Boston Celtics: 2013Game13
THE NITTY GRITTY
Paul Pierce matched a season-high with 27 points on 8-of-16 shooting (4-of-6 beyond the arc) while adding 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 assist over 31 minutes to pace the Celtics. Jason Terry added to the 3-point outburst, making 4-of-6 triples of his own (including a big one in crunch time) while kicking in 16 points. Rajon Rondo added 6 points, 16 assists and 8 rebounds, while Jeff Green added a season-high 17 points off the bench. Kevin Durant scored a game-high 29 points on 9-of-20 shooting, while Russell Westbrook added 26 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds for the Thunder.
GOOD IN GREEN
Green tried to downplay going up against his former team for the first time, but it was clear he had some extra pep in his step. With Pierce in early foul trouble, Green responded with eight points over an eight-minute stint. Later, he keyed the third-quarter run that broke the game open (see below) and finished with a season-high six field goals as part of the 17-point effort.
The Celtics were up two (66-64) with little more than two minutes to go in the third quarter before closing out the frame on a feverish 11-1 burst. Jared Sullinger lit the fuse with a tip-in and Courtney Lee added a runner before seven straight points from Green, including an and-1 layup as the lead ballooned to 13 before a Kevin Martin free throw gave the Celtics a 77-65 cushion heading into the final frame (it was nearly more when Green's 37-foot heave at the buzzer came close to dropping).
BENCH DOES ITS PART
Boston's reserves were exactly what this team needs on a consistent basis. In addition to Green's offensive outburst, Sullinger (4-of-6, 8 points) and Chris Wilcox (3-of-3, 6 points) were efficient and played with great intensity; Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa struggled with their shots but combined for five assists to help facilitate the offense when Rondo was off the court.
STREAK WATCH: 36 FOR RONDO
Rondo pushed his double-digit assist streak to 36 games, picking up No. 10 a mere 1:18 into the second half when he fed Paul Pierce for a 3-pointer. Rondo can tie Utah's John Stockton for the second-longest streak in league history on Sunday in Orlando as he makes progress toward Magic Johnson's all-time record of 46 games.
WHAT IT MEANS
It wasn't always pretty and it certainly wasn't as easy as it could have been, but the Celtics fended off Oklahoma City's late charge and emerged with a crucial win. In danger of dipping below .500, Boston responded with increased intensity at both ends of the floor (even while giving up triple digits yet again). Green will get most of the headlines for his work against his former team, but Pierce was captain-like while putting this team on his shoulders at key moments. The Celtics will utilize the off day on Saturday to travel to Orlando, where they'll meet old friends E'Twaun Moore and Glen Davis on Sunday at the Amway Center.
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said that even with a top team like the Oklahoma City Thunder visiting TD Garden on Friday night, his squad remains focused on itself and correcting the inconsistencies that have plagued the team through 12 games.
After Rajon Rondo said the team needed a greater focus on the game plan in shootarounds after Wednesday's loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Rivers said the Celtics went film-heavy before Friday's game, trying to eliminate all the mistakes made that night.
"We didn’t have much of [a shootaround], it was a lot of film, really," said Rivers. "We didn’t even talk a lot about Oklahoma City, honestly. We gotta get our stuff right first. So Rondo is half right, but it also starts with each individual doing their job. What we wanted to show them today is how many individual breakdowns each guy had, and it’s funny when you look at it -- it’s not a lot by one guy, but when you have three or four by each guy, that means you're going to give up 58 percent shooting and give up  points [against the Spurs]."
Rivers spent time running down all of Oklahoma City's weapons, including a lot on old friend Kendrick Perkins, but he said he couldn't get caught up in the sentimentality of playing a core member of Boston's 2008 title team.
"It’s tough -- [Perkins is] good, a good defender," said Rivers. "I’m looking at their whole team, it’s pretty good. I haven't thought about the one guy more than the sentimental stuff."
A few more notes from pregame:
* The Celtics will maintain their recent starting lineup with Jason Terry and Brandon Bass next to the Big Three. Asked if there were any alterations, Rivers quipped, "After [Thanksgiving] dinner, I took my pants out. That's the only alteration."
* Boston will alter its jerseys on Friday, sporting the alternate road greens (with black trim) against the white-clad Thunder.
* Thunder coach Scotty Brooks on seeing Jeff Green back on the court: "It's great. When I first started with our team, I was an assistant and Jeff was my guy. I worked with him every day. He's a great, great young man. He's deserving of all his success. And what he went through and to come back, it's going to take him a while. It's hard to play in this league, and it's really hard to play when you've missed a year. He has to just be patient, himself, because he's a winner, he wants to do well, he wants to play well. It's going to take time, and not too many guys can miss a year and have success right off the get-go. But he will eventually; hopefully the next game."
* TRADING PLACES: Naturally, much of the pregame hype will center on Jeff Green and Kendrick Perkins, two of the players swapped at the 2011 trade deadline. After sitting out all of last season, Green has yet to face his former team and -- downplay it as he might -- there will be extra emotions here. The same goes for Perkins, a core member of Boston's 2008 championship team, who was serenaded with an emotional tribute video when he returned for the first time last year. Both teams have certainly moved on from the deal -- both Perkins and Green signing long-term deals with their new squads -- but the history adds a layer of intrigue to the matchup.
* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: The Thunder are the typical offensive blur. Not only is Oklahoma City the third-ranked offense in the league, averaging a stellar 0.996 points per play according to Synergy Sports data, but they are the league's top transition team as that number ballons to 1.392 points per play. The Thunder want to run and they are still one of the league's best spot-up shooting teams when you force them into a halfcourt set. Not only are Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the charge as usual, but Kevin Martin -- acquired from Houston in the James Harden swap -- is one of the league's most efficient scorers, averaging 1.251 points per play and ranking in the 99th percentile among all NBA players. Defensively, the Thunder are middle of the pack (0.896 points per play, 16th overall) and struggle in transition (1.279 points per play, 27th), but they defend well in the halfcourt set (both limiting the pick-and-roll, and protecting the basket with a backline of Serge Ibaka and Perkins). The Celtics absolutely don't want to engage in a shootout, but they must be willing to run when they force stops.
* CELTICS NEED THIS ONE: Celtics captain Paul Pierce talked about a need for Boston to play with some additional fire despite an inconsistent start. Torched defensively the last two games, Pierce wants to see the Celtics regain their defensive identity and play a more familiar brand of gritty basketball. And let's face it, Boston is in danger of dipping below .500 with a loss Friday and that's not the direction this team wants to be headed in. A victory Friday could give the Celtics a much-needed jolt of momentum and confidence.
* EYES ON THE DEFENSE: Torched for triple digits in five of their six losses (and giving up 99 points in the other), the Thunder and their high-octane offense are the last team Boston wants to see on Friday. That said, it's an excellent challenge for the Celtics and a chance to reassert themselves. The Celtics have to eliminate the mistakes that have plagued them in recent games (their help defense abused by dribble penetration and opponents attacking in the pick-and-roll). As Pierce suggested, the Boston defense needs a little bit of extra fire on the court on Friday night.
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