BOSTON — With 74 seconds left and the Thunder trailing by three, Kevin Durant pulled up from 26 feet away on the right wing and let a 3-point attempt fly without hesitation.
The NBA three-time scoring champ's velvet shooting stroke was perfectly in sync after taking a pass from teammate Russell Westbrook. A sellout crowd of 18,624 at TD Garden, fearing the worst, began to groan as Durant's wide-open shot took flight.
“Oh, man. It felt great,” Durant explained. “When it left my hand, it was on line … but it was a little bit short.”
Even though his shot didn't fall and the Celtics slammed the door with a 108-100 victory, Durant said he would do it all over again.
“I'll take that shot 10 out of 10 times,” Durant said with conviction.
And Thunder coach Scott Brooks would have no objection.
“I thought that shot was good,” Brooks said afterward. “We wanted to take a 3 or get a layup. We were spacing the floor and he's a shot-maker. That shot looked good. Unfortunately, it didn't go in.”
Granted, the score would have been tied at 101 and there still would have been plenty of work to do if Durant's 3-pointer had found the mark, but the miss brought an abrupt halt to a tidal wave of momentum that just as easily could have resulted in a magical comeback victory for OKC.
Celtics center Kevin Garnett converted two free throws 14 seconds after Durant's miss and Boston's new sixth-man sniper Jason Terry drilled a 27-foot rainbow from the left wing with 36.7 seconds remaining to give the Celtics an eight-point advantage and seal the deal.
The loss snapped the Thunder's three-year winning streak in Boston and also snapped their three-game winning streak on the heels of a humbling home loss to Memphis last week.
OKC jumped out to a 28-19 lead in the final minute of the first quarter Friday, then allowed the Celtics to take command by shooting 63.2 percent in the second quarter (75.0 percent from 3-point range) to outscore OKC 27-17 in the second period for a 48-45 halftime lead.
After committing 11 first-half turnovers, the Thunder committed just six after the break, but still trailed by as many as 14 thanks primarily to a 22-point second-half explosion by perennial All-Star Paul Pierce.
“Paul's one of the more crafty guys that you will play in this league,” Brooks said. “You don't think he can get around you, but he gets around you. You don't think he can get the shot off, but he gets it off. He just has a knack for making the right play.”
OKC also got little help from its bench players, who were outscored 35-13 by the Boston reserves.
That's why Brooks started Durant at the outset of the fourth quarter and he responded with 14 of his game-high 29 points to give the Thunder one last gasp of hope.
Westbrook re-entered for the final 9:51, which might have been a little too late. Westbrook scored eight points, two assists and two steals in that span. He finished with 26 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals, but also five turnovers.
Pierce led Boston with 27 points. Garnett had 18 points and nine rebounds. Rajon Rondo had 16 assists, eight rebounds, six points and two steals.
Former Thunder forward Jeff Green, who was traded to the Celtics for Kendrick Perkins on Feb. 24, 2011, finished with 17 points off the bench.
“I love him,” Brooks said of Green, whom he personally coached as an assistant during the 2007-08 season in Seattle. “It was good to see. I was hoping he would have it against Orlando on Sunday and not tonight, but he played extremely well.”
Those inside the Thunder locker room were disappointed afterward, but not overly so, and there was a reason why.
“The best thing about this league is we've got a game tomorrow,” Durant said of the Thunder's 6 p.m. contest at Philadelphia on Saturday.