Boston 92, Thunder 83
Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday’s 92-83 loss to Boston.
- Really, did any of this come as a shock with the way the Thunder had performed in each of its first five games? When the same offensive and defensive problems that we’ve seen all season make their way into a game against a top three team, even if its just for stretches, blowouts happen.
- Turnovers killed the Thunder tonight. Five in the first quarter, three by Kevin Durant, led to seven Boston points — the margin the Celtics were ahead by after the first period. Boston scored 21 points off 18 Thunder turnovers on the night. “We were playing in a crowd,” Durant said. “We were trying to make the home-run pass. And they did a good job of putting some hands on basketballs. We’ve got to learn from it.”
- Here’s how bad things were for the Thunder in the early going tonight. Rather than hold for the last shot at the end of the second period, Rajon Rondo raced up the court looking to score after the Celtics rebounded the ball with 27.9 seconds left in the half. Rondo quickly got the ball to Jermaine O’Neal, who was fouled and made one of two free throws. And when the Thunder got the ball back, sure enough it turned it over with 2.3 seconds remaining. Nate Robinson then tosses up a running 3-pointer that banked in to give the Celtics a 58-37 halftime lead. That has got to be the first ever two-for-one with 27 seconds on the clock. And it turned into a six-point swing. And all the Thunder players could do was walk off the court with their heads hung.
- Hey, Celtics coach Doc Rivers had this to say. “They’ll be fine. Everybody’s gunning for them right now. It’ll be an adjustment period. But they’ll be right back up there by the end of the year. They’re so talented. They’re well-coached. They’ll be fine. I’m glad we only see them twice.”
- Serge Ibaka picked up his first foul 20 seconds into the game. How close is that to the all-time record for fastest foul?
- Ibaka did a lot of good things in his first career start. His shooting touch is looking better and better. His defense on Kevin Garnett, with the exception of that first foul, and O’Neal was impressive. And his hustle was, as usual, contagious.
- Durant also said the team needs to play within itself more. “You got to know your role, first off. I think everybody knows their role here. We got to play within ourselves and know what we can do. If you’re not a ball-handler, don’t try to dribble the ball. If you’re not a shooter, don’t try to shoot long-range shots. Just play within yourself. And if everybody does that, it’ll be a good group effort.”
- After going 3 of 10 in the fourth quarter and overtime in Portland, Durant went 1-for-6 in the fourth quarter tonight. Thunder coach Scott Brooks took the blame. “I played him probably three or four minutes too long,” Brooks said. “We made the run going into the fourth quarter, and the decision was to stay with that unit and continue to play the way we played. That’s the decision I made and I live with that. But I don’t necessarily like to play him 43 minutes. But he had good shots and he’s going to make those shots. I thought offensively he had a good rhythm tonight.”
- At one point, Durant had scored 20 of the Thunder’s 40 points.
- I asked Durant if he’s felt drained in the fourth quarters. “Nah. But it would have been cool to get a couple minutes (rest),” Durant said. “My shots looked good. But we’ve got to do a better job of, leading up to the fourth quarter, having a better game. A couple minutes would have been cool. But I’m not going to blame it on that.”
- Rajon Rondo entered the game averaging more assists (15.5) than the Thunder (14.4). And at one point, Rondo had seven assists and the Thunder had seven. After allowed Rondo to get “only” 10 assists, while recording 17 as a team, the Thunder (14.8) inched ahead of Rondo’s average (14.8).
- The best thing about this game was the rally the Thunder made in the third quarter. Defense led to offense, sparked by Russell Westbrook’s three steals, and the Thunder got its easiest shot opportunities. Durant and Westbrook combined for all 27 Thunder points in the period while OKC held Boston to 15. The crowd appreciated the effort, standing and roaring as best it could to encourage the team to keep it up. As someone said to me on Twitter, for a moment, it felt like last year’s playoffs.
- Westbrook got loose for two breakaway dunks during the run. And, unfortunately, because of his growing number of botched dunks, Westbrook is now being extremely careful to get the two points. One of the best dunkers in the league has lost his flair.
- Had Westbrook’s near poster dunk on O’Neal gone down, that previous bullet wouldn’t be there. I don’t think I could possibly watch a replay more times of a dunk that wasn’t actually a dunk.
- Then Robinson and Glen Davis got going. After the Thunder got within 73-67, those two all but closed it out for the Celtics. Robinson hit Davis for back-to-back mid-range jumpers. And Davis’ hustle put the nail in the coffin. His offensive rebound with7:06 to play led to a kick out to Ray Allen, who drilled a 3-pointer to push Boston’s lead back to 17. Ball game.
- Don’t think Thunder fans will be happy about the officiating in this one. And there did seem to be quite a few questionable calls tonight. The most egregious came with 1:05 remaining, when Durant was hit with a technical foul. A video replay clearly showed Paul Pierce intentionally holding Durant’s arm to keep him grounded while trying to secure a rebound. When Durant pushed Pierce, the refs hit KD with a technical. Pierce laughed throughout the whole sequence, even his ensuing missed foul shot. And as he exited for the final time immediately after shooting the technical, Pierce, still smiling, walked by the Thunder’s broadcast team, and pointed to play-by-play man Grant Long and said, “That’s a vet move. You know that.”
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