Ford Keys to the Game: Thunder 97, Celtics 88
Thunder 97, Celtics 88
By the time Monday night’s game between the Celtics and Thunder wrapped up, we had all witnessed another disheartening yet familiar ending to Boston’s story of the night: another loss at the hands of an elite opponent.
However, the route the Celtics took to arrive at that loss was not the same one it had taken in its four previous contests.
Rebounds weren’t the problem. Second-chance points weren’t the problem. Heck, scoring wasn’t even the problem, despite the Celtics’ 39.1 percent shooting performance from the field. A new issue crept up on Boston tonight, and it was critical turnovers.
The Celtics fell behind by as many as 10 points in the first half and headed into the locker room for halftime trailing by seven. It didn’t take long for them to shave points off of that deficit in the third quarter, though, as a balanced offensive attack tied the game up at 57-57 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Jermaine O’Neal’s consecutive layups brought the score to a tie and turned the TD Garden crowd up a few notches. Finally, it seemed, the Celtics were destined to claw their way back into the win column.
However, as quickly as things began to look up for Boston, it took even less time for them to take a 180 and head in the opposite direction.
Over the final five minutes of the third period, the Celtics committed more turnovers than they scored points. The final tally over that five-minute stretch was six turnovers and five points scored. Those dreadful numbers put the team back into a 10-point hole heading into the fourth quarter.
Boston did manage to fight back in the fourth quarter and make this a game again, forcing the Thunder to make some very important baskets to seal the win. But Doc Rivers knows that this game was lost when the Celtics got sloppy in the third period, not when Oklahoma City made a few 3s down the stretch of this game.
“They made big shots, but our turnovers are just killing us,” said Rivers after the game. “A lot of the turnovers, we’re just trying to will the team and do too much, so it’s not like anybody’s being selfish. The way you win is with execution.”
Execution certainly hasn’t been a staple of these Celtics early in the season. That is evidenced by the team’s five consecutive losses. The good news is that the other issues that have been haggling them of late were not present tonight. Now they’ll just need to take care of the ball when it matters the most, and the C’s will almost certainly make their return to the win column.
Key Box Score Line
Paul Pierce scored more points, Kevin Garnett grabbed more rebounds, and Rajon Rondo dished out more assists, but that doesn’t stop Jermaine O’Neal from making his first appearance of the season in this section.
O’Neal has been on a tear over his past two games and is providing exactly what the Celtics need from him. After grabbing a season-high 12 boards on Saturday, O’Neal returned tonight to grab another 11 to go along with 12 points. He and Garnett were the only players in the game to record double-doubles. Boston’s starting center also blocked one shot in the paint and made five of his 11 field goal attempts.
But why does he show up here rather than the other three men mentioned above? Because he finished the game as the only Celtics starter who did not commit a single turnover. The other four starters combined to commit 15 turnovers, and each of them logged at least three. O’Neal, on the other hand, managed to play a mistake-free game all while racking up some serious scoring and rebounding numbers.
Box Score Nuggets
- The Celtics outrebounded the Thunder by a count of 48-40, including a 15-9 advantage at the offensive end.
- Kevin Garnett (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Jermaine O'Neal (12 points, 11 rebounds) were the only players to record double-doubles.
- Rajon Rondo nearly recorded a triple-double with 12 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
- Boston shot just 39.1 percent from the field.
- Kevin Durant scored a game-high 28 points on 9-of-20 shooting.
- Russell Westbrook wasn't far behind with 26 points of his own.
- Boston increased its scoring in each of the four quarters, with totals of 17, 22, 23 and 26, respectively.
- Ray Allen attempted only seven shots and scored six points.
- The teams combined to shoot 32-of-35 from the free-throw line (18-of-19 for Oklahoma City, 12-of-14 for Boston).
- Boston scored only two points off of Oklahoma City's turnovers, while the Thunder scored 24 off of the Celtics' turnovers.
- Three of Boston's starters (Garnett, O'Neal and Rondo) scored 12 points apiece.
- Four of Boston's starters attempted at least 11 shots, while only two Thunder players attempted more than nine.
- Oklahoma City scored at least 25 ponts in three of the four quarters.
- Mickael Pietrus scored 14 points off the bench for the Celtics.
- Paul Pierce led the Celtics in scoring with 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting.
- Oklahoma City's bench scored only 11 points.
- Kendrick Perkins returned to TD Garden to score seven points and grabbed five rebounds.
- Serge Ibaka blocked four shots in the game, while no other player blocked more than one.
- The Celtics outscored the Thunder in the paint and on second-chance points.
Quote of the Night
Kendrick Perkins on his return to Boston: "The whole day I was confused, especially yesterday. I really didn’t know what to expect. Mentally I was just out of it. I didn’t know whether to shoot the ball, pass the ball, hug the guy. I [didn't] know what to do. I’m just really glad its over. I’m just glad we play in two different conferences so I don’t have to keep going through this emotional breakdown."