- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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at TD Garden, 7 p.m. | ESPN, WEEI (850 AM)
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
Kevin Durant's ability to get to the free-throw line in last season's win at Boston drew some harsh words from Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. Durant had another big game in losing to the Celtics earlier this month.
The league's leading scorer returns to Boston as the Thunder try to end the Celtics' 5-0 home start Friday night.
When the Thunder snapped a six-game losing streak to the Celtics on March 31, Durant led the way with 37 points and made all 15 free throws. Boston went 13 for 17 from the line.
"I thought we were playing Michael [expletive] Jordan the way he was getting the whistle," said Garnett after the game. "Durant damn near shot more free throws than our whole team."
Boston withstood a 34-point performance from Durant, who tops the NBA with 28.0 per game, to earn a 92-83 road victory Nov. 7. Garnett was a non-factor with eight points and eight rebounds, and the Celtics used a 37-point effort from their bench to overcome his lack of production.
Durant is averaging 35.7 points in his last three games against the Celtics after averaging 19.8 in his first four.
"The fact that I think he's seven feet tall and shoots the ball the way he shoots the ball, it makes him a (tough) matchup," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "Seven-foot players who can shoot the way he can shoot and not move are very good players in our league. But he can move and shoot and he's seven feet tall."
Both teams cruised to home victories Wednesday in which the coaches were able to give their regulars plenty of rest.
Read the full preview HERE.
FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Keep 'em off the line: The Thunder have dipped to second in the league in free throws attempted (31.5 attempts per game) thanks in part to Boston limiting them to a mere 17 attempts during a win in Oklahoma City earlier this month. The Thunder shoot a league-best 87.9 percent at the stripe -- only one other team is even above 80 percent (Lakers, 81.4 percent). Incredibly, every Thunder player is shooting at least 80% from the free throw line except for rookie Cole Aldrich (50 percent).
Durant Show, but don't forget Westbrook: According to our friends at ESPN Stats and Info, only three players this season are averaging 20-5-5: Kobe Bryant (26.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5 assists), LeBron James (22.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 8.9 assists), and Russell Westbrook (23.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 8.1 assists). That's excellent company for Westbrook, who produced 16-4-10 in the first meeting.
Return of the Mob: The key story line after Boston's victory in Oklahoma City? The inspired play of a bench that outscored the Thunder, 33-12. Now sprinkle in Delonte West and it will be interesting to see if the second unit can thrive again.
11dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford