Rapid Reaction: Thunder 119, Celtics 104
HOW THE GAME WAS LOST
Russell Westbrook (31 points) and Kevin Durant (28 points) provided the typical one-two punch, while Daequan Cook and James Harden (17 points apiece) aided an Oklahoma City offensive outburst that saw the team shoot 50 percent overall (42-of-84) and ride a 72-point first-half effort to victory. The Celtics managed to rally from a 27-point deficit to make it a two-possession game in the late going, but the Thunder wouldn't be denied offensively. Paul Pierce overcame a sluggish start to kick in 23 points on 5-of-15 shooting (getting to the charity stripe for 16 attempts) to go along with eight assists and five rebounds over 38 minutes, while Kevin Garnett -- back in the lineup after a two-game absence to deal with a personal matter -- added 23 points and a game-high 13 rebounds over 37:39 for the Celtics.
The Celtics actually controlled the early portion of the game, building a double-digit lead over the first six minutes. But things went south -- in a hurry. Boston led 22-12 with 5:24 to go in the opening frame, but the Thunder embarked on a 30-3 run to open a 42-25 edge less than two minutes into the second quarter. And OKC wasn't done. A 12-4 burst to close out the first half capped a ridiculous 72-point first-half eruption and the Thunder led by 23 at the intermission. The Celtics still managed to cut the lead to six with a little more than three minutes to go in the game, but the Thunder emphatically slammed the door down the stretch.
LOSING STREAK AT FIVE, AGAIN
Entering the 2011-12 season, the Celtics had never endured worse than a four-game losing streak (Jan. 4-9, 2009) during the Big Three era. In losing Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, Boston now owns its second five-game losing streak of the season (also done Jan. 6-16).
BRADLEY A BRIGHT SPOT
Making his 10th start of the year in place of suspended Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley continued his second-year emergence. Bradley chipped in 12 points, five assists, three blocks and a steal over 35 quality minutes before fouling out late in the game. Westbrook got his, but Bradley made him work. More impressive for Bradley was his dunk-heavy offensive outburst, which included putting Kevin Durant on a poster with a late first-half jam in transition.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics took a fair amount of sting out of this loss with a spirited rally in the second half, charging within six with 3:30 to go (the Thunder simply wouldn't be denied offensively when it mattered). Battered and bruised, Boston limps into the All-Star break, where it will both endure and enjoy a six-day respite (endure because the Celtics are sitting on a five-game losing streak; enjoy because it's a chance to heal some wounds and come out healthier on the other side). Aided by the frenetic pace, the Celtics put together one of their best offensive performances in recent weeks, but the defense was late to the party and made it nearly impossible for Boston to win this game. Turnovers (18 for 24 points) and second-chance points (10 offensive rebounds leading to 14 points) continue to plague Boston during this recent skid. The Celtics reconvene in Cleveland on Tuesday.
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