Celtics streak snapped by Thunder in 91-79 loss

Celtics streak snapped by Thunder in 91-79 loss
March 10, 2013, 3:45 pm
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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Celtics have had a good run, knocking off a bunch of seemingly-superior teams at home and on the road.

But for the C's to be taken seriously as a major force, it wouldn't hurt their cause to beat arguably the best team out West, Oklahoma City, on the Thunder's home floor. Boston did not play its best game of the season on Sunday. Not even close. And against a team as good as the Thunder, decent play won't get it done as Oklahoma City pulled away in the fourth for a 91-79 win.

Boston had battled its way back from a double-digit deficit, to trail by three going into the fourth quarter. But Oklahoma City opened the fourth with an 11-2 run to take its biggest lead of the day at that point, 79-67, following a Kevin Martin three-point play.

Boston trimmed Oklahoma City's lead back down to single digits, but they could never mount a strong enough rally to put any kind of serious pressure on the Thunder (47-16), winners of five in a row while snapping the C's five-game winning streak on Sunday.

With the loss, Boston (34-28) falls into a tie for the sixth-best record in the East with Atlanta. But the C's lead the four-game series with the Hawks, 2-1, so they would have the sixth seed while the Hawks would fall to seventh if the playoffs were today.

When the Celtics reflect upon Sunday's game, it will indeed be seen as a day filled with one missed opportunity after another.

Trailing 56-51 in the third, Kevin Garnett missed a jumper that would have made it a one-possession game. That just typified the kind of night it was for Garnett who had 10 points but missed 13 of his 18 shots from the field.

Later in the quarter, a Chris Wilcox dunk cut Oklahoma City's lead to 61-57, only for Jeff Green to commit a foul that sent Kevin Durant back to the line for free throws No. 10 and 11 - one more than the entire C's team had taken at that point in the game.

Trailing 68-65, former Boston College guard Reggie Jackson lost the loose ball out of bounds for the Thunder which gave the C's a chance to tie the game.

Jordan Crawford's long 3-pointer grazed the front of the rim with the quarter ending with the Thunder ahead by three points.

It was that kind of game for the C's as they struggled to find any kind of traction or rhythm to their play while the Thunder seemed to be executing pretty much what they wanted to most of the game.

Oklahoma City was especially effective at forcing turnovers. After three quarters of play, Boston had turned the ball over 19 times (for 19 points) compared to Oklahoma City's 11 turnovers which led to just seven points for the C's.

And Durant's free throw shooting only highlighted Boston's inability to contain the Thunder without fouling. At the half, Oklahoma City had 21 free throw attempts compared to just seven for the Celtics. Durant made all eight of his first-half free throws.

For most of the first half, the Thunder delivered the kind of steady punishment that has made them one of the odds-on favorites to emerge out of the Western Conference this season.

Durant was, well, himself as he showcase one of the NBA's best all-around games with a combination of jumpers, drives to the basket and free throws. He led all scorers at the half with 16 points and finished with a game-high 23 points along with 11 rebounds. Oklahoma City's other All-Star, Russell Westbrook, had his hands full with Boston's defensive ace Avery Bradley.

Although Westbrook had nine points at the half and 15 for the game, he missed four of his six shots from the field in the first half and tallied his two assists in the second half.

In addition to his solid defense, Bradley also chipped in with nine first-half points of his own on 4-for-5 shooting to go with two assists and two steals without a single turnover. He finished with 12 points, five assists and three rebounds.

Even with Bradley's balanced play and Paul Pierce tallying 12 first-half points on 5-for-7 shooting, the C's still found themselves fighting off a double-digit deficit most of the first half which ended with the C's behind, 50-45.

Pierce led the C's with 20 points.