Kevin Garnett played an outstanding all-around game with 23 points, 13 rebounds and two blocked shots. When adding up all his shots (field goals and free throws), he missed just three of the attempts he put up. Quite the effort wasted in a loss.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined to score 59 points for the Thunder, who have one more game Thursday before they break for All-Star Weekend.
Fourth quarter, 2:47, Thunder 112-102: The Thunder seemed eager to give the Celtics every opportunity to get back into the ball game. A horribly timed technical foul on Serge Ibaka (which looked like a non-call) helped the Celtics pull within seven, and another free throw by Pierce made it a six-point game.
The Celtics handed back the ball on their next two possessions, though, and Durant gave the Thunder a 10-point lead with a bank shot.
Garnett continued to defend like a fiend, registering his second blocked shot of the game.
Fourth quarter, 5:16, Thunder 106-95: The Thunder have a habit of building, and losing, big leads, so a 3 by Allen to cut the C's deficit to 11 points is no small matter.
The Thunder will need one of their closers, Durant or Westbrook, to finish off the Celtics. Five-plus minutes is a lot of time to give three future Hall of Famers.
Fourth quarter, 7:57, Thunder 104-87: In less than a minute, OKC restored its ample lead, and as usual Westbrook just makes it look too easy. He put Bradley on his heels with a crossover before banging a jumper and forcing a quick timeout by Rivers.
Perkins made a statement with a hard dunk off a feed from Harden. Garnett wisely backed off before contesting the hard dunk.
Fourth quarter, 8:51, Thunder 100-86: No Rondo, Bass, O'Neal or Wilcox, yet the Celtics appeared to want to give it one last run in the fourth quarter.
A jumper by Allen cut OKC's lead to 12 points, although it didn't last long. Westbrook put home two driving bank shots, and Durant started to look a little more mentally involved in the game.
End of third quarter, Thunder 94-80: A six-point flurry to end the third quarter brought the Celtics within 14 points, which is good for the Celtics. The flip side, of course, was that Durant and Westbrook hardly broke a sweat in the first three quarters and have plenty in reserve for the final 12 minutes.
Pierce finally found his rhythm, kind of, and got up to 18 points. He was just 4-for-12 from the floor, though, and committed four personal fouls.
Third quarter, 3:17, Thunder 90-70: A pair of free throws by Pietrus, a 3 by Keyon Dooling and a 3 by Pierce, sandwiched around a three-point play by Westbrook, narrowed the Celtics' deficit to "only" 20 points.
Thunder coach Scotty Brooks called a timeout anyway, just to be safe.
Third quarter, 6:32, Thunder 83-56: It's tough not to admire Garnett's effort. The veteran showed no signs of taking the night off even as the deficit ballooned. He went to the bench for his customary third quarter rest with 19 points on 6-for-8 shooting and 10 rebounds.
Cook entered the game one for his last 18 in 3-point attempts and nailed his third of the game to push OKC's lead to 27 points. So it goes.
Third quarter, 8:34, Thunder 76-56: Allen fed Bradley on the break for a dunk, and the Celtics finally scored their first field goal of the second half.
Durant picked up a technical foul — well, for something — and Allen swished the free thow. The Celtics drew within 20 points, which could be reason for celebration in Boston.
Third quarter, 11:26, Thunder 74-49: It took 34 seconds into the second half for the Thunder to surpass Boston's point total from Monday. What other games are on?
Halftime, Thunder 72-49: All right, so the Thunder didn't quite make it to 73 points by halftime. It's still probably not time to break up their band just yet.
The Thunder played as close to a perfect game as possible after the Celtics' hot start. Oklahoma City's halftime shooting marks were 56 percent from the field and 75 percent (8-for-12) from deep.
The Good: Things are going well when arguably the best player in the NBA only needed 16 relatively effortless points and his team still leads by 23 points. Kevin Durant went 5-for-9 from the field and 2-for-2 on 3-pointers in his 19 minutes, cruising into halftime with the game high in points. … It's somewhat unfortunate that Rajon Rondo can't be on the court to go head-to-head with Russell Westbrook. The electrifying Thunder guard went 5-for-10 from the floor and posted a game-high five assists with 14 first-half points. … Every professional athlete who accepts a lesser role without complaining deserves an award. They could call it the James Harden award. Pro athletes are a confident bunch, but Harden, who could start for virtually any team in the league at multiple positions, came off the bench and delivered as usual. Harden only missed two of his eight shots and finished the first half with 15 points. … It's a shame all the focus will be on the Celtics' crumbling roster, because Garnett has been consistently outstanding all season. With 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting and eight rebounds in the first half, the Big Ticket provided more proof that at 35 years old, he's not close to being finished.
The Bad: Paul Pierce didn't know what to do against Durant or Harden. He took five shots and missed all but one of them, and looked perturbed at only getting four foul shots in the first half. … The Celtics committed 10 turnovers to the Thunder's 10 and were outrebounded 22-16.
The So-so: Avery Bradley brought out a "whoa" from the crowd when he rumbled down the lane for a dunk on Durant, and two jumpshots showed just how hard he's worked on his midrange game. He may have found a point guard he can't shut down with his defense, though, as Westbrook seemed capable of doing whatever he wanted. … The Thunder are the top shot-blocking team in the NBA at eight blocks per game, but they only had two in the first half despite the 23-point lead. Is that good news or bad news for the Celtics?
Second quarter, 2:44, Thunder 64-45: The Celtics scored 73 points on Monday against the Mavericks. The Thunder will have at least that many points by halftime.
Durant continued to be relatively quiet, but the two-time scoring champ got aggressive when he needed to be. He caught an oop dunk from Westbrook, and after a Bradley dunk closed the gap to 15 points, Durant calmly netted a contested 3 at the other end.
Second quarter, 7:12, Thunder 51-33: The Celtics don't even try to get to the hoop anymore. On two separate transition opportunities, everyone ran to a spot beyond the 3-point line, and despite Pietrus knocking one down, such an approach on offense is not sustainable.
The Thunder increased their lead to as many as 21 points, helped along by Cook's 13 points and Harden's nine. Memo to the Celtics: Harden is left-handed. Boston has let Harden drive to his left at will.
Second quarter, 10:13, Thunder 42-35: Most of the Thunder's 14-0 run took place with Garnett and Pierce on the bench, so Boston coach Doc Rivers came back with both players to begin the second quarter. It didn't matter. Cook added his second 3 on a fall-away from 25 feet away (I guess his shooting slump is over), Royal Ivey outran Garnett for a fastbreak layup and Harden split the defense for a layup.
Harden was whistled for a delay of game penalty for grabbing the ball out of the hoop. That might be the only way the Celtics can get on the scoreboard.
End of first quarter, Thunder 35-25: Bye bye, Celtics lead.
After Cook's 3, Durant gave the Thunder their first lead with a pair of free throws. Things unraveled further from there for Boston, which watched the Thunder embark on a 14-0 run. James Harden, sixth man extraordinaire, finished it with one of his patented transition 3s.
Nazr Mohammed also had two baskets during the run, so that should sum up just how shorthanded the Celtics are in the post.
First quarter, 3:13, Celtics 25-24: Bradley has shown an improved midrange jump shot of late, but if the C's are relying on his shooting for offense, they'll be in trouble.
There's no trouble for the Thunder when anyone of their team is shootng, though. Durant drew the defense and kicked to Daequan Cook, who has struggled with his long-distance shot but buried that attempt from the corner to pull OKC within one point.
First quarter, 6:05, Celtics 17-9: It's early, but Garnett could be on his way to one of his finest games. And it has nothing to do with his early four points.
As the only player on the floor for the Celtics taller than 6-6, Garnett was all over the place on defense. He grabbed three of the first 14 rebounds that were available and bothered numerous shots by Durant and Ibaka as the Celtics went up by as many as 10 points.
Westbrook victimized Bradley with a steal and layup. Apart from his shot selection, there is virtually nothing about Westbrook's game that anyone can complain about.
First quarter, 9:34, Celtics 8-2: Well, this is surprising
Pierce scored four points in the first three minutes as the Celtics took an early lead over the Thunder. Garnett slipped a screen and took a dish from Ray Allen for a dunk for the Celtics' second basket. A turnaround jumper by Durant was all of OKC's scoring early.
Avery Bradley troubled Westbrook from the get-go, as he often does to opposing point guards.
7 p.m.: Missing three members of the regular frontcourt rotation is never a good thing, but this is an especially tough night for the Celtics to be without O'Neal, Wilcox and Bass.
The Thunder are one of the best rebounding teams in the league. Their 43.6 rebounds per game is tied with the Kings for fifth-best in the NBA.
If your reaction to that sentence was, "The Kings are the fifth-best rebounding team in the league?" then welcome to the club. Apparently rebounding alone isn't enough to win games.
The Thunder have two of the best rebounders in the league at their positions in Durant and Westbrook. Durant leads Oklahoma City with 8.2 rebounds per game and Westbrook hauls in 4.8 rebounds per game. Only three point guards average more rebounds than Westbrook.
6:45 p.m.: Kevin Garnett is back but two more bodies down low will be out against the Thunder.
Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Wilcox both reportedly returned to Boston for evaluation after being injured Monday in Dallas. With Brandon Bass already out an inflamed right knee, this leaves Garnett and Greg Stiemsma as the only true post players on the healthy roster. Mickael Pietrus, a 6-foot-6 swingman, is listed as the starting power forward.
That should make this an extremely outside-in game, since the Thunder do not have a dominant inside presence on offense. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka are both defensive-minded, while Nick Collison is more of a mobile finisher off the pick-and-roll.
Still, the 6-10 Ibaka should be able to post up Pietrus at will, even with a limited arsenal of post moves.
The projected starting lineups appear below.
8 a.m. ET: Perhaps more than any other team in the NBA, the Celtics could use a break.
The C's, who have lost four straight and six of their last seven games, have one last opponent to worry about before they take a few days off for All-Star Weekend. That opponent just happens to have the best record in the league.
The Thunder, led by co-MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, have been one of the league's best teams since the first jump ball on Christmas Day. They have only gotten better since and have a 9-3 record in the month of February.
The Celtics will be without Rajon Rondo, who will be serving the second game of a two-game suspension for throwing a ball at a referee Sunday in Detroit. Kevin Garnett is anticipated to make his return, and the status of Jermaine O'Neal's wrist and Chris Wilcox' groin will also bear watching.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which is due to tip off at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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