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Studs and Duds: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook dominate as Thunder destroy Celtics

03.16.16 at 9:35 pm ET
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Mar 16, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) drives the ball against Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) in the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Thunder forward Kevin Durant drives against Celtics guard Marcus Smart in the first half at TD Garden. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Thunder only happens when it’s raining — raining jump shots, that is.

The Thunder shot 49 percent from the field and 41 percent  from beyond the arc (12-for-29) on their way to an easy 130-109 win over the Celtics. Kevin Durant (28 points) and Russell Westbrook (24 points) led the way for the Thunder, while Isaiah Thomas scored 29 in the loss. 

Durant scored the Thunder’s first seven points, knocking down a 3 before abusing Marcus Smart on back-to-back post-ups. Not to be outdone, Westbrook scored the team’s next six points, as the Thunder built an early 10-point lead.

The only Celtic who could consistently hit an outside shot, Thomas did his best to keep pace with the dynamic scoring duo, but received little help from his supporting cast. The Celtics finished 5-of-19 from behind the 3-point line, with Thomas accounting for three of the five makes. 

Without Jae Crowder, who missed his second game due to a high ankle sprain, the Celtics had no answer for the high-powered attack of Westbrook and Durant. In addition to their 53 points, the pair dished out five and nine assists, respectively.

At the half, with the C’s only down 66-55, it still felt as if the Celtics had a chance to keep the game close. The Thunder quickly put an end to that notion, opening the second half with an 11-2 run, on their way to an outrageous 42-point third quarter — the most points allowed by Boston in a frame this season.

There was some positive news for the C’s, as Kelly Olnyk returned after missing the past 12 games with a partially separated right shoulder. He looked to still be in some pain and finished with eight points in 18 minutes. Amir Johnson (11 points, 12 rebounds) recorded his fifth double-double of the season.

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Brad Stevens on return of Kelly Olynyk: ‘We’ll see how much he plays’

03.16.16 at 6:08 pm ET
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Celtics head coach Brad Stevens (L) and center Kelly Olynyk (41) are searching for best return path. (Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)

Celtics coach Brad Stevens and center Kelly Olynyk are searching for the best return path. (Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)

After 12 games on the sidelines, it appears Kelly Olynyk finally is ready to return to action. 

Olynyk is expected to return from his partially separated right shoulder just in time to take on Kevin Durant and the Thunder on Wednesday at TD Garden.

“Kelly told me at shootaround that he thinks he’s going to give it a go, but we’ll wait till he gets through all this stuff, but it sounds like he’s going to try to give it a go,” coach Brad Stevens said an hour, 45 minutes before tipoff Wednesday. “We’ll see how much he plays. Obviously he hasn’t done much other than our practices the last five-plus weeks.”

Olynyk injured the shoulder in the first half of the game against the Clippers on Feb. 10 at the Garden. It appeared that he would be ready to go Tuesday in Indiana after taking part in a full contact practice on Sunday. But he was held out after indicating to coaches that he wasn’t quite ready. 

“I think [confidence] is a big deal,” Stevens said. “That’s depending on how much pain you’re having. There’s only one person that can answer that question and that’s him. That’s why he’s been smart about it. We didn’t want him to come back until he was ready to roll and didn’t feel tentative. He’s going to have some pain there and that’s part of it. But I think at the end of the day he feels more comfortable today than he has before.”

The Celtics could use Olynyk’s 3-point prowess. He leads the team at 41.3 percent. The Celtics have converted just 16 of 63 from beyond the arc in the last two games, both losses. 

“If you’re going to play small, you better be able to shoot,” Stevens said. “You better be able to make shots or you better be able to get out in transition and really run because otherwise the lane’s clogged. We’re going to have to continue to find better shots than we did last night. I thought we guarded about as well as we could have last night. That’ll be significantly tested again. Hey, this is a tough stretch of games for us. I’m conscious of that. At the same time, I think we need to play better offensively to beat a team of this caliber.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Coty Clarke, Kelly Olynyk, Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant on Boston: ‘I like the city a lot’

03.16.16 at 4:04 pm ET
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Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

In Boston for a nationally televised showdown with the Celtics on Wednesday night, impending free agent Kevin Durant said exactly what every C’s fan wanted to hear.

“I like the city a lot,” the Oklahoma City forward told The Boston Globe from shootaround in the hours before tipoff. “It’s cold, but they love sports here. It’s a family atmosphere I feel when I walk around the city, so yeah, I like it a lot.”

As the Globe’s Gary Washburn noted, injuries have prevented the 2013-14 NBA MVP from playing at TD Garden since Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo were still starting for the Celtics during the 2012-13 season. But that hasn’t kept Durant from keeping an eye on the rebuilding efforts of coach Brad Stevens in Boston.

“I’ve been watching this team a lot,” he added. “They’re scrappy. They play hard. They love their coach. They love their system, and especially in this building, they play with a lot of energy. So it’s going to be a tough test.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Durant, NBA, Oklahoma City Thunder

Brad Stevens on playing without Jae Crowder in loss: ‘Our worst fears were realized’

03.15.16 at 11:34 pm ET
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Evan Turner and the Celtics couldn't get around Paul George and the Pacers Tuesday. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports)

Evan Turner and the Celtics couldn’t get around Paul George and the Pacers Tuesday. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics hung tough for the first three quarters Tuesday night in Indianapolis. Then it appeared not having their most versatile player finally caught up with them. 

That’s the way Brad Stevens saw it as the Celtics lost their first game this season without Jae Crowder. The Celtics actually led 77-76 with just over eight minutes left. But they couldn’t make a shot when it counted and they had no answer for Paul George and Jordan Hill off the bench in a 103-98 loss to the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. 

Without Crowder, the Celtics shot under 40 percent for a second straight game (36-for-94) 38.3 percent. They were again ice cold from 3-point range, 8-for-32 (25 percent). With no Crowder, the Celtics struggled to find an offensive rhythm. They had a 20-13 lead early, fell behind 43-33, and made a run late in the first half. But the consistency just wasn’t there without Crowder. 

“First and foremost, I think this is a hard game to win, no matter who’s on your team,” Stevens told reporters afterward. “This is a good team. They’re playing really well. Minus the Atlanta loss [Sunday], they’ve had a bunch of games in a row where they’ve really played well before that. I’m not that discouraged about it. 

“What I am discouraged by is I think we could play with better purpose and give ourselves a better chance late. You’re going to give up points because of size at times, or height. But I think we can get a little bit better playing the way we play with the guys we play.”

Evan Turner scored just six points on seven shots in 27 minutes off the bench. Jonas Jerebko had a season-high 17 points off the bench. But the Celtics got just nine points from Tyler Zeller, Coty Clarke and Terry Rozier. 

“Obviously, we had those moments, that stretch where we couldn’t score in the first half, got down ten,”  Stevens said. “But then I thought we were playing great all the way up until the end of the third quarter, when we were still playing pretty well.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart,

Studs and Duds: Cold Celtics left with no shot in loss to Pacers

03.15.16 at 9:34 pm ET
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Celtics center Jared Sullinger (7) shoots the ball in the second quarter of the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports)

Celtics center Jared Sullinger (7) shoots the ball in the second quarter of the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports)

The Pacers did their best to give the short-handed Celtics a shot. But on this night in Indianapolis, the Celtics couldn’t convert. 

Paul George scored 25 and Monta Ellis added 14 as the Pacers held on for a 103-98 win over the Celtics on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. 

The Celtics (39-28), who lost their second straight, were playing their first game of the season without Jae Crowder (high ankle sprain) and their 12th straight without Kelly Olynyk (shoulder). The Celtics lost consecutive games for the first time since losing at Dallas and at Toronto on Jan. 18 and 20.

The Celtics were led by Isaiah Thomas with 21 points while Jared Sullinger had another double-double, with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Coach Brad Stevens went with a three-guard look in his first game this season without the injured Crowder in the starting lineup. Marcus Smart got the call, along with Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas. Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger were the only big men in the game. 

Thanks to an early steal from Smart, the Celtics showed energy with the small lineup, shooting out to a 20-13 lead. But the Pacers, behind Paul George, scored the final seven points of the quarter to forge a 20-20 tie after 12 minutes. 

The Pacers used a 23-13 run to open a 43-33 lead before the Celtics closed it to four at the break on a 6-0 run before the break. The Celtics stayed in the game thanks to 10 Indiana turnovers.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Coty Clarke, Indiana Pacers, Isaiah Thomas

Jordan Mickey recalled in time for Celtics’ trip to Indiana

03.14.16 at 6:01 pm ET
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Jordan Mickey

Jordan Mickey

Before taking off for their trip to Indianapolis and a Tuesday meeting with the Pacers, the Celtics recalled forward Jordan Mickey from the Maine Red Claws of the D-League.

The move is likely just depth at the 3/4 position as the Celtics cope with the loss of Jae Crowder for at least two weeks with a high ankle sprain to his right foot.

Mickey has turned into a shot-blocking phenom, blocking four shots (three in the first quarter) against Grand Rapids on Sunday in the Red Claws’ 129-123 victory.

Mickey also tallied a double-double with a team-high 28 points, 11 rebounds, one assist and a steal in 32 minutes of action. He has played in 23 games for Maine this season and is averaging 17.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 4.4 blocks per game in that span.

Mickey blocked three shots in a span of five seconds last Wednesday in a win over Memphis at TD Garden. 

Coach Brad Stevens said the team would likely consider a number of options to replace Crowder’s minutes, most likely involving Evan Turner and James Young. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Jae Crowder, James Young

With Jae Crowder out, James Young might finally be ‘shooting’ his way to playing time

03.14.16 at 10:01 am ET
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Celtics forward James Young defends Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) in a December game at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward James Young defends Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins in a December game at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — The time may finally be right for James Young to show what he’s got. 

The second-year forward out of Kentucky, drafted in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft by the Celtics (17th overall), is one of the leading candidates to fill in while Jae Crowder heals from a high ankle sprain suffered last Friday against the Rockets.

Young is still only 20 years old but already it feels like he’s been around the block for the Celtics. In his rookie season, he was assigned to the Maine Red Claws 11 times, averaging 20.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals in 19 games. But it’s the shooting Young has been working to improve. At Kentucky, he shot 40.7 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from 3-point range. In five summer league games this past year, he averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in five games but shot just 27.1 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from three-point range. 

This year, the shuttle back and forth has continued, with nine more assignments, including six in this calendar year alone. This year in 10 games for Maine, he’s averaged 14.2 points and 5.7 rebounds. He’s only shooting 36.6 percent but it’s his 6-foot-6 athleticism that could come in handy as the Celtics look for someone to help fill the minutes of the injury Crowder.

“He shot the heck out of it,” Brad Stevens said after practice on Sunday. “One thing James has done is gotten good game reps in, because he’s also played in Maine. He had a good practice [Sunday].”

Young has averaged just 2.4 points and 9.1 minutes in 55 career games for the Celtics. Now, he may get a chance to actually add significantly to those totals. 

Rated a five-star recruit by, Young was listed as the No. 3 small forward and the No. 8 player in the nation in 2013 at Kentucky. He was a starter on the Wildcats team that lost to UConn in the 2014 NCAA title game. He left after that season and missed Kentucky’s run at an undefeated season that ended with a national semifinal loss to Wisconsin last year. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, James Young, Jordan Mickey
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