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Kevin Durant (shoulder) to miss Oklahoma City Thunder game against Celtics 01.24.14 at 7:10 pm ET
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Kevin Durant injured his shoulder against the Spurs Wednesday and won't play against Celtics Friday. (AP)

Kevin Durant injured his shoulder against the Spurs Wednesday and won’t play against Celtics Friday. (AP)

At least the Celtics don’t have to worry about Kevin Durant.

The Oklahoma City Thunder superstar will sit out Friday’s game against the Celtics to rest his shoulder, dinged up in a win over the Spurs Wednesday night. Durant had 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in Oklahoma City’s 119-96 win over the Celtics on Jan. 5 in Oklahoma City. The Thunder enter the game with a 33-10 mark, a half-game better than the Spurs for best record in the West.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before the game that Perry Jones will fill in for Durant.

“Kevin definitely loves the game. He’s not one that looks forward to missing games,” Brooks said. “The guy is a gamer. He loves to play.”

Durant also loves to score, something he’s done at will in the last nine games. Durant has scored at least 30 points in nine straight games, averaging 38.9 points over that run for the Thunder.

“It’s the best thing for him. Until he’s ready to play, he’s not going to play, regardless of how he feels or what he wants to do. It’s a medical decision,” Brooks added.

For the first time in Thunder history Durant and Russell Westbrook won’t be in their lineup.

“I never looked at it that way,” Brooks said. “I know we’ve always had guys that step up. We have a team that takes challenges every night. You never want to be without your players, not only us but the entire league. Regardless of if he’s a starter or not a starter, you want your entire roster to give yourself the best chance. We have more than enough to compete. Old coach of mine [said]: ‘All you need is five.’”

Durant is certainly a leader in the early MVP race, averaging a league best 31.0 points. Durant has already won three NBA regular season scoring titles.

“I’ve seen Kobe Bryant score 40 points in nine straight games,” Durant told NewsOK.com on Thursday. “Michael Jordan have 11 triple-doubles in 12 games. LeBron James have a month when he’s averaging 35 points. So those guys, that’s something to write home about.”

As for Durant, he may or may not return for the Thunder’s next game, in Philadelphia Saturday night. The

The Thunder, meanwhile, visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night. Brooks wasn’t sure if Durant will be back for that game.

The Thunder don’t figure to need Durant against the Sixers who, like the 15-29 Celtics, are bringing up the rear of the Atlantic Division.

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LeBron James, Kevin Durant headline NBA All-Star Game starters 01.23.14 at 9:44 pm ET
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The NBA announced the starters for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, and naturally leading MVP candidates LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the leading vote-getters for the Eastern and Western conferences, respectively.

The roster includes no Celtics, who are in danger of failing to produce an All-Star for the first time since 2007, when Paul Pierce suffered through an injury-plagued season, and only the 10th time in the game’s 63-year history.

Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green are the C’s only hopes for a spot when the voting from coaches reveals the final seven Eastern Conference All-Stars on Jan. 30, but neither is expected the make the roster (unless Rondo receives the sympathy vote for his fifth selection). Each received more than 100,000 fan votes  – well shy of a starting spot.

Old friends Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett edged out Rondo and Green in the fan voting for backcourt and frontcourt players, respectively, although Green received 26,006 more votes than Pierce. Here are your 2014 starters:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

LeBron James (1,416,419 votes)
Paul George (1,211,318)
Carmelo Anthony (935,702)
Dwyane Wade (929,542)
Kyrie Irving (860,221)

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Kevin Durant (1,396,294 votes)
Stephen Curry
(1,047,281)
Kobe Bryant (988,884)
Blake Griffin (688,466)
Kevin Love (661,246)

Bryant, who received his 16th All-Star bid despite participating in just six games this season, will likely be replaced in the starting West backcourt by Chris Paul (804,309 votes) due to the Lakers star’s knee injury.

Likewise, should Wade’s knee injury keep him from participating in his 10th All-Star Game, John Wall (393,129) would be the second starting guard alongside Irving in the East. Among the remaining healthy Eastern Conference guards, only Allen received more votes than Rondo, but his fate lies in the coaches’ hands now.

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Former Boston College star Reggie Jackson helps Thunder overpower Celtics 01.05.14 at 9:25 pm ET
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Reggie Jackson enjoyed a career night at the expense of the Celtics on Sunday, as the mighty Thunder dealt floundering Boston a walk-in-the-park, 119-96 defeat.

Jackson eviscerated the C’€™s defense with a career-best 27 points and handed the Celtics (13-21) their fourth straight loss and seventh in eight games.

The NBA’€™s leading scorer, Kevin Durant, played more of a facilitating role for Oklahoma City (27-7), allowing the point guard his moment in the limelight. Durant still went for 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals.

Jeff Green and Avery Bradley anchored Boston with 19 points apiece, while Jordan Crawford (17 points) and Kris Humphries (14 points) also contributed.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Jackson erupts: Prior to the game, much of the defensive consternation revolved around the matchup between Green and Durant. How Boston’€™s top defender, Avery Bradley, would defend Oklahoma City’€™s raw point guard was not a hot topic. However, Jackson, filling in for an injured Russell Westbrook, surprisingly torched the usually stingy Bradley for a career-high 27 points. The Boston College product lit up Bradley in the first half. He scored 11 points in the first five minutes, and 19 over all in the half.

D on Durant: In one sense, the Celtics defense deserves plaudits for not allowing Durant to break out for 46 points like he did in the Thunder’€™s previous win. But Durant’€™s 21 points (in just 27 minutes) against Boston did not properly reveal the impact he had on the game. He dished out eight assists, and when Oklahoma City was comfortably ahead, Durant went out of his way to pad his teammates’€™ point totals. Durant also pulled down seven rebounds.

Front-court production: While Crawford and Bradley kept Boston’€™s head above water, the Celtics‘€™ starting big men did next to nothing to aid the guards offensively. Forwards Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger combined for 13 points compared to their combined season average of 25.5 points per game. Their sparse production was not a product of a dearth of opportunities; Sullinger finished 3-for-11 from the field and Bass 1-for-5. Sullinger fouled out in just 19 minutes.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Bogans’€™ christening: It took close to the entire first half of season, but Keith Bogans finally found the score sheet. The veteran guard acquired by the Celtics this offseason opened up the second quarter by burying a 3-pointer. Bogans last appeared in a game on Nov. 30 and had played in just 28 minutes over four games and attempted three shots. He saw playing time in lieu of backup shooting guard Courtney Lee, who was in the process of being traded Sunday.

Three-point barrage: A usually docile Celtics 3-point game erupted as Boston canned 11 3-pointers, the most since Dec. 10. The C’€™s defied a recent trend of poor 3-point shooting, particularly over the past three games. Boston shot a horrendous 14-61 (23 percent) in recent losses to the Hawks, Bulls and Pelicans. Crawford and Green authored the outburst with three 3-pointers apiece. Boston shot a nifty 8-13 from downtown in the first half to stay within 10 points.

Humphries: Kris Humphries again logged solid minutes off the bench, collecting 14 points along with three blocks and rebounds and two assists. In the last three weeks, Humphries has proved himself the most reliable Celtic off the bench. In his last 10 games, Humphries has averaged 9.8 points per game on 56 percent shooting, and 6.9 rebounds.

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Adrian Wojnarowski on D&C: ‘No easy path back’ to contention for Celtics 04.29.13 at 9:04 am ET
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Adrian Wojnarowski

Adrian Wojnarowski

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to talk about the Celtics and the NBA playoffs.

The league’s two most successful franchises, the Celtics and Lakers, have become also-rans, and the future is not promising for either team.

“There’s no question there’s been a changing of the guard in the league,” Wojnarowski said. “You look at both teams, the Lakers and Boston, it’s going to be a while before either is in contention again. It’s hard to rebuild in this league, and it doesn’t happen quickly unless you draft LeBron [James] or Kevin Durant. It’s going to take a while, and I think both organizations have to face that reality, because we aren’t going to see these two in the finals again in the foreseeable future, that’s for sure.”

Wojnarowski said the the Celtics have a better front office than the Lakers and a more appealing coach in Doc Rivers, but the Lakers are more likely to return to prominence first because of the appeal of Los Angeles.

“If the Lakers have cap space, they’re always a team that’s going to attract the best player on the market,” Wojnarowski said. “I think Boston, as long as Doc is there and Doc is coaching, I think Boston is very attractive to players, more so to the elite players. But even then, Chris Paul didn’t want to come when they talked deals. It’s not LA.”

Wojnarowski said he thinks the Celtics will attempt to rebuild around Rajon Rondo, but they need some fortuitous moves to get out of the middle.

“That’s the worst place to be in the NBA — stuck in the middle,” Wojnarowski said. “You want to be really good or really bad. That’s the fear is you don’t want to get stuck in that middle place, because you can’t get out of it. You become Milwaukee, fighting for the eighth seed. You don’t want that.

“But I do think, though, the emergence of Jeff Green this year, you’ve seen that they can lean on him to do more and be a different kind of player. Listen, a year ago you didn’t know what his career was going to look like, with the heart ailment. And then this year you saw him become a much more explosive and reliable player. I think that’s a bonus for them. You look back at the Kendrick Perkins deal, and certainly it looks a lot better in hindsight than it did to people initially. But there’s no easy path back for them.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Thunderstruck: Kevin Durant, Thunder have just enough to hold off Celtics 03.10.13 at 3:39 pm ET
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Kevin Durant (middle) had just enough to hold of the hard-fighting Celtics Sunday. (AP)

Kevin Durant (middle) had just enough to hold of the hard-fighting Celtics Sunday. (AP)

Kevin Durant scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while former Boston College star Reggie Jackson hit a couple of key baskets off the bench as the Thunder ended the Celtics’ five-game winning streak with a 91-79 win Sunday afternoon at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 20 points while Kevin Garnett added 10. But Garnett, who hit four of his first eight shots, missed 10 in a row at one point, including his first eight of the second half as Boston fell short in their bid to sweep the Thunder, who improved to 47-16. The biggest difference in the game came at the free throw line, as the Thunder hit 27-of-33 shots while Boston attempted just 20, making 14.

The Celtics (34-28) hung in with No. 2 seed in the West, overcoming a pair of 10-0 runs by the Thunder in the first half to trail by just five points at halftime, 50-45. After shooting 51 percent in the first half, the Celtics went ice cold in the second half, making just 10-of-40 shots in the second half. They finished shooting just 37.7 percent (29-of-77) from the field.

The Celtics turned up the defensive pressure in the third quarter, holding the Thunder to just 18 points and cutting Oklahoma City’s lead to three, 68-65, heading into the fourth quarter.

But the Celtics went ice cold to start the fourth. Oklahoma City opened on a 10-2 run, highlighted by a jumper by Jackson as the shot clock expired. He changed his shot in mid-air and double-pumped to connect.

The Celtics missed 15 of their first 17 shots of the quarter while the Thunder built their biggest lead, 87-73, on a Durant baseline jumper with 3:13 left. But the Celtics responded with six straight points to get the lead down to eight with 2:20 left. After a defensive stop, the Celtics appeared to get the ball back with 1:44 left and a chance to cut the lead even more. But a replay overturned a ball out of bounds off Jason Terry and the Thunder got the ball back with a new shot clock.

The Celtics forced the Thunder to use all 24 seconds without allowing the Thunder to get a shot off. Jeff Green‘s 3-point attempted rimmed out with 59 seconds left. The Thunder got the next basket with 37.4 seconds remaining on a layup by Serge Ibaka to put Thunder up, 89-79, and ice the game.

The Celtics are off Monday before taking on the Bobcats in Charlotte on Tuesday night.

For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

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Jeff Green: ‘Being aggressive’ turns out to be his niche 11.24.12 at 9:47 am ET
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Doc Rivers told Jeff Green Friday morning during shootaround to “just go play” and everything else will take care of itself.

Green went out and make Rivers look very smart as he scored 17 points and showed a driving and cutting game not seen in his game this year as the Celtics beat the Thunder, 108-100, Friday night at TD Garden.

“I was aggressive, attacking the rim,” Green said. “Just trying to make plays, and you know got to the free throw line a couple times. Got an and one, just being aggressive that’s what I gotta do. I just gotta find my niche and I just gotta to work at it and continue to stay positive and continue to be aggressive.”

The reason Rivers wanted Green to play instinctively was because he knows how good he can be when plays break down.

“I thought Jeff Green was spectacular,” Rivers said. It’s funny, I think the two plays that I called for him. He didn’t score on those. He scored on all the plays that wasn’t his and that’s what we kept telling him he has to do. Stop waiting for us to call it, go get it, and I thought he did that. A lot of good efforts.”

“You still gotta do what you gotta do and you do whatever it takes for your team to win,” Green said.

Green even helped out on defending Kevin Durant, guarding him when the second unit was on the floor.

“He still got 29 [points], Green said out of humility. “We just tried to make every shot for him tough. He’s [darn] near seven feet, but the handle that he’s got and the way he can shoot it’s tough. So you just gotta make every shot for him tough.”

Making him work defensively-“You got to, you got to. You gotta make him play both ends. We got him in foul trouble. We gotta be aggressive, we can’t allow him to relax at all on the defensive end.”

What did Green learn about how good the Celtics can be?

“We are one hell of a defensive team when we are in sync and that’s how we gotta be each game,” Green said.

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Rajon Rondo: ‘We’re not taking away anything’ on defense 11.21.12 at 11:34 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo can see what everyone else sees, including his head coach. The Celtics are not doing a good job defending in half-court. That has been a trademark of the Celtics success of the last five years.

But again on Wednesday night, it failed them as the Spurs not only won the game, 112-100, but they outscored the Celtics, 58-34, in the paint, thanks in large part to San Antonio’s passing and Boston’s inability to stop it.

“I don’t know,” Rondo said. “Can’t pinpoint one thing. Their players got into the paint. They did a good job of having their bigs passing [the ball]. They did a good job of everything. We didn’t take away anything we wanted to tonight.

“We’re making the same mistakes in our defense, night in and night out so I think we just have to do a better job of focusing in shootaround in the mornings when we’re given the assignments because each team varies. We’re making a lot of easy mistakes that allow teams to get to 112 points.”

It wasn’t quite “Dead men walking” as Doc Rivers put it after the loss by 20 in Detroit on Sunday night. But still, it’s alarming to these Celtics that they can’t defend for some reason in half-court.

“Basketball, you’re going to make mistakes in this game,” Rondo added. “The other team gets paid as well and they’re going to make you make mistakes but we pride ourselves on defense and we’re just not getting it done.

“We’re not taking away anything. We gave up the corner three tonight. We gave up the paint, touches and paint finishes. We gave up too many ‘And-1s’ again. I think we probably lead the league in ‘And-1s.’ So, we have to do a better job, not to hurt anyone but not let guys finish at the rim. We’re not finishing at all. It’s a collective team effort. It starts with me. I have to do a better job on pick-and-roll coverage and get back and help my bigs rebound.”

Talk about going from the frying pan into the fire, the Celtics welcome Kevin Durant and the Thunder Friday night to TD Garden. The 10:30 shootaround should be much more intense than normal.

“We have to try and bounce back and the best thing about the league is you don’t have to wait a week to play another game,” Rondo said. “So, after Thanksgiving we’ll try to get back and get focused for Oklahoma City.”

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