It took the return of Kendrick Perkins and an obligatory standing ovation from the Garden faithful for the Boston Celtics to put forth their most inspiring performance of the season. And they still lost by nine points at home.
Granted, it was an Oklahoma City team that is absolutely on fire and has the best scorer on the planet suiting up for them. But Kevin Durant wasn't the issue tonight. Sure, he scored 28 points, but it felt like a very quiet 28 points. He never took over like I—and everyone else—was expecting him to once the game came into question. Durant left that to Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha.
The two Thunder guards combined for four dagger three-pointers in the final two minutes after the Celtics had cut what had been a 10-point OKC lead down to three. And they weren't wide open shots where they had all the time in the world to set themselves and unload. No, these were highly-contested, in-your-face, step-on-your-heart-and-squish-it-into-the-parquet shots that, in all reality, had absolutely no business going in. The Celtics played solid defense for the majority of the night (except for those few times where they allowed Durant to drive down the uncontested paint), but the Thunder just made shots when it counted.
Unlike the last couple of losses, a lack of aggressiveness wasn't the issue with the Celtics tonight. Heck, they might have been overly aggressive. They went to the hoop over and over again and looked to get easy buckets. The issue was that Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal are old and have Balsam Firs for legs while OKC has Serge Ibaka and Perk, both of whom have arms for days and can actually get off the ground. The Thunder had six blocks, but it felt like 428. It probably felt that way because the Celtics missed layups and gimmes all night even when the Oklahoma City bigs didn't get a hand on the ball.
But Boston made the hustle plays all night. They out-rebounded the Thunder by eight and racked up an astounding 15 offensive boards, nine of which came from the Balsam Fir-legged players previously discussed. In fact, both KG and JO recorded double-doubles, causing me to run over to my window and make sure that I didn't see any pigs flying around the neighborhood. Paul Pierce became the aggressor and took it to Durant offensively, scoring 24 points and going to the basket constantly. Mickael Pietrus seemed to hit the big three-pointer time and time again to give the Celtics life right before either Westbrook or Sefolosha would go unconscious from downtown.
The problem, as usual, was turnovers. 18 of them to be exact, which led to 24 Thunder points. The Celtics scored a resounding two points off turnovers in the game. Those are the only numbers that need to be looked at when you talk about why the Celtics dropped another game. Turnovers will kill a team. They've been killing this team for about four years now. It's even harder for the Celtics to recover from them now since they have such a hard time putting the ball in the hoop.
I hate playing the moral victory card, but here it goes. You could see things starting to come together for this team. They're getting it. The problem is that they have to try and get it against other great teams that are younger, faster and more athletic.
I'm pretty sure the remedy for that is a date with Toronto. Man, I hope that's the remedy.