What else can I say that that Gary Washburn didn’t in the Globe this morning?
The Celtics were absolutely listless in this game, letting Oklahoma City dictate the game. Give credit to the Thunder for coming out with a renewed sense of energy on defense; Scott Brooks clearly made his team believe that the only way it would win this one was to focus on that side of the ball without its star in Kevin Durant. Brooks went deep into his bench—Royal Ivey played 16 minutes and D.J. White 12—but thanks to the offense of Russell Westbrook, the Thunder earned the victory.
The Celtics, on the other hand, never seemed to wake up. Twice in the second half—on a thunderous dunk from Paul Pierce and a monster tip-in slam from Rajon Rondo—it looked like Boston would go on a run and take over, but the C’s could never materialize a run. And despite playing arguably their worst overall game of the season, the Celtics still had a chance to win a game they didn’t deserve to be in. A better team (read: a team not missing two of its three best players) would have won this one in a blowout.
But that’s just the thing. As Washburn reminds us, the Celtics play down to their competition. They play with an arrogance and a swagger that is instrumental in helping them beat some of the best teams in the league, as they did twice against the Miami Heat, but also causes them to underestimate lesser opponents. And without Durant, that is exactly what this Thunder team was last night.
That’s not a death knell on the Celtics, of course. This is still a good team, and we saw last season what it can do when properly motivated come playoff times. But still, there were really no positives to take from last night’s showing. Here’s a few other notes, though, from the loss.
Russell Wesbrook: Round One of the Team USA grudge-match went to Rajon Rondo. Round Two? Well, this night was clearly all about Russell Westbrook.
Shouldering the load in the absence of Durant, Westbrook as sensational in this one, getting to the line seemingly at will (13 times) and finishing with 31 points. Rondo couldn’t contain him, and though Delonte West played solid defense on him in the fourth quarter the Celtics offensive inefficiencies were too much to overcome.
Westbrook was already in the top 10 in scoring this season in the league, and he is playing All-Star caliber ball right now. This game should further cement his status as one of the top point guards in the league.
Glen Davis: What happened to Glen Davis’ offensive game?
He’s been slumping for a few weeks, and it got ugly last night when he missed a string of key free throws at the end of the game. It seems that without a consistent offensive performance, Big Baby has lost some confidence. At this point, he looks like he is going through the motions out there. His jumper, which he had been nailing early in the season, has deserted him, and he has resorted to double-clutching on shots.
So much for my 6th Man of the Year candidacy.
Rondo’s Injury: As I said, the Celtics still had an opportunity to win this game at the end. But thanks to an injury to Rajon Rondo, Delonte West was left to run the point, and the C’s could not get off quality shots.
Rondo didn’t play great in this one, but he would have made a difference at the end. While West played quite well on D, the Celtics offense struggled all night. While KG and Pierce were briefly hurt in this one—and the loss of either player, particularly Pierce considering how Marquis Daniels has regressed as of late, would be a disaster—playing without Rondo ould completely change this team. He is the engine of the offense, and without him you could clearly see the Celtics were not running on all cylinders.
Free Throws: Kevin Garnett was 10-10 from the line last night. The rest of the Celtics? They shot 7-17 from the charity stripe.
I already mentioned Glen Davis’ mishaps (2-6 from the line), but in all the C’s shot 63 percent on free throws. When you see that the Thunder were 27-32, it makes a lot of sense that it on this game.
Fourth Quarter: The Celtics actually outscored the Thunder in the final period—but only by a 15-12 margin. For a close game, this one ended in ugly fashion. Each team tried to give the other a chance to win this one by struggling mightily on offense, but the Thunder pulled it out. Just like the Celtics entire game was practically unwatchable, so was the final 12 minutes.