BOSTON — As Jared Sullinger trotted towards the Boston Celtics bench with his hands clasped and visibly in pain early in the first quarter, the initial concern was that he was hit on his left hand which has a bone bruise and sprained ligaments.
Instead, it was a dislocated right index finger.
Sullinger would eventually return to the game, but it was clear that the 6-foot-9 forward was not the same in Boston's 101-83 loss to Oklahoma City.
"If it's not one thing it's another," said Sullinger who finished with six points on 3-for-10 shooting along with just four rebounds.
When Sullinger underwent season-ending back surgery as a rookie last season, concerns lingered as to how the back would hold up to what was expected to be a much heavier load after the Celtics traded away both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
As it turns out, that has been the least of Sullinger's problems. After missing the season opener while serving a one-game team-imposed suspension, he would later miss a game at Charlotte on Nov. 13 due to a sore knee.
Beyond that, he has managed to play through a slew of bumps and bruises, such as as sore neck courtesy of one too many elbows from Houston's Dwight Howard, and of course the left hand injury that has been bothering him for months.
"It's the life of the NBA. You have to get used to it," said Sullinger, referring to his many injuries. "You just have to get used to it. That's about it."
Sullinger's struggles on Friday in many ways mirrored those of the rest of the Celtics, losers in 16 of their last 19 games.
There were several factors at work, but none seemed any bigger than the problems Boston had defensively most of the night as the Thunder finished shooting a stellar 53.8 percent from the field.
Because the Thunder were without Durant, Boston's Gerald Wallace was asked if the Celtics might have taken them lightly because they were missing the league's top scorer.
"Are you serious? They're the best team in the Western Conference," Wallace said. "If you're a player in this league, there's no way you can take those guys not serious, no matter who's not playing. We just laid down out there. I think we felt like because he wasn't playing, that they were just going to bend over and hand us a win. That wasn't the case."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he felt his club wasn't "engaged defensively" for long enough stretches to give themselves a chance to be successful.
"I don't want to knock the effort per se, because I think you had some guys that were really locked in and really playing hard effort-wise," Stevens said. "But collectively, we were not engaged defensively together."
Said Sullinger: "We just went through spurts where we let our offense dictate our defense, and we got away with it; it was working in the first half. That's on us; that's definitely on us."
And while the problems on Friday seemed to be team-wide issues that have been problematic all season, Sullinger was quick to point out that everyone - himself included - simply has to play better.
"It's not just one person's play, it's not just a couple guys, it's the collective group starting with me," Sullinger said. "3-for-10 (shooting) is not acceptable with a dislocated finger or not. I just have to play better."