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Delonte West knew the ‘basketball gods’ would be unkind 11.19.10 at 11:46 pm ET
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In just his second game back, Delonte West took a leadership role after a surprising 89-84 home-court loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were playing without injured superstar Kevin Durant.

“This team didn’t even have to play with desperation to beat us tonight,” West said of the Thunder. “That’s one of our biggest concerns this year, being complacent, doing what we did tonight.”

The Celtics fell behind by as many as 10 in the third quarter before making a late charge and drawing to within one, 85-84, on West’s two free throws with 1:16 left in the fourth.

“It’s not like we put up a fight,” West said. “We just left it out on the table. Seemed like the whole game we were seaching for a challenge. It’s not like we put up a fight. We just left it out on the table. Seemed like the whole game we were seaching for a challenge. It was almost like in the third quarter we were like, ‘Ok, down 10. Let’s go.’ Basketball gods don’t reward you like that.”

The Celtics made just 2-of-12 shots in the final period and failed to score a field goal in the final 10:35 of the game, getting a jumper from Nate Robinson for their final field goal of the night.

West might get to show even more leadership on Sunday in Toronto when the Celtics take on the Raptors, possibly without Rajon Rondo, who strained his left hamstring with six minutes left in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game and is day-to-day.

Rondo will get treatment on Saturday and see how he feels.

“If he’s unable to go, I’ll be ready to do what I do best,” said West, who missed a potential game-tying three-pointer from the right baseline with 10 seconds left. “I prepare myself well and if my number is called I’ll be ready to go. Just like tonight, I prepare myself to shoot those type of shots. The ball didn’t bounce the way I wanted it to but I’m very confident in what I do.”

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Fast break: Thunder snap Celtics home run at 9:55 pm ET
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The Celtics came out flat Friday night and it cost them against the Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder. Russell Westbrook scored 31 points and dished out six assists as the Thunder became the first visiting team in six tries to beat the Celtics on the parquet this season, 89-84.

It was an ugly finish as neither team converted a field goal in the last nine minutes, 20 seconds.

Durant sprained his ankle on Wednesday night and did not play.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG:

Lack of energy. Whether it was a understandable letdown from not having to gear up for Durant or losing Kevin Garnett for most of the first quarter after taking an elbow in the back of the head, the Celtics looked lethargic out of the gate. Though he played the first three minutes and hit his only field goal attempt,  It showed practically from the onset of the game as the Celtics were getting beaten to loose balls and not rotating on defense, allowing the Thunder to find the open man.

No rebounding presence. The Celtics were beaten on the glass, 20-11, in the first half. Shaquille O’Neal collected four rebounds in the first half, but that led the team. Garnett – perhaps due to his early inactivity – couldn’t get going on the boards. With the lack of rebounding came foul trouble. Rondo picked up his fifth personal foul with just over six minutes left in the fourth while Shaq picked up two quick fouls to begin the second half. In all, the Celtics were whistled for 11 fouls in the third and the Thunder just five. Oklahoma City capitalized at the stripe, hitting 13-of-16 in the quarter to extend their lead to 77-69 heading into the final quarter.

Ray Allen had an off night: The Celtics couldn’t seem to get their sharp-shooter into a rhythm for any extended stretch. With the Thunder up, 71-63, Paul Pierce woke up the crowd with a bucket and Allen followed with a mid-range jumper from the free throw line-extended and the crowd sense a rally. But he remained in single-figures in the scoring column as the Thunder threw all types of defensive switches at the Celtics all night. Allen finished with eight points.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT:

Tis just as good to give than receive: The Celtics had 17 assists at halftime on 21 baskets and finished with 20 on 33 buckets in the game. Like with the Patriots and Tom Brady, as long as Rajon Rondo is the quarterback of the offense, the Celtics should be in good shape. Rondo was held to seven assists.

Shaq playing big in the paint. This is exactly what the Celtics got him for when they signed him for a ’730-day contract’ in the summer. He played 16 of the 24 minutes in the first half. He also threw his considerable weight around, like when he nearly body-slammed Russell Westbrook to the court on a drive down what appeared to be an open lane. Shaq was whistled for a flagrant against Westbrook with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter and Westbrook hit a key free throw to extend the lead to five.  Again, that’s exactly what they wanted from Shaq – a mean presence in the middle that the Celtics desperately wanted for this season.

As a result, the Celtics again dominated the paint, 44-16.

Winning the turnover battle: It’s ironic that the one thing that seemed to be the Achilles’ heel of the Celtics in their 9-2 start was the one thing they corrected on Friday night. They committed 15 turnovers while the Thunder committed 20 – leading to 20 Boston points.

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Rondo eyes matchup with Westbrook 03.31.10 at 12:36 am ET
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For the past four years, Rajon Rondo has been catching the eyes of veteran point guards around the league as he developed into an All-Star. Now there is another up-and-coming player who has caught his attention.

Rondo expects to run into Westbrook (r) throughout his career

Rajon Rondo expects to run into Russell Westbrook (0) throughout his career. (AP)

Rondo has been impressed by the play of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.

“He’s a mature guy,“ Rondo said. “He’s running the show, he’s getting his main guy the ball, and at times he knows when to attack.”

In just his second season in the NBA, Westbrook is averaging over 16 points and ranks eighth in the league with 7.9 assists per game. (Rondo is fourth with 9.8 apg.) Many of those have been dished to teammate Kevin Durant, the league’s second-leading scorer.

Not only is Westbrook moving the ball, he also is helping his team win. The young Thunder squad currently holds the sixth seed in the Western Conference and has just two less wins than the Celtics this season.

On Wednesday, the C’s will look to push that differential up to three wins when they face the Thunder at TD Garden. Rondo knows he will have to buckle down on defense to stop Westbrook. Both players scored 15 points in their first meeting of the season (a Celtics win) in December.

“[I have to] try to keep him in front of me, keep him out of transition,“ Rondo said. “He loves to attack in transition, so just try to keep between him and the basket.”

Rondo understands how to stop Westbrook for a reason. Prior to the his first All-Star appearance, Rondo pointed out Westbrook as the player in the Rookie-Sophomore game who reminds him most of himself. He drew similarities between their quickness and aggressiveness with the ball.

If it were up to Rondo, Westbrook would have been joining him on the court in Dallas.

“I think he could’ve gotten into the All-Star Game this year too as well,” Rondo said. “Hopefully he’ll make it next year. He got overlooked, but he’s definitely a good player.”

Even though Rondo and Westbrook are only in their early 20s, Rondo believes this matchup has the potential to become one to watch over the next few seasons.

“You know you’ll be going against him for hopefully another six or seven years,” he said.

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R-O-N-D-O to play H-O-R-S-E in D-A-L-L-A-S 02.08.10 at 4:44 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Celtics All-Star guard Rajon Rondo confirmed following Monday’s practice that he will be taking part in the HORSE competition at All-Star weekend in Dallas.

The guard said he will come up with some trick shots that only he can make in an effort to beat Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, the defending champion, and Sacramento’s Omri Casspi.

Last year, Durant beat Atlanta’s Joe Johnson and O.J. Mayo of Memphis for the title.

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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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Smith deal called off 02.18.09 at 11:57 pm ET
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According to multiple reports, big man Joe Smith is heading back to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Smith has been mentioned as a possible addition for the Boston Celtics front court. On Tuesday he was traded to the New Orleans Hornets as part of a deal for Tyson Chandler. However Chandler, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury, did not pass the Thunder’s physical. This means the 6-10, 225 pound  Smith could be back on the market. Even though the Celtics are not expected to make any major moves, they do have a roster spot made available by the Sam Cassell trade. The NBA trade deadline is Thursday.

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