The Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Boston Celtics, 108-100. In another frustrating effort, the Thunder started well but fell behind by double digits in the 2nd half, entering the 4th quarter trailing by 12 points. The Thunder put forth a forceful but uneven effort in the 4th quarter, pulling to within 3. Unfortunately, Kevin Durant's 3-pointer attempt to tie the game with 1:14 remaining was off the mark. the Celtics quickly built the lead back up to 8 points, which ended up being the final margin.
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 29 points, accompanied by Russell Westbrook's box score-filling effort of 26 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and a blocked shot. Serge Ibaka once again had a very strong effort, scoring 17 points off of 7-11 shooting while grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds, 4 of which were on the offensive end.
The Celtics were led by Paul Pierce, who scored 27 points of of 8-16 shooting, and Kevin Garnett who had 18 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal. Long-time OKC nemesis Jason Terry, now wearing Celtic green, once again hit a 3-point dagger, preventing the Thunder from making a last second comeback attempt possible.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
I thought we had gotten rid of Jason Terry.
While I am actually not at all surprised at Terry's big showing tonight against OKC, there were several other things that did surprise me. The biggest disappointment was the fact that the Celtics had absolutely nobody who could check Kevin Durant either out high or down low; Durant's buddy and former teammate Jeff Green bore some of the responsibility of trying to guard Durant, and he was not up to the task. Despite the match-up advantages, KD did not really wake up until the 4th quarter, when he scored almost half (14 points) of his 29 point total. This was the kind of game where the Thunder should have been forcing the Celtics to cycle through defenders to try and figure out a way to stop Durant, just like LeBron James did to them in last year's playoffs. Instead, Durant played far too passive for most of the affair, and by the time he came alive, it was too little, too late.
A word on Durant's last contested 3-point attempt, which could have tied the game. Do I have a problem that he took that rushed shot? No, because he had come alive in the 4th and his long-range shooting was a big reason why OKC had a shot in the end. However, that was the perfect opportunity for Durant to forgo his natural urge to go for the big shot and instead continue to punish the Celtics on the inside, either by getting to the rim or the free throw line. Durant was finishing well and drawing fouls, and if he had continued that effort the Thunder would have given themselves more opportunities to surge ahead.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder lost?
The other big surprise/disappointment was how poorly the Thunder defense performed against a mediocre Celtics offense. To be sure, sometimes teams get hot, and Boston certainly made a good share of baskets on the night, hitting 48.8% from the floor and 9-17 from 3-point range. However, on this night the Thunder seemed disinterested in playing the kind of intense defense that we had seen in the past few games, and the Celtics used the extra space to their advantage. Boston only averages 97 points per outing, yet the Thunder gave up 87 points in the final 3 quarters. OKC's poor defense was clearly a determining factor in the game's final outcome.
Also, it is good to take a closer look at a key sequence that went a long way to determining the loss. The Thunder struggled through the two middle quarters of the game, trailing for most of them. Near the end of the 3rd however, they began to mount their comeback and on the strength of Serge Ibaka, found themselves trailing by only two, 66-64 with 3:01 remaining. Unfortunately, the Thunder went without a single basket for the rest of the quarter and were outscored 11-1. Who was the biggest nemesis during this stretch? Jeff Green. Green scored 7 of those 11 points, 5 of which came at the free throw line. The lead stretched back to 12, and the beginning of the end was nigh.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
The Thunder gave up too many open looks from 3-point land to the Celtics, with Boston shooting 9-17 (52.9%) on the night. Pierce and Terry were the main culprits, each shooting 4-6 from long range. Boston's ability to pad their point total from an unexpected source went a long way to providing their winning margin.
By contrast, the Thunder, who actually lead the league in 3-point shooting at 44% from the floor, made only 6-24 on the night. Durant and Westbrook got a little shot-happy from the stripe, shooting a combined 5-14 from 3-point range, but the real problem was that Kevin Martin was not effective. Martin is currently 4th overall in the league in 3-point shooting, hitting at a 54.1% clip. Instead of being an asset, Martin was largely a non-factor, missing both his 3-point attempts and only shooting 1-7 overall.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
This loss to the Celtics should have been a game where the Thunder defense managed Boston's scorers. Boston averages less than 100 points per game, so if OKC had simply performed to its averages, they would have won. However the defense was not up to the challenge, played with little discipline or energy, and as a result Boston produced its highest point total of the season.
Going forward, the Thunder get the 76ers tomorrow night, and they too are a defensive-minded team that struggles to put points on the board. The Thunder must focus on playing competently if not spectacularly if they are to quickly get over the poor showing in Boston tonight.
|Final - 11.23.2012
|Oklahoma City Thunder
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, 26 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, 17 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks
Thunder Blunder: Kevin Martin, 3 points on 1-7 shooting, 3 turnovers
Thunder Plunderer: Paul Pierce, 27 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals
Next game: @ the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, Nov. 24 at 6PM CDT
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