Game over, Celtics win 108-100: This was a statement win. After losing two straight games in somewhat embarrassing fashion, the Celtics demonstrated their pride and pulled out an intense win over Western Conference favorite Oklahoma City.
Paul Pierce led the way with 27 points, but the credit was shared among several Boston players. Rajon Rondo registered 16 assists and eight rebounds, Garnett dropped 18 points with nine rebounds and Jeff Green contributed 17 points off the bench.
Green and Pierce also combined to play excellent defense on Kevin Durant, who scored 29 points but never broke out the way he can. Russell Westbrook was immense for the Thunder with 26 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals, but Oklahoma City’s normally productive bench was stymied. Kevin Martin, Nick Collison, Eric Maynor and Haseem Thabeet were held to 13 points combined by the Celtics.
Fourth quarter, :36.7, Celtics 106-98: In another clutch situation, The Jet came through.
The Celtics sorely needed a basket, and Garnett mostly came through by going to the line and hitting both freebies. But a possession later, with a chance to really put the heat on OKC, Rondo found Terry on the left wing, and JT put up a high, arcing shot that flipped through the twine.
Fourth quarter, 1:33, Celtics 101-98: With a lot of help from the officials, the Thunder edged their way back within striking distance. The Thunder have scored one basket since the four-minute mark. All their scoring otherwise came at the charity stripe, where they were 6-for-6.
Fourth quarter, 2:52, Celtics 101-94: Rivers is taking no chances. Boston may have led by seven points with less than three minutes to go, but he could see that look in Durant’s eye.
Durant drilled a jumper to whittle the Thunder’s deficit to 10 points, then came back after a Terry jumper and a pair of Westbrook free throws to can a three over the outstretched arms of both Garnett and Pierce.
Rivers wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page. The Celtics had a win in hand, provided they had no let-ups.
Fourth quarter, 4:20, Celtics 99-87: Sometimes, just having veterans helps. The Thunder pulled within six points on an Ibaka dunk and two free throws by Durant, who was a perfect 6-for-6 from the line. But Pierce went hard to the hoop at the other end to draw a foul, hitting both free throws, and Garnett kept Boston going with a fallaway jumper. Green appeared to get raked across the face as he drove to the hoop, but Garnett was there to clean up the miss and get the whistle.
The Thunder have learned to win games like these in the past two years. They will have to show that they could pull out a win against a team that has a lot of experience doing it.
Fourth quarter, 5:58, Celtics 93-85: Durant has yet to get hot, and the Celtics simply hope he never found his stroke in this game. Durant finally got his first basket of the quarter when Green sagged a little too far off him, drawing an exasperated reaction on the sideline from Rivers.
Westbrook is lightning quick, Ibaka has flashed his jumper and Nick Collison is a crafty scorer who found a way to register six points in the fourth, but Durant was the one the Celtics absolutely could not afford to leave.
Fourth quarter, 9:51, Celtics 84-70: The Celtics had a tough time maintaining a fast pace against the Spurs on Wednesday, but they showed no signs of slacking off in this one. Pierce swished a 3-pointer from the elbow to give the Celtics their largest lead of the game. With less than 10 minutes to go, the Boston crowd is in line to have a win to be thankful for.
End of third quarter, Celtics lead 77-65: For probably the first time all season, Green seems to be playing without any weight on his shoulders. He followed up his eight-point first half with nine more points in the third quarter and possibly set the tone for more in the final quarter.
The Celtics needed every basket Green and Pierce, who scored 10 points in the frame, could give them because the Thunder kept coming. Ibaka continued to drain his improving mid-range jump shot, hitting 4-for-4 in the game before he finally missed one midway through the quarter.
The Celtics would like to think this was a potential NBA Finals preview. If so, they seemed to match up well.
Third quarter, 6:44, Celtics 61-57: Hey, haters. Russ was on the rampage.
Interrupted only by by a triple by Pierce, Westbrook scored six points in just under two minutes to pull OKC within four points. Durant had trouble guarding Pierce with three fouls, so his wingman took over. No word on whether Rondo said “Oh, [crap]!”
Third quarter, 9:26, Celtics 58-49: The Celtics have not played this well all season. With a hard push by Pierce, the Celtics played crisply and stretched their lead in the early part of the second half. Pierce opened up with a jumper and a layup to start the third quarter, then answered a jumper by Ibaka with a trey.
Perkins, using a skill that must be new this year, led the fast break and generated a layup for Sefolosha, but Terry came right back with a three to force a timeout by Brooks.
If the Thunder were a bit shell-shocked, they had every right to be. The Celtics had not played this effectively on offense in a while.
Halftime, Celtics lead 48-45: It took a little bit of everybody contributing in the first half for the Celtics to take a lead over Oklahoma City into the locker room, and it would take more of the same to exit the TD Garden with a victory over the Thunder.
Nine Celtics cracked the scoring column on the stat sheet, and 17 of Boston’s 22 field goals were assisted. The Celtics tracked down three offensive rebounds — three times as many as they recorded in the entire game against San Antonio on Wednesday, and they committed only seven turnovers as a team.
The turnovers and bad movement may have been the main reasons they held a lead over the Thunder, who shot 50 percent from the field.
Serge Ibaka tied the score with a putback slam on OKC’s last possession of the first half and seemingly gave the Thunder momentum heading into the break. But Terry responded with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Celtics the lead and an emotional boost into halftime. Big shots like Terry’s, coupled with tough buckets from Sullinger, Green and others, have the Celtics feeling good.
Second quarter, 2:19, game tied 41-41: Sullinger shows off his ever-developing arsenal. He drained a jumper from the wing and later drew the Thunder defense out toward him with a pump fake from the other wing — only to dish the ball to Wilcox, who was standing wide-open down low for a dunk.
Surprisingly, the slow-footed Celtics brought more energy than the Thunder in the second quarter, or at least better-focused energy. Both teams shot 50 percent from the field, but the Thunder had nine turnovers to the Celtics’ six.
Second quarter, 7:36, Thunder 32-30: A Tommy point-worthy sequence by Jared Sullinger has the Thunder shaking.
Sullinger stuffed a shot by Hasheem Thabeet, hit the deck to gobble up the free ball, then dashed down the other end to follow Leandro Barbosa’s miss. Sullinger’s putback narrowed the deficit to two points and put the post-holiday crowd at the Garden into party mode.
End of first quarter, Thunder lead 28-21: Against his old teammates, Green had the makings of a breakout game. Many of the things that were part of his billing were on display in the first quarter, when Green followed up his smooth J and acrobatic lay-in by taking Kevin Martin into the post and then easily shooting over the smaller defender.
First quarter, 2:04, Thunder 20-17: A lot of guys hate playing against their friends. Jeff Green seems to love it.
Green looked at ease with his close friend Durant guarding him. The Celtics forward glided to the rim for what looked like it would be an easy finish before a late-arriving defender forced Green to change his shot in mid-air and spin in a really difficult reverse layup. He then spun off a Chris Wilcox screen for a step-back jump shot to pull Boston within three points.
So far Rondo and Westbrook have been phenomenal even though neither has hit a shot. Each point guard had five assists in 10 minutes, and Westbrook had three rebounds.
First quarter, 5:55, Thunder 14-11: Almost nobody outside of the Celtics themselves gave the C’s much of a chance in this one, but in the opening minutes the Celtics put those doubts to rest. The Celtics sprinted out to a 7-2 lead and looked to be in control when Bass rolled in a fast-break layup less than two minutes into the action.
The Thunder are dangerous because they can score quickly, though, and they blitzed back. Durant got things going with five straight points, and Ibaka rattled home a jump shot to tie up the score, and Perkins and Sefolosha helped extend the lead.
The Celtics were off to another track meet start like they were against the Spurs. As that game showed, Boston has a tough time maintaining this pace.
7:14 p.m.: Kendrick Perkins is back in Boston, which stopped being a really big deal to the Celtics sometime last year. Perk got his video tribute and his standing ovation from the fans. Now he is just another opponent.
Before the game, both Thunder coach Scott Brooks and Celtics coach Doc Rivers spoke about the importance of the 28-year-old center, whose impact goes beyond the box score.
“Perk’s never going to have big stats,” Rivers said. “That’s not why you have Perk on your team. He does a lot of other things. You can’t put a number on identity or perception, but there is a number. I don’t know what it is, but Perk gives their team that.”
The NBA is still new to Oklahoma City, so it is not very surprising that Thunder fans have looked at the box score and wondered what the big deal is. They see a 6-foot-10 defensive specialist who averages 4.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and wonder how this guy can be more valuable than Serge Ibaka, who averages 14.7 points and 3.4 blocked shots per game.
But Perkins is more valuable that Ibaka (not that Ibaka is a slouch).
“The good thing about it is, ‘the people’ don’t make the decisions,” Brooks said. “I look at what he does, and I get to see it every day. It’s easy [to say] when you see it through the box scores or you see it once a year, but what he does day in and day out is perfect for what we need. We’re not going to go to him and say, ‘Perk, you need 12 points tonight.’ That’s not how we win. He has to continue to bring that toughness, bring the spirit of competition every night, and he does it.”
The projected starting lineups, including Perk, appear below.
8 a.m. ET: ‘Tis the season for giving, and the NBA schedule-makers gave the Celtics a challenging slate for the holidays.
Two days after taking on the NBA’s most well-coached unit in the Spurs, the Celtics host arguably the league’s most talented roster when the Oklahoma City Thunder pay a post-Thanksgiving visit. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will lead the Thunder (9-3), fresh off a statement victory over the rolling Clippers, into the raucous building above North Station.
Rajon Rondo’s streak of double-digit assists is still active, but nobody seemed very interested in talking about statistical streaks after the Celtics (6-6) suffered their second straight loss. Also, old friend Kendrick Perkins probably should not expect another warm welcome like he received last season in his visit. Now he is the enemy.
Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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