's backup misses the big shot with the game on the line, and the C's come up short.

The Celtics have Saturday off before heading to Toronto on Sunday afternoon. They're now 9-3 on the season.

Fourth quarter, 5.3 seconds, Thunder 87-84: That should do it. The Thunder help off of Delonte West to double Ray Allen, and West misses a wide-open corner 3 for the tie. The C's go down swinging.

With the effort they gave tonight, it's a miracle they even kept it close.

Fourth quarter, 13.4 seconds, Thunder 87-84: Russell Westbrook comes through with a pair of clutch free throws. Doc Rivers has called a timeout, and the C's just might be down to their last shot.

It'll be interesting to see what Doc can draw up. Can he map out a play to get Paul Pierce or Ray Allen open for a game-tying trey?

Fourth quarter, 38.1 seconds, Thunder 85-84: The Thunder are just missing every single shot down the stretch. Unbelievably, the Celtics now have the ball and a chance to steal this game.

Fourth quarter, 1:16, Thunder 85-84: Huge play from Delonte West to recover the loose ball under the OKC basket, and he follows through by making two huge free throws.

Ladies and gentlemen, you're looking at a one-point basketball game. Hard to believe, isn't it?

Fourth quarter, 1:38, Thunder 85-82: Big Baby Davis is 2-for-10 from the field and 2-for-6 from the free-throw line. Not the best stat line for him.

He's made one of his four free throws in the fourth quarter. If he drains them all, this is a tie game.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

Fourth quarter, 1:54, Thunder 85-81: Big Baby misses two free throws, but Russell Westbrook gets down to the other end and travels. Both teams are still making sloppy mistakes.

Mental toughness is in short supply in mid-November.

Fourth quarter, 2:36, Thunder 85-81: The Celtics are alive and making their push. Glen Davis is at the line with a chance to make this a one-possession game.

It's amazing that the C's are in this game with their lax defense, their awful rebounding and and their turnovers. Winning this one would be a huge statement.

Everyone has off nights. The great teams win anyway.

Fourth quarter, 3:26, Thunder 85-79: Not a good stretch for Shaquille O'Neal. First the flagrant foul against Russell Westbrook, now a bad entry pass to Paul Pierce that results in a turnover.

The C's really need to cut down on the silly mistakes now. They're running out of time.

Fourth quarter, 4:44, Thunder 83-79: Rajon Rondo checks back in, then checks out again. He's in trouble.

The good news for the Celtics is that Kevin Garnett just hit two crucial free throws. The C's are still hanging around, trailing by just four with plenty of time left.

They could use their All-Star point guard though.

Fourth quarter, 5:18, Thunder 83-76: Rajon Rondo is on the sidelines, being attended to by conditioning coach Bryan Doo. His leg looks sore.

Delonte West is playing point guard in crunch time, folks.

Fourth quarter, 6:28, Thunder 83-76: The Celtics have come alive defensively, closing out on shooters and suffocating the Thunder. A shot-clock violation here swings momentum the Celtics' way a little bit.

The C's need to do that a few more times, though.

Fourth quarter, 8:12, Thunder 81-74: Doc Rivers isn't waiting any longer. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are back in the game for Boston, and Rajon Rondo looks not far behind.

The Celtics need their starters to elevate their game in the fourth quarter. The energy's been lacking all night.

Fourth quarter, 8:51, Thunder 81-74: The Celtics still need get more efficient offense out of their second unit. A turnover here, a charge there — the C's are blowing possessions left and right, and they can't afford many more.

Good ball movement, good clean looks, and limiting mistakes. In other words, Celtic basketball. That's what these bench guys need right now.

Fourth quarter, 10:23, Thunder 79-73: The Celtics have two bench X-factors offensively in this fourth quarter, and they're both clicking. Glen Davis and Nate Robinson are both beginning to turn it on, and just in time, too.

The C's need bench scoring here. If "Shrek and Donkey" can supply a solid five-minute run of efficient offense, they can stay within striking distance and give the starters a shot in crunch time.

This game's not over yet.

End of third quarter, Thunder 77-69: When Royal Ivey is knocking down bank-shot wing 3s at the buzzer of the shot clock and making it look easy, you know you're in trouble.

The Thunder briefly stretch it to their biggest lead of the game at an even 10, but Delonte West drives the lane and chips away at the OKC lead, back to eight.

The C's have 12 minutes to dig their way out of this hole. They need to start playing hard on every single possession defensively. They can't give OKC's shooters anything easy.

Third quarter, 2:12, Thunder 72-65: The Celtics look rattled. Ray Allen just forced an off-balance jump shot from a bad angle, with two guys in his face. He had open teammates, but he went chucking anyway.

Two nights ago, the C's were moving the ball beautifully and getting good looks. They're not getting the job done now.

This Thunder team is tough, because they have so many long defenders that can get steals. But the C's still have to do something to get better shots. This isn't working.

Third quarter, 4:51, Thunder 68-61: Every time the Celtics threaten to make this thing close, Russell Westbrook holds them off. The OKC guard knocks down a contested 3 here over Rajon Rondo, pushing the lead from four back to seven.

Westbrook is now 8-for-12. The Celtics need to do something to shut him down.

Third quarter, 6:53, Thunder 63-57: A dunk from Paul Pierce and a transition bucket from Ray Allen had the potential to swing the momentum in this game, with the crowd starting to get behind the Celtics. But Russell Westbrook silences the Garden again with a nice jumper.

Westbrook now has 19 points in this game on 7-of-10 shooting. The Thunder needed him to step up in this game with Durant missing in action, and he's done just that.

Third quarter, 7:48, Thunder 61-53: The Thunder are really hard to beat when their free-throw shooting is this efficient. They've made seven of their first eight attempts in this third quarter.

The C's are moving well and closing out on shooters, but they're hacking away. You can't put these OKC kids on the line too much — they all make their foul shots.

The C's are in danger of falling behind by double digits. They need to play smarter defense to have a chance.

Third quarter, 9:41, Thunder 54-49: The third quarter is underway, and Shaquille O'Neal's "no [expletive] layups" rule is in full force. Russell Westbrook tries to drive the lane for OKC, and the big fella lays him out.

The C's have the playoff fouls down pat. But can they find the playoff-level intensity on every defensive possession? They need to string some stops together.

Halftime, Thunder 49-46: The Thunder may not have the NBA's leading scorer on the floor, but they still have a halftime lead over the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics. Go figure.

Russell Westbrook leads the way with 12 points, five assists and three rebounds for the Thunder, who carry a three-point lead into the locker room at the break.

Shaquille O'Neal is the Celtics' leading scorer with 10 points, while Rajon Rondo adds eight points and seven assists.

The C's need to give a better effort in the second half. They're capable of much more than this.

Second quarter, 2:29, Thunder 45-42: The Celtics are hitting just enough jump shots to stay within striking distance. The Thunder are staying at home on Boston's shooters, and the C's are lighting them up.

Back-to-back mid-range shots, one from Kevin Garnett and another from Rajon Rondo, keep the Celtics down just three.

A big factor keeping the Thunder from pulling away: their 11 turnovers. That's no doubt something that Scott Brooks is telling his players in the huddle right now.

Second quarter, 4:55, Thunder 39-34: The Thunder have gone on a 10-2 run despite Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo returning to the game.

The key has been the ball movement — even without Kevin Durant on the floor, the Thunder are an efficient offensive team that can get good shots. When you make the extra pass often enough, even guys like Eric Maynor and Royal Ivey can become scoring threats. It's been a total team effort so far for OKC.

Second quarter, 7:42, Celtics 32-29: Wait, what's this? Nate Robinson has made back-to-back steals, running the break each time and creating opportunities to score in transition.

Nate may not be Rajon Rondo, but he's a great fast-break weapon in his own right. His speed can be a tremendous weapon for capitalizing on opponents' mistakes.

Second quarter, 9:42, 27-27: Doc Rivers is letting his second unit get comfortable. Nate Robinson is handling the ball with ease for Doc's bench unit, and Delonte West seems happy to play off the ball. That might change as the night goes on.

The Celtics' starters didn't look too inspired in the first quarter. Doc might let them enjoy a good, long sit.

The C's seem to have trouble getting up for games like this, with the Thunder resting two stars. We'll see if they can find the motivation to play a full 48 minutes.

End of first quarter, Thunder 25-23: Both teams are without a star forward named Kevin — Durant is out, and Boston's Garnett is on the bench with a bump on his head. But both teams have seen a supporting guy step up in a big way.

For the Celtics, it's Shaquille O'Neal, who closes the first quarter with 10 points on perfect 5-of-5 shooting and two rebounds.

For OKC it's Russell Westbrook, who's got eight points and three assists.

Both supporting stars will be needed tonight. The C's will look to Shaq to establish the post against the smaller Thunder, while Westbrook will be key for OKC's offense as Durant sits out.

First quarter, 3:22, Celtics 15-12: Ray Allen just lobbed up the perfect alley-oop to Shaquille O'Neal, and Shaq flushed it.

The C's are really putting on a show so far.

Who'd have thought that the one game without Kevin Durant would be the C's most fun to watch in a while?

First quarter, 5:38, Celtics 11-8: About that ball movement. All of a sudden, the C's are making passes like Globetrotters.

Faking shots and firing no-look passes. Faking passes and chucking up unpredictable jump shots. Passing behind the back, through other guys' legs, you name it. The C's are sharing the ball in style now.

And also, they're winning. That counts for something too.

First quarter, 7:47, 6-6: Early on, this looks like a defensive struggle on both sides. Neither team has been able to establish much on the offensive end.

The C's are working on getting the ball movement going, but the Thunder are long and quick, adept at cutting off passing lanes against even the elite guys like Rajon Rondo.

First quarter, 10:14, Thunder 4-0: Not a good start for Shaquille O'Neal. The Celtics' center has already had a pass picked off by Westbrook and been whistled for three seconds. That's two blown possessions early.

The C's are still looking to find their rhythm offensively. They've yet to establish the post or get a good look from outside.

First quarter, 11:31, Thunder 2-0: No KD, no problem. The Thunder get the game's first basket courtesy of Russell Westbrook, and we're underway. Doc Rivers needs a quick timeout.

How many will Westbrook score without Durant on the floor? 35?

6:30 p.m.: We now have official word from the Thunder — no Kevin Durant and no Jeff Green against the Celtics.

The Thunder will have to go small without KD, starting three guards instead.

Look for the Celtics to establish a post presence early and attack.

3:30 p.m.: It's now looking very likely that the Thunder will be without both of their starting forwards Friday when they take on the Celtics.

Jeff Green is already out with a sprained ankle, and rumor has it Durant is leaning toward sitting this one out as well.

The new lineup would be two centers and three guards for OKC — Nenad Krstic, Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Thabo Sefolosha, Russell Westbrook. It's a bit unorthodox, but it could work.

8 a.m.: On Wednesday night, the Celtics got word that the No. 1 overall pick from the 2007 NBA draft would be sidelined for another season.

On Friday, they'll get a reminder that the No. 2 guy can still play a little bit.

Greg Oden is out for the year, but Kevin Durant is alive and kicking. In fact, he leads the NBA with 28.0 points per game this season, and he'll be walking into the TD Garden on Friday night with a chance to topple the vaunted Celtics.

The C's overcame Durant and the Thunder in OKC on Nov. 7, getting a big lead early and holding on late for a 92-83 win. They'll look to finish the season sweep Friday.

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