Ford Keys to the Game: Thunder 89, Celtics 84
Thunder 89, Celtics 84
When the opposition is banking in buzzer-beater 3-pointers, the refs are whistling questionable flagrant fouls on you and none of your stars can find any sort of rhythm, you usually know it’s not your night. But despite all of that being absolutely true for Boston during it’s Friday night game against the Kevin Durant-less Thunder, the C’s had a chance to win this game down the stretch.
Boston’s well-known defense was nowhere to be found in the first half of tonight’s game, as the Thunder shot a whopping 57 (20-for-35) percent from the floor as a team. The game stayed close, however, and the Celtics smelled blood in the fourth quarter. With a comeback in sight, the C’s forced Oklahoma City to miss its final 12 field goal attempts of the game. That energetic defense allowed Boston to creep back into this one and have a chance to win the game in the final misses.
Trailing by four with 2:36 remaining in the game, the Celtics sent Glen Davis to the line for two free throws after Serge Ibaka fouled him on a rebound attempt at the other end of the floor. After the Celtics called timeout, Davis stepped to the line with a chance to make it a two-point game. But instead of continuing his 90.5 free throw rate, Big Baby clanked both free throws and Boston remained down by four.
The defensive intensity continued at the other end, though, and after the C’s forced Russell Westbrook into his seventh turnover of the night, Davis was fouled again. This time he went to the line with a chance to cut the lead down to one, but he missed the first attempt yet again. His second shot fell through to cut the deficit to 85-82.
Had he made all four free throws, the game would have been tied and we may now be discussing how the Celtics pulled out a gritty win on a night when they simply didn’t have their best stuff. Instead, those misses, combined with two free throws from Delonte West for the C’s and two from Westbrook for the Thunder, forced Boston to try a game-tying 3-pointer on their final possession of the game.
With 13.4 seconds remaining, Doc Rivers whistled for a timeout and drew up a pick-and-roll play with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. That action didn’t leave either of the sharpshooters open, but West wound up slipping away from his defender and Pierce found him wide open in the right corner with 5.9 seconds remaining.
On a normal night, West would be watching this all take place from the sideline. Tonight, however, he was forced to be on the court during crunch time because Rajon Rondo was on the bench nursing an injury he suffered earlier in the fourth. So in just his second game of the season after a 10-game suspension, West had a tie-or-go-home shot in his hands. He rose up for the possible game-tying 3-pointer but it missed off the rim to the left, sealing Oklahoma City’s shocking win in the Garden while missing two of its top three players.
Key Box Score Line
It was a tale of three quarters great, one quarter miserable for Russell Westbrook tonight, but wow, those three good ones certainly outshined the poor one.
On a night when Rajon Rondo just wasn’t on his game, and eventually left with a strained hamstring, Westbrook showed that without his co-star (Kevin Durant) on the court, he could be the shining star – at least for 36 minutes.
Over the first three quarters of the game, Westbrook tallied 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting. His dominance ranged from driving to the basket to pull up 3-pointers, and just about everything he threw up seemed as if it was going to fall through the net.
In the fourth quarter, however, he played about as poorly as he could have. He scored only six points and all of them came at the free-throw line.
But those first three quarters outshine the final stanza because he almost single handedly gave the Thunder the lead that they never relinquished. Yes, he folded in the fourth, but without him Oklahoma City stood no chance tonight.
Box Score Nuggets
- Ray Allen (3-for-9) was the only Celtic to shoot worse than 50 percent from the field, but none of those five players scored more than 16 points.
- Kevin Garnett's 16 points were a team high. He shot 10-of-10 from the free-throw line.
- Four of Oklahoma City's five starters played between 36:13 and 36:59.
- Not a single Celtic grabbed more than six rebounds.
- The Thunder made as many free throws (27) as the Celtics attempted.
- Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 31 points and shot 11-of-13 from the line.
- Oklahoma City missed its final 12 field goal attempts of the game.
- Rajon Rondo recorded only seven assists.
- The Thunder committed 20 turnovers.
- Shaquille O'Neal shot 5-of-5 from the floor and scored 10 of his 11 points in the first half.
- Delonte West made Boston's only 3-pointer of the game, as it finished shooting just 1-of-8 from downtown.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on the Celtics falling behind early then playing well in the fourth quarter: "What happens is now you’re pressing, missing free throws, missing wide open shots. You know that’s what happens and it’s like: I believe in them – the basketball Gods were not going to let you win the game with the way you approached the game."