The return of Kendrick Perkins to TD Garden provided a lot of nice moments, but it didn't provide the Celtics with a win as the team dropped their fifth straight game, 97-88, to Perkins's Oklahoma City Thunder team Monday night.
The Perkins-Jermaine O'Neal matchup never materialized into a deal-breaker for either side, though the much-maligned O'Neal did show signs of life with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds. Perkins was held scoreless in the first half but finished with 7 points and 5 rebounds in 28 minutes.
There was nothing pretty about a first quarter in which the Celtics shot 27 percent from the field. Kevin Garnett led the team's starters in the first with two made field goals. No one scored off the bench. The Celtics found themselves down eight.
With the second quarter came modest improvement. The Celtics methodically kept themselves in the game in the second by getting to the rim now and then, raising their shooting percentage for the period to 42 percent. Paul Pierce showed flashes of his vintage self on a couple of hesitation moves to the hoop.
Pierce scored the first two baskets of the second half, and it finally looked like he was on his way to busting out for a big game. He had eight points in the third quarter and got himself up to 19 points for the game as the Celtics tied the score at 57 with five minutes left in the period. But the Thunder closed out the third with a 15-5 run, holding the Celtics scoreless for the final 2:38.
Like they did against the Bulls last Friday night, the Celtics refused to go quietly, mounting a comeback in the fourth quarter. The Celtics got the score down to 78-76 with 4:59 left in the game, but Oklahoma City began shooting daggers, spreading the lead back out with two 3-pointers from Thabo Sefolosha and two from Russell Westbrook to give the Thunder enough cushion for the win.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 28 points while Westbrook had 26. Pierce led the Celtics with 24 points and 5 rebounds.
The toughest part of the Celtics' immediate schedule appears to be over. The team hosts Toronto at TD Garden Wednesday night and hosts the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. The Philadelphia 76ers improved to 10-3 with a lead over the Bucks today, increasing their grip on first place in the Atlantic Division.
51.1 seconds 4th quarter, Thunder 92-85 Mickael Pietrus hits his fifth 3-pointer, but Westbrook answers with his third in four tries. Clutch shooting from the Thunder point guard, who's got 26 points.
1:31 4th quarter, Thunder 89-82 Sefolosha and Westbrook hit back-to-back 3-pointers and that might do it. Big shots by the Thunder. This is why they're the Western favorites.
3:06 4th quarter, Thunder 83-78 KG misses another, he's 4 for 15. If he hits 8 of 15 the Celtics are leading this game.
4:59 4th quarter, Thunder 78-76 Pierce hits a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to two.
7:30 4th quarter, Thunder 74-69 Mickael Pietrus hasn't been as active here as he was in his first couple of games, but he's got three big 3-pointers, the last one cutting the Celtics' margin to five.
8:50 4th quarter, Thunder 74-64 Rondo's out of the game and the offense is stagnant, though he's not having his best performance, anyway. Rondo's just 5 for 12 with 4 assists.
END 3d quarter, Thunder 72-62: The Thunder put together a quick 15-5 run to open up a double-digit lead. Just like that a lot of good things go down the drain. Celtics didn't score in the last 2:38 of the quarter.
4:49 3d quarter, Tied at 57: Jermaine O'Neal now has 12 points and 11 rebounds. Think he's motivated tonight?
6:08 3d quarter, Thunder 57-53 Kendrick Perkins has his first four points of the game on a lay-up and a dunk. He gave Jermaine O'Neal a little stare after the slam. Offense is picking up on both sides.
8:49 3d quarter, Thunder 50-49 Paul Pierce continues where he left off in the second quarter, attacking the rim for six quick points here in the third. He's got 17.
Halftime, Thunder 46-39 The Celtics have made ugly basketball their trademark. How they're only trailing by seven points and shooting 34 percent is beyond me. The defense has been decent, but man. They're not making it easy on themselves,
Jermaine O'Neal is getting the best of Kendrick Perkins on the stat sheet so far, with 6 points and 5 rebounds to Perk's 0 points and 4 rebounds. Perkins has four fouls.
2:53 2d quarter, Thunder 40-31 Bass walks back to the bench, just a quick trip. The Perk watch: 0 points and 4 rebounds in 13 minutes.
3:56 2d quarter, Thunder 38-31 Brandon Bass goes back to the locker room. He did that last game too, just walked back right before halftime. Maybe it's nothing to worry about.
6:08 2d quarter, Thunder 32-27 Easy buckets are a good way to get that shooting percentage up. Rondo and Allen both get to the rim. Kevin Garnett is having as solid a game as we've seen in sometimes with 4 points and 5 rebounds.
8:08 2d quarter, Thunder 28-19 E'Twaun Moore getting some good run here. Sets up Brandon Boss with some nifty penetration and Bass draws the foul. Doc Rivers said before the game that Moore earned some playing time.
9:03 2d quarter, Thunder 27-19 Marquis Daniels finally drives to the hoop for an easy bucket. The Celtics need more of that, struggle mightily to find it.
END 1st quarter, Thunder 25-17 Paul Pierce is passing up lots of 3-pointers this season for shots that seem more contested. Have to like his desire to get to the rim, but sometimes it just isn't there, and he's their scorer. Other guys aren't making that shot if he isn't taking it.
Would like to give Kendrick Perkins credit for the Celtics shooting 27 percent, but they've been dreadful on offense in the first quarter almost all season.
2:43 1st quarter, Thunder 17-13 Celtics lost Kevin Durant in transition, then Ray Allen threw a lazy pass that was picked off by Russell Westbrook for an easy two. Can't let this team get out and run.
6:14 1st quarter, Thunder 9-8 A good old fashioned defensive effort in honor of Perk tonight. Teams are a combined 7 of 24. Isn't this fun? To be fair, the Celtics have been shooting like this all season.
The Celtics showed a video montage of Perkins during his Celtics years during the timeout, and Perkins walked to midcourt and raised his arms in appreciation. Very nice moment.
10:31 1st quarter, Celtics 5-2: Good start by Jermaine O'Neal, getting fouled and converting the basket. You feel bad for O'Neal -- and Jeff Green -- in all of this. They didn't ask to come here in place of Kendrick Perkins.
Pregame: A standing ovation for Kendrick Perkins as he's introduced. Nice ovation for Jermaine O'Neal on the other side. Lots of "Welcome back, Perk" signs in the crowd.
Let's get it.