First, because I thought it was swell:
It was almost 29 minutes into this game when the Celtics took their first foul shot. (Actually, there were two, and Brandon Bass made them both.) One might applaud the Thunder’s ability to not foul, but Boston didn’t need to draw fouls so long as they were hitting over 55 percent from the floor, which they did through two quarters and half of the third. Then the OKC defense kicked in, and the sputtering offense suddenly found the rim: down four at halftime, the Thunder banged up Beantown 40-24 in the third. The Celtics, of course, didn’t wait around to be beaten, pulling back to within five at the 2:31 mark, and to within four at 0:09. What kept the Greenies at bay was, yes, Mr. Death Hammer himself, whom the Celtics had to foul to buy time; three times Russell Westbrook knocked down a pair of free throws to offset Boston treys, and four was the margin at the end, 122-118.
Westbrook’s flaming, it should be noted, was a product of sheer ferocity. It certainly wasn’t his shooting, 8 for 26, one of six treys. But 19 free throws out of 23 tries gave him 36 for the night, and ten assists gave him one of three Thunder double-doubles, the others coming from the Bruise Brothers, Enes Kanter (22 points/10 rebounds) and Steven Adams (14/13). Anthony Morrow knocked down 20 from off the bench. The Celtics still outshot the Thunder, 52 percent to 48, and dished up 32 dimes to OKC’s 19, but Boston left 11 points at the stripe, the Thunder only six.
It was Marcus Smart’s night, really: 25 points, including 7 of 12 from outside. Bass, who made those first two free throws, finished with 20, as did Kelly Olynyk from the reserves. (Both Smart and Jay Crowder gathered nine rebounds.) Weirdly, both benches scored exactly 40 points.
The Hawks, the East’s top team by a considerable margin, will be here Friday night, having already thrashed the Thunder in Atlanta. They’ll be missing Kyle Korver. At this point, God only knows who’ll be missing from the OKC lineup.