Celtics 92, Thunder 83
We've come to learn over the past two seasons that no lead is exactly a safe one with the Boston Celtics. The C's built a 22-point lead in the third quarter tonight against the Thunder, but they found a way to make it interesting yet again.
Doc Rivers left his starters in for nearly the entire third quarter, and that was the reason both of the above events took place. Boston came out of the gates to score six quick points to start the second half, which opened up that 22-point lead, but as the quarter wore on Oklahoma City became the team who played with energy and confidence at both ends of the court, not the C's.
Russell Westbrook scored nine consecutive points in just 61 seconds while the C's missed two straight shots and committed one turnover. That quick spurt by Westbrook woke up the Oklahoma City crowd and the Thunder fed off of it for the remainder of the quarter. Westbrook and Durant combined to outscore the entire Boston team 13-2 over the final 5:31 of the third quarter and James Harden's trey to start the fourth cut the lead all the way down to six.
When a run like that is taking place, a coach will often lean on his best players to stop it, but tonight Rivers gave that responsibility to his bench. As he always does, Rivers sent the reserves out to begin the fourth quarter and the decision wound up paying off. The group of Celtics who began the final quarter was made up of Nate Robinson, Ray Allen, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis and Semih Erden. It was the two big men, Davis and Erden, who provided the biggest points of the game for the C's.
Davis started it out with a jumper from the top of the key that bumped the lead back up to eight at the 10:51 mark, and then he drilled the exact same shot just 38 seconds later after a Westbrook turnover. Erden chipped in four free throws that were sandwiched around a Robinson layup and all of a sudden that six-point game had turned back into a blowout at 83-69. That quick response from the C's was capped off by another jumper from Davis and a 3-pointer from Allen to put the game away.
So at the most important juncture of tonight's game, Rivers let his starters - with the exception of Allen - watch from the sideline as his reserves went to work. That was a perfect situation for the Celtics, because they're back in action tomorrow night in Dallas against the Mavericks. Rivers didn't begin to bring his starters back in until the 4:49 mark of the fourth, which should leave them well-rested for tomorrow's game, and it was all in thanks to the bench coming up huge to start the final period.
Key Box Score Line
It's clear that Ray Allen's jumper is red hot right now and he's not shying away from using it over the past two games. He led the team in scoring for the second straight game with 19 points tonight on an efficient 8-of-16 shooting from the floor. His final basket of the game was a 3-pointer with 7:04 remaining that put Boston back on top by 17 points and diminished any hopes the Thunder had of making a comeback. Boston's starting shooting guard played a team-high 40:14 and managed to pull in five boards and dish out two assists while lighting up the nets on offense.
Box Score Nuggets
- After grabbing zero rebounds Friday night, Jermaine O'Neal led the C's with nine tonight.
- Rajon Rondo recorded another double-double with 10 points and 10 assists.
- Only two of those assists came in the second half.
- Four Celtics reserves scored at least seven points, led by Nate Robinson and Semih Erden's nine apiece.
- On the other side of the ball, the Thunder had only two reserves score and they both notched six points apiece.
- Paul Pierce's two rebounds were the lowest total of any Celtic starter.
- Boston committed only 13 turnovers.
- Each team grabbed 40 rebounds.
- Russell Westbrook also dished out 10 assists and notched 16 points as well.
- Kevin Durant scored a game-high 34 points and attempted a game-high 11 free throws.
- Both teams shot 4-of-10 from downtown.
- Westbrook committed a game-high eight turnovers.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on Boston's play in the first half of the game: "First of all, in the first half we came out and played as well as a team can play. We were defending. We kept them off the glass. We played with great energy. We were running the ball up the floor. We were getting into offense early."