The game was over at halftime. The Celtics led 58-37 and really, Oklahoma City couldn’t have looked worse. Playing a team like the Celtics, there really wasn’t a ton of hope that the Thunder could overcome their first half issues and get back in a game against a quality club like Boston.
Yet, they kind of did.
Russell Westbrook sparked a 9-0 run in the third quarter, basically by himself. He attacked, played with fire on the defensive end and did everything he could to get his guys going. The Thunder cut the deficit to 13. Westbrook then tried to do way too much, hoisting two bad shots and turning it over once. Boston went on a 7-0 run to respond and Scott Brooks called a timeout. Westbrook re-harnessed the energy and OKC closed the quarter on a 13-2 run, cutting the lead to nine heading to the fourth quarter. And with a James Harden 3 to start things off, the Thunder had the game to six with a whole quarter to play.
The Thunder held the Celtics without a field goal for five straight minutes and outshot them 58 percent to 35 percent in the quarter. The Thunder held Boston to 15 points and much like the Portland game, really looked to be turning things around late in the third by cranking up the defensive intensity and finding some flow offensively.
Except unlike the Blazer game Thursday, the Thunder played a far worse first half and dug themselves a bigger hole that they couldn’t get out of. The comeback was admirable, but really, the bad offense, the uninspired defense and total lack of security with the ball is what stands out from this game. In the first half, the Thunder turned it over 13 times (18 for the game). They had just six assists in the first half (Rajon Rondo had seven). And while allowing Boston to shoot 56.1 percent, the Thunder hit just 36.8 percent. More of the same, more of the same.
I did like how Westbrook really took it on himself to get his team going. His little jumpstart of the Thunder also really got KD going who shot 5-6 in the quarter. Between the two, they scored all 27 points for OKC in the third. And overall, Durant had his best game of the season hitting 11-22 from the floor, 2-3 from 3 and 10-11 from the line for 34 points. To start the fourth, Durant was 10-16 from the field but finished the game hitting his last 1-6. Maybe he was a little gassed or maybe the Celtics really locked down. It wasn’t an ideal finish, but at the very least, we saw a return of the dynamic, unstoppable offensive force that is The Durantula.
- Westbrook has a nice double-double with 16 points and 10 assists, but he had eight turnovers to go with it. The first half was where it was bad, as he turned it five times. He was out of control and forcing things way too much. Rondo does a terrific job of getting his hands on everything and it really disrupted Westbrook.
- I’m not going to sit here and say Jeff Green would’ve made a difference in this game. Well, actually I am. I’m firmly on the fence about where I think Green really fits, but it’s hard not to think in the first half where OKC was craving some kind of offensive spark that Green couldn’t have dumped in 10 points or so. Again, comparing this one to the Portland game, that’s what happened there. Green gave some offense and kept OKC closer than it should have been. It’s obviously not a sure thing, but here’s an example as to where Green could’ve helped.
- Serge Ibaka started in place of Green and did a decent job – eight points, 11 rebounds in 36 minutes – but wasn’t a total gamechanger. Ibaka was the only plus on the team with a +7 though. He was solid on Kevin Garnett and did some good things in the post, but the Thunder’s not used to having a guy in Ibaka’s spot that isn’t a scoring threat. Most of Ibaka’s points come off of scraps, rebounds or deep assists. I’m a huge fan of Ibaka and eventually could see him as a starter, but in that role Sunday, he gets a grade of B-minus I’d say.
- Again, I think we’re seeing the value of Nick Collison a bit now. His screens are terrific and really help space the offense, plus the little things he does defensively make a big difference. Hopefully he’s back soon.
- Nenad Krstic played 41 minutes out of nowhere and had a nice little game with 13 points and eight rebounds.
- Really, the Thunder bench cost them big time in this one. The Celtics second unit outscored OKC’s 33-12. James Harden hit two 3s and had six points and Eric Maynor scored six in the first half. Maybe an underrated aspect of Ibaka starting in place of Green was that the bench did have its usual umph to it because Ibaka couldn’t sub in and provide any kind of spark.
- KD was whistled for a technical foul late in the game for being tangled with Paul Pierce. Basically, Pierce was holding Durant’s arm and the official saw it as Durant creating some post-whistle contact. Grant Long said Pierce walked by the scorer’s table and said “That’s a vet move. You know that.”
- Remember last year when the NBA made that rule about players having to sit while they are on the bench? Nate Robinson doesn’t follow that rule at all. I guess he doesn’t get punished because the rule was made so fans sitting behind the seats could see and with Robinson, even if he’s standing that’s not a problem.
- At times, I thought OKC’s offensive sets looked better with some good cutting and spacing. Then most of the other time, it was the stagnant, one-on-one stuff.
- If you didn’t know by now, Russell Westbrook’s mid-range jumper is much better. But I think there’s a specific key to it. In the first half, Westbrook missed all four of the jumpshots he took. What I noticed is that he didn’t elevate on them. He shot the ball with a lot more upper body and because of it, there was no pace or rhythm to the jumper. When he doesn’t elevate, everything goes out of sync. His release loses timing, he doesn’t get squared and he hurries. In the second half, he got back to the high elevation jumper and started sinking them.
- Another thing on Westbrook: Did you notice on his two breakouts in the second half where he was all alone he didn’t try and hammer home his dunks? He dunked them, but they were a little softer. I guess he’s learning that the two points are more important than a giant flush. (Speaking of, his almost-poster of Garnett in the second quarter was awesome.)
The Thunder really lost the game the last five minutes of the second quarter. They went without a field goal during that time and Boston outscored OKC 22-6 heading to halftime. At one point in the second quarter, the Thunder missed 11 straight shots. The main reason being, bad offense which equaled bad looks. The Celtics will do that to you though. They are downright bloodthirsty for a team that’s struggling to move the ball.
I’m kind of luke warm on this game honestly. Not really perturbed but definitely not encouraged. It sort of feels like OKC got beat by a better team but didn’t keep it as close as they should have. The loss isn’t unexpected, but the 21-point halftime deficit sort of was. If anything, the fact the Thunder hasn’t been extremely competitive at home the past two games is what’s most distressing. I think I’m giving them until the end of the month to really start figuring all this out. After that, then you might be able to color me concerned.
Next up: At home Wednesday against the 76ers.