Thunder 109, Celtics 104
Western Conference teams take notice: youth will not deter the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Playoffs this season.
Tonight wasn't a playoff game between the Celtics and Thunder, but it might as well have been. These two teams fought tooth and nail on every possession, played with intensity from start to finish and in the end, one team made the plays when it needed them most.
When all was said and done, you could honestly say that this one had the feel of a game meant for mid-May.
The game featured 25 lead changes and 12 ties, but believe it or not, the most important shots of the game didn't result in any of those 37 outcomes.
After Kevin Garnett slammed home an alley-oop from Rajon Rondo to give the Celtics a 101-100 lead with 2:56 remaining in the game, Kevin Durant sunk two straight free throws -- after a controversial foul whistled on Paul Pierce -- to put the Thunder back ahead. Those were Durant's 36th and 37th points of the game, but none of those were bigger than the six that were about to come from the fingertips of Jeff Green.
The Celtics were forced to settle for a 20-foot jumper from Rondo as the shot clock expired on their possession following Durant's two free throws. That would have worked if the jumper went in, but it didn't, and Oklahoma City took possession of the ball after Durant grabbed the rebound.
Everyone in the building expected Durant to get the shot for Oklahoma City at the other end of the court, and that's exactly what the Thunder wanted. As Durant sprinted around screens set on both sides of the paint, Green popped out to the 3-point line without a defender, as Garnett was caught off guard by a screen from Nenad Krstic. Thabo Sefolosha hit him with a pass in the corner, right in front of the Celtics' bench, and Green drilled the trey to put the Thunder up by four with 1:55 remaining.
Boston couldn't have asked for anything better at the other end, as Ray Allen knifed his way to the basket, made a layup and drew a blocking foul as well. He hit the free throw to cut the Thunder's lead back down to one with 1:36 left on the clock.
When Oklahoma City brought the ball back up court, they chose to run nearly the exact same play as the prior possession with the hope that they could free Green yet again on the perimeter. Everyone in the NBA knows that Garnett is the last player who will get caught sleeping on two consecutive plays, but tonight was one of those nights, and Krstic was able to pick him off yet again to get Green an open look. This time is was Russell Westbrook who found Green open behind the arc, and Green stepped right into the jumper like a seasoned vet. When it swished through the net, the Thunder were back up by four with 1:22 remaining in the game. After Rasheed Wallace missed a trey at the other end -- his first missed field goal of the game -- Oklahoma City was able to seal the game with another free throw and leave Boston with an impressive playoff-esque win.
Key Box Score Line
If the Celtics saw all season long what they did tonight from Rasheed Wallace, they might be the most feared team in the league. The only way to describe Wallace tonight is dominant. He played only 25:35 of the game but managed to score 18 points while shooting an unconscious 7-of-8 from the field, most of which came from isolation post up opportunities. His teammates had to love what they saw tonight, and if they can get more of the same in the playoffs, the C's will be more than a handful for any team they match up against.
Box Score Nuggets
- Six Celtics scored in double-figures, led by Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace's 18 points.
- There were 25 lead changes and 12 ties in the game.
- Boston finished the game with 16 turnovers, but committed a total of only seven in the final three quarters combined.
- Three Thunder players scored at least 17 points, led by Kevin Durant's game-high 37 (Russell Westbrook had 21, Jeff Green had 17).
- Westbrook also notched 10 assists, while Durant grabbed eight boards.
- Four Celtics took at least 10 shots, and all of them made at least half of their shots.
- The Celtics shot 59.5 percent from the field, while the Thunder shot 50.7 percent.
- Oklahoma City took 34 free throws, making 28. Durant shot 15-of-15 from the line alone, while Boston took a total of only 17 free throws.
- Boston finished with 30 assists, 11 of which came from Rajon Rondo.
- Ray Allen finished 0-of-5 from 3-point range, but 6-of-12 overall.
- The teams combined for 96 points scored in the paint (56 for Boston, 40 for Oklahoma City).
- Boston scored 23 or fewer points in three quarters, while the Thunder scored at least 26 in each period.
- Kevin Durant played a game-high 44:12.
Quote of the Night
Paul Pierce on playing such a solid game but still losing: "Its gonna be tough. Like I said, when you look at it, shooting so good and it not paying dividends in the win column... it's tough to swallow; and then you look at the free throw discrepancy. So you have to look at that and say that's where we gave up the points and that's where we lost the game."