BOSTON — Thabo Sefolosha caught the ball on the left wing with nine seconds showing on the shot clock. His Oklahoma City Thunder teammates, needing to nurse a tenuous seven-point lead in the final minute, had just spent the previous 15 seconds scrambling to milk every millisecond possible.
But when Sefolosha hauled in a bullet pass from Kevin Durant on a drive and kick, he immediately let it fly. It probably wasn't the greatest decision. It didn't matter.
Sefolosha's surprising 3-pointer with 24 seconds left to play put the Thunder ahead by 10 and sealed Oklahoma City's 97-88 victory over Boston on Monday night inside TD Garden.
“I caught it, and I had an open look,” Sefolosha explained. “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.”
When you're hot, you're hot.
And Oklahoma City, these days, is scorching.
The win was the Thunder's seventh straight, bumping OKC's league-best record to 12-2. And nothing illustrated how good things happen to a team that's rolling quite like Sefolosha's hoist.
Need we remind anyone that Sefolosha is a career 31.4 percent shooter who just came off a career-worst 27.5 percent accuracy rate from beyond the arc?
But when the game was in the balance, Sefolosha squeezed the trigger with sureness in himself.
“Thabo's just a winner,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “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.”
When Sefolosha's dagger dropped through the net, it capped a barrage of long-range bombs by the Thunder that extended the Celtics' current misery of a five-game skid. Oklahoma City hit five 3-pointers in the final five minutes. The Thunder walked into the final frame having missed nine of 11 3-point tries. Three more clanged off the rim early in the fourth.
But each time Boston made a charge, the Thunder answered with back-breaking 3-balls. Durant started the flurry by hitting a cold-blooded step-back 3 after Paul Pierce had just drained one at the other end to pull the Celtics within 78-76. After reserve forward Mickael Pietrus canned another trey to cut the Thunder's lead to three, Sefolosha responded with the same off a feed from Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook then hit two 3s of his own, both of which bumped the Thunder's lead to seven after consecutive baskets by the Celtics and set up Sefolosha's gutsiest shot of the season.
“We were able to stay tough,” said Sefolosha, whose 19 points were three shy of his career high.
The Thunder gutted out a win in what was at best an ugly contest. Offensively, the Thunder was not crisp for much of the night, characterized by its paltry 13 assists against 13 turnovers. Super sub James Harden also struggled with his shot, going 2-for-8 and finishing with a season-low five points.
Sefolosha picked up the slack when the Thunder needed it most, helping Durant and Westbrook with the heavy lifting after they combined to score 54 points on 18-for-38 shooting.
“At times, it didn't look good,” said Brooks. “But we still battled and played with a competitive spirit and gave ourselves a chance to win.”