Thunder 97, Celtics 88
Nuggets from my notebook from Monday’s win at Boston.
- Thabo, Thabo, Thabo. My goodness. When the Thunder desperately needed a source for something, anything, good offensively, it was Thabo Sefolosha of all people who stepped up delivered. Sefolosha finished with a season-high 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting and bailed out the Thunder three times alone in the fourth quarter.
- Sefolosha scored 12 of his points in the final frame, the most by any player in the decisive fourth quarter.
- Thunder coach Scott Brooks on Sefolosha: “Thabo’s just a winner. The guy just makes winning basketball plays for us all the time. We don’t ask for a lot of scoring out of him, but he made big shots…He made shots all game long.”
- As I wrote for Tuesday’s paper, if nothing else tonight illustrated how things go for a team on a roll Sefolosha’s second and final 3-pointer with 24 seconds remaining did. We’re talking about a career 31.4 percent 3-point shooter who squeezed the trigger with nine seconds showing on the shot clock even though the Thunder was trying to run out the clock. It was a helluva gutsy shot, one that sealed the win and kept the Thunder’s winning streak alive.
- Sefolosha on his dagger: “I caught it and I had an open look. I had confidence in that shot. I felt like if I let it go it would go in and it did. I didn’t even think about it, really.”
- The Thunder has now won seven straight, two shy of the franchise record in the Oklahoma City era. This win bumped OKC’s league-best record to 12-2.
- The Thunder entered the fourth quarter 2-for-11 from 3-point range. What happens next? OKC goes 5-for-5 in the final five minutes. “We made big shots,” Brooks said. “Some of them were tough shots. But we knocked them down. I’m happy for that.”
- Sefolosha shot a career-low 27.5 percent from beyond the arc last season. He’s shooting 60 percent (12-for-20) from deep this season.
- The Thunder’s offense was a beautiful mess tonight. It looked like utter chaos at times. There was little ball movement. Infrequent off-the-ball action. Turnovers in bunches. And another night of imbalance. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 54 points on 18-for-38 shooting. The rest of the team combined for 43 points on 18-for-42 shooting. Take away Sefolosha’s big night and the rest of the team scored 24 points on 11-for-33 shooting.
- Brooks: “At times, it didn’t look good. But we still battled and played with a competitive spirit and gave ourselves a chance to win.”
- It wasn’t just the Thunder’s offense. This game was brutal on both sides. At one point, both teams combined for 19 assists and 27 turnovers in this slobber-knocker. Yuck!
- Much of the reason why the Thunder’s offense sputtered in this one was because James Harden wasn’t James Harden. He scored a season-low five points on just 2-for-8 shooting. He had four fouls, one assists and two turnovers. It looked like Harden of two seasons ago, only instead of eight shots he would have stopped firing at four.
- Keep an eye on Harden’s production on the road. He struggled with his shooting away from home last season, and he looks to be doing the same thus far this year. The next two doormat of opponents might be just what Harden needs.
- Kendrick Perkins returned to Boston, and I’m glad I got to experience this night. Tip of the cap to the Celtics for being so classy in honoring him. The organization showed a minute-plus long video montage of Perk and ended it with the words “Thank you Perk” flashing on the jumbotron. Fans gave Perk a standing O, and after the game Perk couldn’t say enough how much he appreciated it all.
- Classy move by Brooks subbing Perk out with 6.3 seconds remaining so he could get one last ovation from the Celtics faithful.
- Serge Ibakawas full of energy tonight. He blocked three shots on one sequence and finished with a season-high four rejections, all of them coming in the first half. Then he played 7 1/2 minutes in the second half.
- OKC was 18-for-19 at the line tonight.
- Not sure if Brooks was protecting Reggie Jackson from Rajon Rondo or what? But Brooks never put the rookie in there when Rondo was in, and he subbed Jackson out each time Rondo was coming back in. Brooks even changed up his substitution pattern to do it, leaving Westbrook in for the entire first quarter when he normally checks out around the 2 1/2 to 3-minute mark of every game.
- The Celtics are old and, in all likelihood, finished. They’ve still got really good talent. But they just seem to be missing that one guy who can take over a game and carry his team to win consistently. I love Rondo. But he needs someone of that ilk next to him.
- Something has gotten into Westbrook over the last week and a half to two weeks. He’s playing much more under control and taking better shots and getting teammates involved and, well, he’s doing everything. You can only hope he keeps it up.
- Eric Maynor was with the team for this game. But he flew to New York immediately after the game. He’s going to get a second opinion on his torn ACL. He was in good spirits when I saw him, but he walked with a limp and left the arena with the aid of crutches.
- The Thunder joined the Dallas Mavericks as the only teams to beat the Celtics in Boston each of the last three seasons. That’s pretty good.
- I really have nothing else to say about this one. Wish I could give you more.
- Up next. At Washington on Wednesday.
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