Regular Season Recap: Thunder at Celtics

THUNDER 97

CELTICS 88
3 Lead changes in the game; ties, too.

43-pointers made by Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook during a stretch of 1:37 late in the fourth quarter. Until that time, the Thunder had made only three for the game.

4:40 Time it took for Serge Ibaka to register his third block of the game. He finished with four and has at least one block in his last 27 games, the longest streak in the NBA.

6-1 Thunder’s record on the road.

7 Consecutive games the Thunder defense has held its opponent under 100 points.

12 Points by Thabo Sefolosha in the fourth quarter.

15Fast-break points by the Thunder, converting seven of eight opportunities.

18 Turnovers by the Celtics, six more than the Thunder.

32 Combined first-half points by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

34.1 Celtics’ first-half shooting percentage, a testament to the Thunder defense. Boston would finish at 39.1 percent, the seventh consecutive team the Thunder has held under 40 percent.



The Thunder returns to game action on Wednesday when it takes on the Washington Wizards. Game time is 6 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

It marks the second of a three-game road trip to the Thunder. The trip concludes Saturday in New Jersey.

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
For most of 46 minutes, the Thunder struggled from an area on the court it typically excels at: shooting from the 3-point line.

But with the Boston Celtics having pulled within 83-80 and the home crowd of 18,624 on its collective feet, guards Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook made it rain on any hopes of a TD Garden party.

In an electric stretch of 1 minute, 37 seconds, Sefolosha and Westbrook each drained two 3-pointers to send the Thunder to a 97-88 victory before a national television audience watching on MLK Day.

“Our defense was key toward the end and we did a good job of closing the game out,” Westbrook said.

For the seventh consecutive game, the Thunder defense held its opponent to less than 100 points and less than 40 percent shooting from the field. The defense did what Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks has preached since Training Camp: get stops, create turnovers and get out and run. The Thunder converted seven of its eight fast-break opportunities for 14 points.

But a staple of the Thunder offense – the 3-point shot – was not falling on this night. Until it ultimately mattered, that is.

Sefolosha made a 23-foot jumper at the 2:01 mark and Westbrook followed with back-to-back 3s at 1:31 and again at 51.1. Sefolosha ended the three spree with 24 seconds remaining, giving the Thunder a 95-85 lead. The combined four 3-pointers by Sefolosha and Westbrook were more than the Thunder had hit in the first 45:59 of the game, when it was a combined 3-for-15. Resiliency? And then some.

“We want to step it up a notch and that’s what we’ve been doing since training camp,” forward Kevin Durant said. “We’re having a decent season.”

Durant (28 points), Westbrook (26) and Sefolosha (19) each finished with double-digit scoring totals. Even more, the trio accounted for all 25 of the Thunder points in the fourth quarter – with Sefolosha scoring the team’s first six.

TURNING POINTS:
There were a few to consider, but the 3-point barrage starting with 2:01 remaining (detailed above) was the difference.

But a key play should be called out. With the game tied 57-57, the third and last tie of the game, Kendrick Perkins scored on a layup despite being fouled and made the ensuing free-throw. The Thunder would go on a 13-3 run, the final points coming off a Sefolosha steal and breakaway dunk.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Viewer’s choice as to what is better – the pass or the catch – but Russell Westbrook’s dish to a cutting Thabo Sefolosha results in a basket that ignites what would become a 13-3 run. … Sefolosha forcing the Celtics’ Jermaine O’Neal to alter and miss his shot. O’Neal gathers the ball and is rejected by Serge Ibaka. … Kendrick Perkins letting the Celtics and guard Rajon Rondo know there are no easy baskets by corralling his good friend on a drive to the basket. … Ibaka, working with Sefolosha on the defensive end, blocking the shot of Celtics guard Ray Allen. It was Ibaka’s third block in the first 4:40 of the game. … Kevin Durant getting deep in the paint and dishing to Ibaka for an easy dunk. … The Thunder defense stuffing the Celtics, holding the hosts scoreless for more than three minutes. … Westbrook using a cross-over dribble on Rondo to create space and knock down a uncontested jumper. … Daequan Cook driving hard to the basket and dumping the ball to Nick Collison, who uses a pump fake to get free for an uncontested dunk. … Ibaka nailing a jumper to end a Thunder dry-spell, then adding his fourth block of the half at the other end, which results in a Westbrook jumper and 38-31 Thunder lead. … Sefolosha stealing the ball on the Celtics’ final possession of the half.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Great ball movement from Westbrook to Durant to Perkins, who drives hard and releases a jump hook. … Thunder defense creates a turnover and the result is a Sefolosha-to-Perkins pass for a powerful dunk. … Westbrook puts on a defensive show with back-to-back steals on consecutive possessions, resulting in four Thunder points. … Westbrook drilling a 3 from the side, shooting over Pierce. … Collison, deep in the lane, uses the rim to protect the ball from Kevin Garnett. … Sefolosha with a steal and breakaway dunk for a 72-62 Thunder lead, the end of a 13-3 run. … Reggie Jackson coming up with a steal and leading a fast break. His bounce pass to Sefolosha makes it 74-64. … Collison stepping in to take a charge on a driving Ray Allen. Collison is called for the foul, but it underscores his commitment to make a difference. … With the Celtics within three and with possession of the ball, James Harden comes up with a steal that results in a Durant 3 and an 81-76 lead. … Durant bringing the Celtics defense to him, then bursting to the rim for a one-handed jam! … Sefolosha and Westbrook draining 3s on back-to-back possessions in a span of 30 seconds.