BOSTON — No Kevin Durant. No Russell Westbrook. No problem.
For the first time in Thunder history — 437 regular season games stretching back six years — the team played without both its cornerstone stars on Friday night in Boston.
But it made little difference on the scoreboard.
Four Thunder players scored in double-figures, three more added at least six points, and a depleted Oklahoma City roster, missing a combined 52.3 points and 12.1 assists from the injured Durant and Westbrook, dominated the struggling Celtics 101-83.
It was Boston’s worst home loss since March 2010.
“Going into the game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, “I knew we were going to accept the challenge.”
Accepted and easily completed, with contributions from everywhere.
And it starts with Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson, the pair expected to shoulder the biggest offensive load during the All-Star absence.
In only 28 minutes, Ibaka finished with 21 points and seven rebounds, showing an ability to get his own shot and thrive as an offensive centerpiece, at least for one night.
And Jackson, after struggling during an out of control first half, took over in the third quarter.
In the game’s most crucial 12-minute stretch, Jackson had nine of his 14 points and three of his eight assists. The Thunder outscored the Celtics 27-13. Jackson was responsible for 15 of OKC’s points.
“Reggie had a better second half, came out and was aggressive,” Brooks said. “Did a better job understanding what they were doing defensively.”
And he wasn’t alone.
Thabo Sefolosha scored 13 points during a perfect 6-of-6 night from the field. Perry Jones added 10 on 4-of-6 shooting in a spot start. Overall, the Thunder shot a blistering 54 percent. And the defense held Boston to 81 points on 43 percent shooting.
But perhaps most impressive was Jeremy Lamb. Off the bench, he had one of his better games as a pro. In nearly 30 minutes, Lamb put up 19 points on 9-of-17 shooting, while also chipping in six rebounds and three assists.
“We didn’t play Lamb well enough the whole night,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s a really, really good basketball player.”
And on Friday, the Thunder proved it remains an effective team, even without its feature guys.
Durant should return soon, maybe even on Saturday in Philadelphia, and Westbrook will likely not be far behind. OKC’s championship hopes rest on their shoulders.
But for one night in late January, maybe this was for the better. Maybe it was good for some of the team’s lesser, but still vital pieces to get a showcase opportunity. To gain some self-confidence and inspire some outside confidence.
“Absolutely,” Kendrick Perkins said, when presented with that possibility. “It was good for our young guys.”
“Yes, (it was exciting),” Sefolosha said. “But at the same time, we want the team to be at full force out there.”
No doubt about that. But it’s not like it mattered on this night.