Thunder 91, Celtics 79
Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday's win over the Celtics.
- This was a good win. Good because it keeps the Thunder on the Spurs heels. Good because it was anything but the Thunder's preferred style and yet OKC found a way to prevail. Good because it was a day filled with adversity, which the Thunder overcame and ultimately overpowered Boston.
- Serge Ibaka was plagued by foul trouble. Russell Westbrook, still nursing a sore right ankle, labored through an off night. The Thunder got bullied on the boards. And OKC struggled to shoot straight. All of that was negated by a dominant defensive effort that spurred the Thunder to its 28th home win, tying OKC for the most in the league.
- The Thunder held the Celtics to 10 of 40 shooting in the second half, a 25 percent connection rate. For a small measure of how impressive that is consider that the Celtics nearly had as many turnovers (six) as made field goals.
- When the Thunder entered the final period with a three-point lead and the win in peril, OKC outscored Boston 23-14 to close it out. The Celtics made just four of 22 shots in the final period.
- Scott Brooks: "I thought our fourth quarter defense was as good as it can be. We made them take a lot of tough shots and they missed them."
- The Thunder started the fourth quarter on an 11-2 run, opening a 12-point lead. Those first four minutes and change were one of those explosive stretches the Thunder suddenly puts on a team to go up by 20 before they know what hit them. Only this time the Thunder did it with defense. In that stretch, the Thunder held the Celtics to 0-for-8 shooting by tightly contesting everything.
- Offensively, the Thunder wasn't bad either in that opening stretch of the fourth. OKC made four of its first seven of the period and got some big-time buckets (again) from Reggie Jackson.
- The player of the game just might have been Kendrick Perkins. His defense was suffocating. On old pal Kevin Garnett mostly but also on Paul Pierce at times and even Jason Terry and Avery Bradley at others. Said Brooks: "His defense on Garnett and their pick-and-roll was outstanding."
- Perk on his defense on KG: "I just tried to keep a body on him. He had some good looks, but I just wanted to contest all of them."
- Perk: "Every night we can't go out and expect to put up 100 points and the score be 120 to 100. Some nights it's going to be like this."
- Perk scored six points with five rebounds, five assists and one block. Modest numbers, right? Now here's Garnett's line: 10 points, 11 rebounds...5-for-19 shooting. Score another one for Perk.
- Celtics coach Doc Rivers echoed what Brooks has been telling you since Perk arrived. Perk's stats, Rivers said, "will never coincide with his production." Said Rivers "You look at his numbers and a lot of times you'll say 'What does he do?' I can tell you. A lot. He's a great player to have on your team when you have great players on your team, because he knows what to tell them and he backs them up. It's good to have an instigator, and I think we can put Perk strongly in the instigator category. That's why I love him."
- More from Rivers on Perk: "You need instigators on your team, and he may be the captain."
- If you're a Thunder fan, you're probably of the opinion that Westbrook is just plagued by that ankle sprain. If you root for the Celtics, you probably are loving what Avery Bradley did defensively against Westbrook. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Bradley did a terrific job against Westbrook, but you can't ignore how Westbrook harnessed much of his typical unbridled energy. I mean, one rebound? That's happened only four other times this season. We didn't see the real Westbrook. Yes, Bradley played a role. But Westbrook is nowhere near 100 percent. Today, he gave what he had and it was good enough.
- Brooks on Bradley v Westbrook: "I thought Russell was just playing a very good floor game. He was trying to get the guys in the offense and get our guys to execute. There's no question his ankle is a little sore. Obviously he's not hurt, but he's a little sore...You've got to give some credit to Avery because he's one of the best ball-pressure defenders in the league. But Russell did a good job of just controlling the tempo of the game."
- Might not be a bad idea to start limiting Westbrook's minutes. No sense in fooling around and letting that ankle injury linger and risk Westbrook not going into the playoffs healthy.
- Speaking of injuries, Brooks confirmed before the game that the plantar fascitits in Thabo Sefolosha's foot has indeed flared up. Brooks, though, said he doesn't think it's a big deal and hasn't thought about resting Thabo. "You go through a season, everybody's going to have bumps and bruises and soreness," Brooks said. "I think he's having it. But he's done a great job of managing it with our staff. But there's no concern."
- I tried to get a little more clarity from Brooks on the whole "Why Ronnie Brewer is not playing" question. I asked Brooks his plan for Brewer going forward. "Just keep him ready to play," Brooks said. "There's not a lot of minutes right now. But we're happy that we have him. It gives us an option if we need it. But right now he just has to stay ready when his number is called. And he will. He's been a pro all of his career and he's been working for the moment when he does get a chance. But right now it's hard to play 11 guys."
- Brewer got some spot minutes today, checking in with 25 seconds remaining in the first quarter and playing the first 2:17 of the second. It was a result of the Celtics playing super small with what amounted to four guards and Garnett.
- Rivers (repeatedly) to Derek Fisher just before he checked in: "No retired players!"
- Jason Terry being booed upon entering the game for the first time, and his subsequent "What? No love?" response, goes down as the funniest on-court exchange between player and fan(s) in the Thunder history.
- As expected, nice ovation for old friend Jeff Green when he entered the game.
- Warning. This is strange. Nine of Boston's 19 turnovers came in the first quarter. The Thunder, however, led 23-22 after the opening period. The Celtics then didn't have a single turnover in the fourth. Yet, they were outscored 23-14 in the final period.
- Big game tomorrow night in San Antonio. The winner will be in first place in the West. Worth noting that though the Spurs are without Tony Parker, San Antonio is in the middle of 13 of 15 at home. OKC hasn't won a regular season game in San Antonio since Nov. 14, 2009. In fact, it's the Thunder's only regular season win in San Antonio. Should be a dandy.
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