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Fast Break: Kevin Durant-less Thunder strike down Celtics 01.24.14 at 9:45 pm ET
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While Carmelo Anthony was scoring 56 points through three quarters at Madison Square Garden, the Celtics netted just 59 through 36 minutes in Boston, and the Kevin Durant-less, Russell Westbrook-less Thunder swept the parquet with them, 101-83, handing the C’s their 16th loss in 19 tries.

Only Jeff Green (16 points on 17 shots), Gerald Wallace (13 points) and Brandon Bass (11 points) reached double figures for the Celtics (15-30). Rajon Rondo had five points, eight assists and two rebounds in his fourth game back — and first since resting on Wednesday.

WHAT WENT WRONG

No slim reaper: After setting the NBA world on fire over the past month, Durant rested against the Celtics. The Thunder surprised the media with news of Durant’s apparent shoulder injury before the game. It was his first DNP of the season and only trip to Boston in 2013-14 — an unfortunate revelation a couple hours before tipoff for Celtics fans who paid to see one of the game’s most fascinating players face their lottery-bound home team.

Lambasted: With Durant sitting and Westbrook still nursing an injured knee, the Celtics had a real chance to slow one the league’s top-five offenses, but Jeremy Lamb had different ideas. The UConn product scored 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting in 15 first-half minutes, leading Oklahoma City to a 50-46 advantage at the break.

Rondo’s reintroduction: As Brad Stevens has noted, Rondo is still in preseason form. The spacing of his minutes-per-quarter prevent him from getting into a rhythm, and he’s not finishing around the rim for whatever reason (confidence, legs, confidence in his legs). After scoring a single point and missing all eight shots against the Heat and resting against the Wizards, Rondo finished with five points on seven shots.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Sharing is caring: With the unselfish duo of Rondo and Phil Pressey manning the point, the Celtics actually ran an offense, resulting in 10 assists on 11 buckets and a 73.3 field goal percentage in the first quarter. That trend tapered off a bit while 17 turnovers and the Thunder’s 53.8 percent shooting didn’t help matters.

Crashus Clay: In two home games since Rondo’s return, Wallace has shown signs of life, scoring in the double digits and filling up the stat sheet. After posting a 14-4-5 with three steals and two blocks against the Lakers a week ago, he totaled three assists, two rebounds and three steals against the Thunder. Now, if he could only contribute on a more consistent basis, he might raise his grade from the first-semester report card.

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Kevin Durant (shoulder) to miss Oklahoma City Thunder game against Celtics 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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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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Doc Rivers: ‘We played with great force’ in win over Thunder 11.23.12 at 11:42 pm ET
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Doc Rivers watched his team register its most significant win of the season Friday night, overcoming an early nine-point deficit and withstanding a late charge to beat the defending Western Conference champion Thunder, 108-100, at TD Garden.

“The biggest difference is this time they scores 100 and we scored 108,” Rivers said, referencing the 112-100 loss to the Spurs on Wednesday at the Garden. “It’s the same game really. I told the guys at halftime and even after the game, that was the Celtics. That’s the team that we’ve been looking for, but can we continue to do it. We’ve got to do it over and over again. I thought there were some mistakes made, we kept playing. There were some runs, we kept playing. They made a run, we kept playing. No hanging heads, yelling at each other. We played through all clutter, it was like a clutter free game, for us. That’s who we have to be.”

Jeff Green scored 17 points off the bench in 25 minutes and the Celtics fought off Kevin Durant and the Thunder, when a 14-point lead dwindled to three with two minutes left.

“I thought Jeff Green was spectacular tonight,” Rivers said. “It’s funny, I think the two plays that I called for him. He didn’t score. 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 tonight. A lot of good efforts. I thought our bench was huge. I thought [Leandro] Barbosa, it’s funny he didn’t score a point, and I thought his defensive pressure was extremely effective tonight. He has that reputation of being an offensive player. What we have found since getting him, he’s a heck of a defensive player. He has the ability to put pressure on the ball. That’s something we didn’t know. So again, we’re still discovering guys on our team, but that was a good effort.

“We just need to play right. It’s great to beat Oklahoma, they were in the finals last year, and they’re the team to beat, I guess, in the West. But it was more how we played. We played with great force tonight. I thought that was the difference.”

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Kendrick Perkins on Paul Pierce: ‘He’s got a lot of tricks’ at 11:32 pm ET
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Kendrick Perkins played seven-plus seasons with Paul Pierce so he knows just how good he can be, especially in the clutch.

Perkins was witness to Pierce’s greatness again on Friday night as the Celtics captain went 4-of-6 from long range and finished with 27 points in Boston’s 108-100 win over the Thunder at TD Garden.

“He’s got a lot of tricks,” Perkins said. “That’s the reason he’s been scoring the ball like he has for years. Got a lot of tricks man. He did a great job tonight of just playing smart. He’s moving well and it looks like he’s in great shape, he’s doing his job”

Perkins was held to five points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes for the Thunder in his return to Boston.

“Yeah, it does (feel strange) but at the same time we’re both out there trying to get wins and it’s over with now,” Perkins said. “You can’t change the past”

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Doc Rivers on Kendrick Perkins: ‘You can’t put a number on identity or perception’ at 8:22 pm ET
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When asked initially about Kendrick Perkins before Friday’s game, Doc Rivers said he wasn’t focused on the big man’s return to Boston.

“He’s tough,” Rivers said. “He’s good. He’s a good defender. I’m looking at their whole team. I haven’t thought about the one guy more than the sentimental stuff.”

Then Rivers articulated exactly what it is that the 7-foot center brings to any team he’s on. Call it the “scowl” factor.

“Perk has never had big stats,” Rivers said. “That’s not why you have Perk on your team. You can’t put a number on identity or perception. There is a number but I don’t know what it is but Perk gives the team that.”

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NBA Power Rankings, 2012-13 10.29.12 at 7:19 pm ET
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It’s almost Halloween, another NBA season is upon us and the league’s landscape changed once again, but the Celtics are title contenders and so too are their most heated rivals. Let’s get right to the 2012-13 debut of our semi-regular NBA power rankings. Here’s the wrinkle: What’s the scariest aspect about each team this year?

Miami Heat1. MiamiLeBron James set the Celtics, Thunder and entire world on fire during his run to a first NBA championship and second gold medal, proving doubters wrong in every corner of the globe (including this cubicle). And he and the Heat only seemed to figure it out midway through the Eastern Conference finals, which means they could be even better, especially with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis in tow.

Los Angeles Lakers2. L.A. Lakers: A starting five of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard is terrifying, but so is their bench. The Lakers won’t get 82 games from any of those starters, so how close each comes to that number will determine if they can unseat the Thunder beyond arbitrary power rankings.

Oklahoma City Thunder3. Oklahoma City: After reaching the NBA finals last season, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook got their first taste of what it will take to earn the Larry O’Brien trophy, so they’ll be hungrier than ever. They’ll just have to set the table for Kevin Martin coming off the bench instead of returning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden.

Boston Celtics4. Boston: If the Celtics can reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on grit and balls alone, imagine what they can do with a rotation deeper than six. Once Avery Bradley returns, coach Doc Rivers can go 12 deep and weather most injury storms, which have been downright Hurricane Sandy-esque in recent years.

San Antonio Spurs5. San Antonio: Before losing four straight to OKC in the Western Conference finals, the Spurs won 20 straight and 31-of-33. That’s the value of a deep roster. But I’m still buying more stock in Kevin Garnett, Paul PierceRajon Rondo & Co. than Tim Duncan, Manu GinobiliTony Parker Inc.

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