Thunder forward Kevin Durant will replace Atlanta's Joe Johnson (injured left knee) in the Three-Point Contest on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, Fla.
NBA commissioner David Stern named Boston point guard Rajon Rondo as Johnson's replacement on the Eastern Conference team.
Rondo did not play during Wednesday night's 119-104 loss to the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena because he was serving the second game of a two-game suspension for flinging a ball at a referee Sunday night.
“When you get named as an All-Star, they should take a one-game suspension away,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “He's having a heckuva birthday (Rondo turned 26 Wednesday) — to give them $250,000 (in lost salary due to the suspension) and he gets to make the All-Star team.”
Durant has coaches shaking their heads on how to defend him, and Rivers is no different.
“There's never been a Kevin Durant – ever, I don't think,” Rivers said. “I don't think there's ever been a comparison. I really don't, unless you say, 'George Gervin, but 5-inches taller.' … He's 7-feet tall. He's running around like a 2 guard. He can handle to ball. He can take your off the dribble. He can post you up. He can shoot over you. You can't trap him because he sees over you.
“I know coaching-wise, there's never been a more difficult guy to prepare for, because you really feel like you're wasting your time doing it. He's going to probably score anyway. He's a great player. Seems like a great kid, I don't know that. That's what you hear and if that's true, that's phenomenal.”
Durant finished with 28 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals in 40 minutes.
SAME OLD PERKINS
Former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins has expressed frustration with the overall quality of his play, but that's nothing new to Rivers.
“Perk and I talk all the time,” Rivers said. “The best part about Perk is he's always going to be frustrated. Really, that's the best part of him because he cares so much and he wants to do well and he wants to do well for his team. When we won a title, Perk wasn't happy every day. He wants to do more. He wants to do better. He's hard on himself, and he's hard on his teammates and you don't ever want that to change.”
The Thunder plays the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at Chesapeake Energy Arena in a nationally televised game on TNT. Then it's the All-Star break.
OKC avoided the turnover bug the entire first half with zero in the first quarter and committing just two in the second period. The problem returned in full force in the second half, however, as the Thunder finished with 14 turnovers, which led to 16 points for the Celtics. … Boston is the worst rebounding team in the league and it showed as OKC outrebounded the Celtics 43-32. The Thunder is last in opponent offensive rebounds, but Boston managed just three offensive boards. … Thunder sixth man James Harden had 15 points in 18 first-half minutes. He scored two points in 16 second-half minutes. … Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 31 points, marking the first time in his career he had three straight 30-point games. … After shooting 4 for 13 in the second half, Durant finished 9 for 22 from the field to shoot less than 50 percent for only the second time in the last eight games.
OKC started the game shooting 1 for 10 from the field and fell behind 15-5 with 7½ minutes left in the first quarter. The Thunder then hit 25 of its final 36 shots (.694) of the first half to lead 72-49 for its highest-scoring half of the season. OKC shot just 42.1 percent after intermission to finish at 50 percent for the game.
Thunder guard Daequan Cook shot 3 for 8 from 3-point range and is now 7 for his last 42 from beyond the arc. He tied a season-high with 17 points.
Reserve guard Royal Ivey had eight points and went 3 for 4 from the field (2 for 3 from 3-point range). Center Nazr Mohammed went 3 for 3.
Rivers on Westbrook: “I think Westbrook takes way too much heat. I think he's a terrific player. He plays hard every night. He attacks you every night. Just because he may not be the perfect something, what everybody wants him to be, doesn't mean he's still not a great player. I think he's just a tough, tough cover for everyone every night.”