Somehow, someway, they almost did it. Minus star guard Rajon Rondo and bigs Jermaine O'Neal, Chris Wilcox and Brandon Bass, the Boston Celtics nearly defeated the Western Conference leading Oklahoma City Thunder. Nearly.
After giving up 72 points in the first half, the Celtics used a big third quarter and a late-game rally to pull within six points, but Kevin Durant (28 points, nine rebounds) and the Thunder were just too much to handle, stomping out the rally with a 119-104 win Wednesday.
Boston gave its fans some false hope, jumping out to a 15-5 lead early in the opening quarter. Then, the Thunder took over, using a 21-0 run in the half to regain control of the game and take a 72-49 lead into halftime. The 72 points was the most scored by Oklahoma City in the first half this season, and it appeared to put the decision out of reach.
Using a strong third quarter, in which the C's outscored the opposition, 31-22, Boston pulled within 14 points of the Thunder heading into the final frame. A Kendrick Perkins (eight points, 10 rebounds) layup put Oklahoma City up 106-91 with 6:11 left, but that would be the last time the Thunder scored until the 4:24 mark, as the Celtics used six points from Ray Allen (21 points) and two from Paul Pierce (23 points, eight assists) to trim the lead to 106-98 with 4:35 to play.
After two Russell Westbrook (31 points) free throws, Avery Bradley (12 points) made two from the charity stripe and Allen made a technical free throw to put the green within seven points, 108-101. Two more free throws from Pierce at 3:31 made it a six point game.
Kevin Durant put an end to the Celtics run, however, scoring seven points in the final three minutes and leading his team on an 11-2 run -- Pierce's nine-foot jumper was the only Celtics basket in the closing minutes -- to capture the win.
Boston finishes the first half of the season with a disappointing 15-17 record, and the Celtics will send both Pierce and Rondo to the 2012 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, FL this Sunday before resuming their season next week.
|0:27 remaining in the 4th||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||35||37||22||25||119|