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Celtics teach history lesson

03.29.09 at 10:37 pm ET
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On paper the biggest difference between the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder is their records. The Celtics are atop the Atlantic Division with 60 wins while the Thunder have 40 less. But the Celtics also have an advantage that the Thunder cannot attain in a single season – one of the deepest histories in the NBA.

On Sunday the Thunder made the first trip of their inaugural season the TD BankNorth Garden. (Click here for the recap of the Celtics 103-84 win.) The Celtics legacy was not lost on the Thunder squad.

“Inspirational,” Jeff Green said of playing in the Garden. “That’s the point we want to get at. They won championships and that’s what we want to do. But it takes a lot of focus. You’ve got to play defense. This is our first season. It’s going to take some time. We’ve got to be patient, we’ve got to continue to work hard to get to the point where stuff is working.”

Green was drafted by the Celtics in 2007 and traded to the then-Seattle SuperSonics as part of the Ray Allen deal. He played in Boston last season but this time it was different in a Thunder uniform.

“We have to establish who we want to be,” he said. “As of right now, we’re working on that. But we want to be a defensive-minded team. We want to be able to stop people when it counts. We want to be able to make our opportunities count when we get those stops. And I think right now we’re in the process of forming our identity but we’ve just got to continue to work at it.”

Rookie Russell Westbrook also has his own ties to the Celtics. The Lawndale, California native, and former UCLA Bruin, grew up as a Los Angeles Lakers fan. Even though he rooted against the Celtics, he appreciates their tradition.

“It’s kind of like a dream come true growing up, watching the Celtics and Lakers play,” Westbrook said of his first game in Boston. “I’ve seen the old games and things like that. It’s kind of where you planned on being announced.”

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks hopes his young team will learn a thing or two from the Celtics victory.

“One of things that we will learn is, pick up from this team, is there is a reason why they are a championship team,” he said. “They compete every time they are on the court. They execute throughout the game. They don’t just do it in spurts. It’s something that we have to continue to get better at — play 48 minutes of execution and do a better job of just playing with toughness down the stretch.”

Xs and Os aside, the Thunder can take more than a loss away with them.

“It motivates you to want to get better, to want to be at that championship level,” Green said. “It’s an honor to play in a building where some of the greats, Bill Russell, who have banners hanging up, Larry Bird, Parish, all those guys. They paved the way and made it possible to do what we do today. But we’ve got to build our own type of history. We have to start somewhere. And I think the more that we work, the better and better we get and the closer we wil get to that championship level.”

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