Davis helps Celtics steal Durant’s thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY — In a blink, the Celtics went from kicking their feet up with a 22-point second-half lead to being in the middle of an NCAA Tournament game.
This was the Oklahoma City team that was easily the league’s popularity contest winner with the scoring champion/prom king Kevin Durant as the Thunder’s frontman, and the team that seemed like almost everyone’s preseason pick to shake up the West. The Celtics’ defense affected them to the point that they shot just 38.6 percent in the first 24 minutes.
“We showed bodies, we showed hands, we got deflections,’’ said Kevin Garnett. “Our first half, I don’t think you could draw it up any better.’’
When Nate Robinson’s 25-foot heave bounced once, twice, three times and then dropped through at the halftime buzzer — giving the Celtics a 58-37 lead — Robinson ran toward the locker room arms stretched out like a
Then, Russell Westbrook turned a third-quarter steal into a fast-break dunk. Then another. Then he pulled up and drilled a jumper. Then another. The Thunder needed miner’s caps to get out of the hole they dug for themselves, but Westbrook’s 13 third-quarter points sparked a run that pulled them within 9 entering the fourth quarter, and as close as 6 with 11:13 to play.
The Celtics needed someone to bring the smelling salts, and it ended up being Glen Davis. His early-season love affair with the midrange jumper paid dividends. He knocked down three in the fourth quarter, pumping the Celtics’ lead back to double digits and ultimately helping seal their 92-83 win.
They weren’t hero shots, Davis said, “I was just open.’’
When he wasn’t, he had the smarts to find the man who was. He fought for an offensive rebound with a little more than seven minutes left, and found Ray Allen on the wing for a 3-pointer that put the Celtics ahead, 88-71, enough room to coast to the finish.
There was a time when Davis would have grabbed that rebound, pump-faked himself dizzy trying to get a look at a layup only to have his shot blocked back into him.
“That’s something we talk about a lot. I think it was Baby [Davis] who got an offensive rebound and, last year he would have tried to fight the trees and go into traffic,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “[This year] he kicked it out and 3-point shooters are always open on offensive rebounds. That was a big play.’’
A year ago, the Celtics capped their first extended road trip of the season with a win in Oklahoma City. Last night was the beginning of a stretch that will take them to Dallas, Miami, and Memphis in the next six days, and they started it off by picking up their fourth straight win in the Thunder’s building.
Coming in, they knew it would go one of two ways. Durant would go off for 30-plus and get to the free throw line so many times that Garnett would spin himself into a cursing fit. Or Durant would go for 30-plus, and his Thunder teammates would leave him stranded.
Durant went for 34 points on 11-of-22 shooting, but aside from Westbrook (16 points, 10 assists) the Celtics cut off his lifelines. Paul Pierce had the honor of trying to pull the batteries out of the scoring machine.
“He’s a big part of what they do,’’ said Pierce. “He’s going to take a lot of shots, he was the league-leading scorer a year ago. We’re just trying to slow him down. Put my body on him, slow him down, not make it as easy for him.’’
Meanwhile, the Celtics bench combined for 33 points, padding a night when Ray Allen (19 points) and Pierce (17) both had it going and Rajon Rondo (10 assists) carved up another defense.
Coming off a pair of overtime wins over Milwaukee and Chicago, the Celtics have strung together a by-hook-or-crook five-game winning streak, and even with the third-quarter lapse last night, they’ll take the quality win to start the trip.
“Good team, young team, team that likes to run,’’ said Garnett. “They’ve got one of the most young and up-and-coming players in this league.
“Big win for us to start this trip off.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.