Ford Keys to the Game: Celtics 104, Thunder 119
Celtics 104, Thunder 119
Everything was going perfectly for the Boston Celtics. As an undermanned squad missing four of its top eight players, the C’s had come out and made a statement that they wouldn’t roll over and die against the Western Conference’s top team.
And then the switch flipped for the Thunder.
Boston led Oklahoma City 22-12 with 5:25 remaining in the first quarter, but that great start was long forgotten by halftime. It doesn’t take long to figure out why.
Someone must have spilled a box of matches along the Thunder’s bench with midway through the first quarter, because everyone on their team caught fire. They scored 21 unanswered points over the course of five minutes and 20 seconds of playing time. They strung together an overall run of 30-3 to turn that 10-point deficit referenced above into a 17-point lead. They scored 72 points in the first half on 56.5 percent shooting. They hit eight of their 12 attempts from downtown in the first half.
To put it simply, Oklahoma City’s offense was churning, and there was no stopping it before halftime. The game-changing 21-0 run was the epitome of a team effort. Six different Thunder players scored during that stretch, including 11 points from Thunder reserves. James Harden and Daequan Cook led the charge by scoring five points apiece.
To Boston’s credit, it never quit. It competed, it hustled, it played its butt off and it eventually made a legitimate run. The one-time 28-point deficit was whittled down to seven in the fourth quarter, but the hole had already been dug, and it was way too deep to crawl out of.
Key Box Score Line
Three factors made Doc Rivers alter Kevin Garnett's rotational minutes during tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. First, the C’s were missing four key players, three of which were big men. Second, Garnett hadn’t played in a game in nearly six days due to personal reasons. Third, the All-Star break was set to begin for the Celtics once the final buzzer of tonight’s game sounded.
Rivers ditched the 5-5-5 plan that Garnett had been on all season long, where he would play five minutes, rest five minutes, play five minutes, and so on, until the final period arrived. Instead of being on that plan, Garnett had free reign to play this one out as if it was a Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
And he did exactly that.
Garnett returned to action and showed that he can still be a dominant offensive player and rebounder when he’s given the minutes and opportunity. He played a season-high 38 minutes tonight and dropped in 23 points to go along with a game-high – and season high – 13 rebounds.
It wasn’t just the raw numbers that were impressive. Look deeper and you’ll see how dominant he really was. Garnett scored those 23 points on just 11 field goal attempts. He shot 8-of-11 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. Those eight free throw attempts tied a season high and are an indication of his aggressive nature at the offensive end. And to give you an indication of how efficient he was, check out this fact: Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 31 points tonight. How many shots did Westbrook need to get there? Twenty-four. That’s more than double the amount that Garnett needed to get to 23 points.
Garnett also contributed two blocks and a steal at the defensive end, where he clearly made a difference. Had he not been on the floor tonight, the Thunder may have scored far more than the 119 points they wound up with.
Box Score Nuggets
- Two Celtics (Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley) finished with positive plus/minus ratings, while two Thunder players (Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka) finished with negative plus/minus ratings.
- Kevin Garnett and Pierce tied for the team high in scoring with 23 points apiece.
- Garnett also recorded a game-high 13 rebounds.
- Oklahoma City became the first Boston opponent in 30 games to score at least 100 points, and it put up 119.
- The Celtics dished out 24 assists on their 34 field goals.
- All five of Boston's starters scored at least 12 points.
- Bradley and Kendrick Perkins both fouled out of the game.
- All of Boston's starters played at least 35 minutes.
- Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 31 points on a game-high 24 field goal attempts.
- Pierce dished out a game-high eight assists while committing just two turnovers.
- Ray Allen scored 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
- Westbrook scored his 31 points on 24 field goal attempts, while Garnett scored his 23 points on just 11 field goal attempts.
- Bradley scored 12 points, dished out five assists and blocked a game-high three shots.
- Kevin Durant struggled from the field, shooting just 9-of-22.
- Durant did, however, approach a triple-double with 28 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
- Boston's bench totaled just nine points.
- Boston scored at least 24 points in every quarter.
- Oklahoma City scored 50 points in the paint and 27 fast break points.
- Each team held a double-digit lead in the game.
- James Harden and Daequan Cook each scored 17 points for the Thunder.
- Mickael Pietrus, starting at power forward, scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
- Pierce made just five field goals. Most of his points came from the free-throw line, where he shot 12-of-16.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on his team's effort tonight: "I love the way our guys competed. That’s a group where you say, I'd coach them all day, every day. They were clutter-free and their spirit was terrific."