Celtics roll seven
They finish trip by crushing Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Like every other Thunder opponent, the Celtics did not have much luck trying to stop Kevin Durant last night. But the Celtics slowed Durant when it counted and took care of every other order of business in a 105-87 victory.
The Celtics (16-4) extended their winning streak to seven games, concluding a four-game road trip with an average margin of victory of 12.5 points against Miami, Charlotte, San Antonio, and the Thunder. After playing six games in 10 days, the Celtics have a break until hosting Milwaukee Tuesday.
Paul Pierce regained his scoring touch, finishing with 21 points and put the clamps on Durant (36 points) in the third quarter when the Celtics put the game away.
While Pierce was dealing with Durant, who came into the contest averaging 27.7 points, the rest of the Celtics went on the offensive.
Kevin Garnett (23 points) and Rajon Rondo (15 points, 6 assists, 4 steals) combined for 24 of the Celtics’ 28 points in the quarter when they expanded an 11-point halftime lead to 23. Garnett was 5 for 5 (three dunks off Rondo feeds) and Rondo shot 6 for 7. Ray Allen had the other Celtic points, converting a 3-point play off his own follow and a technical foul shot.
“Durant is awesome,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s going to lead the league in scoring very soon and he’s going to lead this team into the playoffs very soon, you can see it coming. He’s really just difficult to stop. I will say this, Paul had the best defensive job I’ve seen in a long time. He took the challenge - we challenged him and he took it, and I thought his leadership was a turning point in the third quarter.
“KG and Rondo were great, offensively. Paul, defensively. We kept it simple. We really just got into a spread, pick-and-roll game. With Rondo’s speed, you have to help, if not he gets to the basket and if you help, KG gets the shot and, even there were five guys on the floor, it was almost like they were playing a two-man game for the most part.’’
A Rondo banker upped the advantage to 85-61 with 2:12 to go in the quarter, capping a 23-8 run over a 7:59 span.
The Celtic starters then took the fourth quarter off, except for a brief appearance by Allen.
The Celtics, who improved to 9-1 on the road, set the tone early.
An 18-2 run over 3:40 seemed as if it might be good enough to put the game away in the opening quarter. After Kendrick Perkins gave the Celtics a 25-12 lead with 4:43 remaining, the Thunder recovered. Eddie House extended the edge to 38-24 with a 3-pointer 2:50 into the second quarter. A Russell Westbrook 3-point play cut the Oklahoma City deficit to 42-36 with 6:12 remaining in the half. But the Celtic starters regained the momentum and a Pierce free throw provided a 60-49 halftime lead.
“Starts with Rondo,’’ Garnett said. “You can’t give praise to one person but I’m going to be honest and keep it real with you all. When our point guard is dictating the flow, he’s out, he’s turning the opposing point guard, he’s setting the tone, he’s getting everybody into the game. Not just myself, Paul, Ray, Perk, then he comes in with the second group and makes [Rasheed Wallace] and Eddie House, gets them opportunities. It starts and finishes with the point.
“And I thought he just controlled the flow from beginning to end. Third quarter we had just a couple flowing plays. It just took eye contact and I thought he put the pace to the game and we followed.’’