Well, the first half anyway.
But really, aside from aesthetics, that was the only half that mattered.
The Thunder did enough in the first 24 minutes Wednesday night to cruise to a 119-104 victory over Boston inside Chesapeake Energy Arena and move to 26-7 with one game remaining before this weekend's All-Star break.
Of course, as most Thunder opponents have done this season, the Celtics made things interesting by putting together a late push and chipping away at a deficit that grew to be as large as 27. But once the Thunder regained its composure, it closed the game on an 11-2 run to notch its 11th straight home win.
“We knew going into this game, and even when we had the big lead, that they were not going to sit down and just watch the game go by. They were going to compete,” Brooks said. A banged-up but prideful Celtics bunch put up as much of a fight as it could despite playing without floor general Rajon Rondo, who was serving the second of a two-game suspension. Boson also was without Jermaine O'Neal (wrist), Brandon Bass (knee) and Chris Wilcox (abductor).
Yet for the first seven minutes, the Celtics were actually competitive. The Celtics took a 22-12 lead before the Thunder turned it on and assembled the most impressive run seen this season. Oklahoma City peeled off a 30-3 run that lasted from the 5:07 mark of the first quarter until the 10:13 mark of the second period.
Six players scored during the run, led by Daequan Cook's nine points, six coming off a pair of 3-pointers and the other three on foul shots after getting hit on another 3-point try. James Harden had seven points in the run, Russell Westbrook scored six, Nazr Mohammed added four and Kevin Durant and Royal Ivey each chipped in a bucket.
The Thunder assisted each other on five of the 10 made field goals during the run, highlighting a 22-assists night in which 14 came in the first half. More impressively, the Thunder committed a season-low two turnovers in those first 24 minutes.
“Tonight, we were moving the ball,” Brooks said. “We were running the court. We were playing with a good pace and taking care of the basketball. It was beautiful basketball in the first half.” Ivey stopped short of settling on his coach's description.
“I wouldn't say beautiful basketball, but it was fun to play,” said Ivey, who scored eight points and supplied stretches of stellar defense. “In that kind of environment where guys are sharing the ball, it's fun. That's the way basketball is supposed to be played.”
The Thunder connected on nine of 19 3-pointers, a product of superb ball movement that mostly came on drive and kick plays and simply swing passes. OKC also shot 50 percent thanks to its unselfishness, while also scoring 27 fast break points.
Westbrook led all scores with 31 points, marking the first time he's scored at least 30 in three straight games. He added six assists and five rebounds. Durant had 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Cook and Harden each had 17.
“They really didn't have a shot-blocking presence inside other than Kevin Garnett,” said Harden. “We wanted to get into the paint and find our shooters, find open guys, and if a big helped out, find our bigs for easy dunks. We did a good job of that. Everybody passed the ball tonight and we got some easy buckets.”
The lone cause for concern was that for the second straight game the Thunder blew a big lead. After allowing New Orleans on Monday night to claw back from a 26-point deficit to pull within six in the final minute, the Thunder did the exact same thing against the Celtics.
Oklahoma City led 83-56 with 6 1/2 minutes remaining in the third period. Boston, however, began forcing the Thunder into turnovers — eight in the final 18 minutes — and capitalizing at the other end. When the Celtics weren't turning the Thunder's mistakes into makes, they were benefiting from their aggressiveness to get to the free throw line and manufacture points with the clock stopped. Suddenly, the Thunder's lead had shrunk to 108-102 with 3 1/2 minutes left to play.
“We got complacent,” Ivey said. “They were in attack mode because they were down and they were needing a win. We were playing on our heels. But we closed it out and we got the win and that's all that's important.”