One minute they were up 22, the next they were in a 6-point dogfight. But the Celtics took Oklahoma City’s best shot and left the Ford Center with a 92-83 win to start their four-game road trip.
Some parts of the win couldn’t have been much prettier. The Celtics shot 56.1 percent in the first half and held the Thunder to 36.8 percent, making the game a DIYS job for Kevin Durant early on.
“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.”
But in the third quarter things shifted. Russell Westbrook woke up from his first-half slumber, scoring 13 of his 16 points in the third while coming up with steals and making assists. What was a huge lead shrunk to 9 by the end of the quarter and 6 about a minute into the fourth, and the Celtics blamed no one but themselves for lifting off the pedal.
“We were responsible for a lot of that,” Rivers said. “And with Westbrook and Durant they are good enough that, if you allow them, they’re going to kill you. That was, we’re better than that, but we won the game. Funny, not thrilled, but we won the game.”
Marquis Daniels set the tone scoring 7 points early. Nate Robinson snapped out of his early-season funk scoring 9 point and Glen Davis came up big in the fourth quarter, connecting on his mid-range jumper and helping squash a potential Thunder rally.
The Celtics gave up a 22-point lead but got a bailout from their bench, which outscored OKC’s reserves 33-12.
“They saved us,” Rivers said.
Rivers was happy to see Robinson come to life, knowing that he’s been the player most affected by Delonte West’s suspension. Robinson knocked down 4 of his seven shots including a 25-foot buzzer-beater going into the half. He ran off the floor with his arms extended like a fighter jet.
“I let it go and it just felt good,” Robinson said. “I was still running. I just tried to run, jump on Luke or somebody.”
Rivers said, “We got a good flow for him.”
Dealing with Durant
Paul Pierce had the toughest job of the night, trying to find a way to bottle a player that was all but guaranteed to go for 30 points. Durant shot 11 of 22 form the floor and made 10 of his 11 free throws on a 34-point night.
He credited Marquis Daniels with doing a solid job on Durant while he was off the floor. The reigning scoring champ had to work for his buckets and only scored three points in the fourth quarter missing five of his six shots.
“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.”