The Celtics, 3-3 at home and 3-3 on the road, really wanted this one at the Garden. And the Thunder did their best to give it to them; they whittled a 14-point Boston lead down to three with about a minute left, but then tossed up a boxful of Bricktown souvenirs while the Celtics calmly put it away, 108-100.
I was thinking, with the starters more or less evenly matched, that this would basically be a battle of the Sixth Men. And wouldn’t you know it, Jeff Green scored a season-high 17, while Kevin Martin scored a season-low three. In fact, the entire Oklahoma City bench contributed only 13 points; the Celtics reserves put up a healthy 35. And while the Thunder managed a decent 22 assists, Rajon Rondo had 16 all by himself. Add to that Kevin Garnett (18 points) coming up one rebound short of a double-double, Jason Terry (16) on a hot streak, and Paul Pierce (27) looking like the Paul Pierce of yore, and the Thunder were doomed from the opening of the second period on.
Which is not to say that OKC was utterly helpless: they did have the edge in rebounding (40-36, offensive even at 8), 29 points from Kevin Durant, and a better-than-average Russell Westbrook (26 points, seven boards, eight dimes). But when they couldn’t score inside, they retreated to the perimeter and they couldn’t shoot from there, either, missing 18 of 24 tries from beyond the arc. (The Celtics, meanwhile, hit nine of 17.) And just for the hell of it, a telltale statistic: Leandro Barbosa, who played only 11 minutes and missed all three of his shots, went +17 for the night, second only to Garnett.
Still, I think the secret ingredient was Green. Uncle Jeff never acted like it he’s too much the pro to mouth off but this was his first chance to take the measure of his former team. And he took it out of their hide.
Tomorrow, the Sixers await. If the Thunder tradition of taking out their frustrations on their next opponent holds true, there will be boo-birds in Philly midway through the second quarter.