|5 things we learned as Russell Westbrook, Thunder snap Celtics’ streak||03.18.15 at 10:48 pm ET|
The Thunder scored 40 third-quarter points, and the Celtics never recovered, snapping a five-game win streak with a 122-118 loss in Oklahoma City.
The C’s fell to 30-37 on the season, losing a game on the Heat (31-36), who beat the Blazers on Wednesday night. Elsewhere, the Pacers (30-37) fell to the Bulls, the Bucks (34-34) lost to the Spurs, and the Cavaliers beat the Nets (27-39). The Celtics lead the idle Hornets by a half-game and remain tied with Indiana for eighth place, trailing Miami by a game for seventh and Milwaukee by 3.5 games for sixth.
Marcus Smart collected 25 points — including a franchise rookie record seven 3-pointers — to go along with nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks, leading six Celtics in double figures. Kelly Olynyk (20 points), Brandon Bass (20 points), Avery Bradley (13 points), Tyler Zeller (12 points) and Jae Crowder (11 points) rounded out the double-digit scorers, and Evan Turner chipped in with five steals, six rebounds, eight points and a team-high 10 assists.
Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 36 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and five steals, while Enes Kanter added 22 points and 10 rebounds. With the victory, Oklahoma City (38-30) opened up a half-game lead over the Pelicans for eighth place in the Western Conference sans Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka.
For a complete box score, click here.
|Brad Stevens wasn’t too pleased with his defense: ‘We were a sieve’||11.13.14 at 10:02 am ET|
Brad Stevens isn’t the kind of coach to throw chairs or even raise his voice to get his point across when he’s ticked off at his team.
But Wednesday night, after a complete and utter no-show in the second half of a 109-94 loss to the undermanned Thunder at the Garden, Stevens came as close to publicly calling them out as you’ll see from the mild-manned coach.
“Well, I think it was, first of all, their energy and their togetherness, and their energy,” Stevens said. “Their passion was obvious and evident. And I don’t know if it was the fact that we missed a couple of shots that got us out of a rhythm, but the bottom line is we didn’t guard them at all in the second half. And they had a lot to do with that. They ran good stuff, and they made shots.”
Former Boston College sharpshooter Reggie Jackson and Anthony Morrow (28 points each) picked up the slack for a team missing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder, who trailed 51-42 at the half, outscored the Celtics, 67-43, in the second half, as Boston allowed Oklahoma City to shoot 62 percent (26-of-42).
“Credit to them,” Stevens said. “We talked about guys like Morrow; if you ever leave Morrow, he’s going to score,” Stevens said. “If you ever get hit on a screen and you’re lost, he’s going to score. And he scored a lot. And we let the big’s run down the lane and dunk it a couple times. I mean, 67 points in a half is pretty poor.”
|Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and a Celtics brotherhood||at 1:31 am ET|
Those 2007-08 Celtics share a bond that won’t be broken, so it wasn’t surprising to see Leon Powe waiting in the visiting locker room for Thunder center Kendrick Perkins to get dressed Wednesday night.
“Sometimes you just need a reality check,” said Perkins, who has worked through his share of ups and downs in Oklahoma City, coming off the bench in Wednesday’s 109-94 win over his former team. “Sometimes people you love just have to put you in place and talk to you, and that’s all you need at times, is just that one person to talk to.
“I go to a lot of people, man,” he added. “I talk to [Kevin Garnett] a lot. I talk to [Rajon] Rondo a lot. KG is the one who tells me the truth all the time. He’s going to tell me the truth whether I want to hear it or not.”
Rondo wouldn’t share exactly what he and he and his former teammate discuss.
“I can’t really say what we talk about, really,” he said. “He told me some things, too, but I won’t put him on blast.”
Perkins is a little more forthcoming about their relationship. They became best friends as the young tandem that filled out a starting five that featured Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, so when Perkins was dealt to OKC for Jeff Green at the 2011 trade deadline, it taught them both a less in NBA business. Still, they remain thick as thieves.
Naturally, as Perkins and Rondo approach unrestricted free agency for the first time in their careers, their conversations occasionally focus on the future. “I think it’s a great place for him,” Perkins told reporters prior to the game. “I think he wants to stay here. We talk on the regular, and I think he should stay. If I was him, I’d stay.”
Rondo didn’t disagree. “That’s about accurate,” said the Celtics captain. “From Media Day in the beginning, that’s what I said initially, so … my perspective hasn’t changed, and I love being a Celtic.”
|5 things we learned from the Celtics’ loss to the Thunder||11.12.14 at 9:54 pm ET|
The Celtics are tough to figure out.
Coming in riding a two-game win streak, the C’s raced to a 15-point lead in the first quarter, but then struggled against a star-less Thunder team that picked up its first road win of the season by a score of 109-94 (click here for box score).
The win for Oklahoma City was reminiscent of Boston’s short-handed victory against the heavily favored Bulls on the second night of a back-to-back last Saturday. The Thunder did not look like the team that lost Tuesday night in Milwaukee, beating the Celtics in convincing fashion.
Reggie Jackson and Anthony Morrow led the Thunder with 28 points each. Morrow came off the bench and was quiet much of the game, until exploding for 19 points in the fourth quarter.
Although Morrow’s contributions were well above average, the Thunder managed to take a 50-15 advantage over the Celtics in bench scoring. This was far from expected given that the Thunder’s depleted roster was facing off against a Celtics squad that prides themselves on depth. Perhaps the absence of Marcus Smart and Marcus Thornton (both out with sprained ankles) cost the C’s some bench production, but it would have been hard to predict such a stark difference from Saturday.
Here are five things we learned in a game that dropped the Celtics back below .500 (3-4):
|Austin Ainge admits his dad would’ve taken Kevin Durant over Greg Oden in 2007||06.21.14 at 2:54 pm ET|
Now we know.
“I personally was not working here. But I was in college and I was in the draft room, and they would have taken Durant. I did have some inside information there,” Ainge said.
Of course, that became moot when the Celtics wound up with only the fifth pick of the draft class. Everything turned OK when Danny Ainge convinced Minnesota’s GM and good friend Kevin McHale to trade him Kevin Garnett for Al Jefferson before drafting Jeff Green at No. 5 and then swung a deal that netted Ray Allen. Oden was eventually chosen No. 1 overall by Portland while Durant was taken by the then-Seattle SuperSonics. Oden has been plagued by various injuries, including two bad knees and microfracture surgery. Oden played this season for the Heat.
Durant is the reigning NBA MVP, four-time scoring champ and led his team to the NBA finals in 2012.
Why is this relevant now?
The Celtics might get a chance to take another injury-riddled big man at No. 6 this year after it was revealed this week that Joel Embiid, another highly-touted center, has a stress fracture in his right foot. Throw in concerns about his back and those are serious medical red flags.
“Probably best not to share all of that, but I think we all want to know exactly what it is,” Ainge said. “Even when you have a lot of information, sometimes it’s still just a best guess. I’m not sure what the conclusions will be by the doctors. I’m sure, as with Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger when we drafted them, the medical staffs all had different opinions for every team. It’s hard to predict.”
“It’s case by case. There have been many, many guys we passed on,’ Ainge said. ‘Our medical staff told us to pass on Greg Oden, our medical staff told us to pass on Brandon Roy. Brandon ended up having some very good years, and that may or may not have been the right decision. It ended up costing them a lot of money in the end but he did give them a few great years ‘ four or five, I think, maybe six. So there’s two we’ve taken the chance on. There have been many others that we’ve not decided to (take a) chance on.”
Before picking Bradley, the Celtics were able to examine him and determine the extent of his ankle injury.
‘With Jared, we weren’t (able to look at him),’ Ainge said. ‘We were just emailed and sent things. So it’s different. You just do the best you can.’
Ainge acknowledged that taking Embiid would be a risk, given what is known so far.
“Foot and back, those are not good body parts to injure,” Ainge said. “We try to focus on the long-term health more than the short-term when you’re dealing with draft picks,” he added. “Free agency, it might be a little different. But when you’re drafting kids that are 19, 20, 21, it’s usually best to think: ‘Two years, five years down the road, will it be a concern?’ Those are the ones we usually try to avoid.”
The four that did work out on Saturday morning in Waltham were Louisville‘s Chane Behanan, UConn’s Niels Giffey, Glenn Robinson III of Michigan and St. John’s JaKarr Sampson.
|Fast Break: Kevin Durant-less Thunder strike down Celtics||01.24.14 at 9:45 pm ET|
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.
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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