Game Notes: Thunder-Celtics
Live from one of the best back-and-forth offensive displays of the season.
by Ben Collins
I’m kind of staring at Kevin Durant, creepily, in hindsight, and he’s just knocking down jumpers from everywhere. The closer I get to the floor, he goes over to Nate Robinson to shake his hand, and he towers over him. Nate Robinson is a person and Kevin Durant is a tower that shoots jumpshots and doesn’t miss.
I saw him almost three full years ago now. He was playing video games at an EA event. His arms looked like tree branches. He wasn’t going to thicken out. He’s thickened out.
I’m here, mostly, because I’m a Mavericks fan. I’m trying to figure out what our best options are in the first round. San Antonio seems like it would be a lovely five-game breeze of a series. There will be beach cocktails and we won’t even be allowed to tip our waiters — that kind of a vacation of a series. I’d rather not face the Suns because they are — pun alert, I know — hot, smoking hot, and I don’t want to be a part of that. But it would be better than facing the Blazers who we’ve lost to three times in mostly embarrassing ways. Andre Miller, who used to cry loudly when shooting jumpshots when he was a Clipper or Sixer, dropped 50 on us earlier in the season. I don’t think it’s possible that we could beat them in a seven-game series.
But I would rather give Portland a two-game handicap than play Oklahoma City at all.
They beat the Lakers by 16 last week. They will go on to beat the Celtics tonight.
People in the 5 o’clock hour on ESPN will pick the high seed, against the Thunder, in whatever matchup the Thunder end up being a part of. They will cite this team’s playoff inexperience. They will say only three players (Nick Collison, Thabo Sefolosha, Nenad Krstic, no stars) in the Thunder rotation have played in a playoff series, and they will have combined for four career playoff series altogether, and they will be right.
They will question this team’s maturity, and they will be wrong.
Has this question been asked? What if LeBron goes to New York and becomes a prima donna. (Knowing what we know about him, there is roughly a two percent chance this happens, but humor me.) Say he relies too heavily on D’Antoni’s system and plays hard, maybe, 60 percent of the time. He has other things to do. He has a night club, a record company, a record club, a night company. In other words, he’s busy, and it shows. He doesn’t play 100 percent until his team makes it to the playoffs as a 3 seed.
Durant stays in Oklahoma City. There are no night clubs in Oklahoma City. Only tears. Is Kevin Durant, then, the best player in the NBA? Is it possible that this can occur? Is it?
At the end of the game, resting his back against the wall that separates him from the 2008 World Champions, Thunder coach Scott Brooks is talking to reporters about his group of barely-20-year-olds who just beat the three-seed in the East, even on a 60-percent shooting night. Durant scored 37. Boston was doubling him on the touch at the end of the game, and that left his Pippen, Jeff Green, wide open in the corner twice. Green hit both shots and the game was over. The team that had only one player shoot less than 50-percent lost by five.
“Now we’ve got to focus on Dallas,” he says, and he’s talking about the regular season game that the two teams are playing in about 46 hours that I’d forgotten all about, but, still, I shiver a little.
- So Jeff Green isn’t just a small forward playing the 4 out of circumstance? He’s actually the size of a power forward now? Glad we got that cleared up.
- Ray Allen finds KG for a dunk. Garnett looks straight up svelte recently. Totally in game shape. He makes
- Pretty sure Bob Delaney just forgot the travel motion, so Paul Pierce is called for a Check Out How Far Away I Am From Making Contact with Another Player foul.
- Just wanted to remind you guys that a ref was in prison for a few months last year because he bet on games and the shadiest refs are still going to be calling games in the Finals this year because of seniority. Again, this is just a reminder.
- KG does this behind-the-back drop pass where it looks like he’s a very stealth person littering a pear he just finished. Absolutely filthy, 12-10, C’s.
- Clarification: Filthy refers both to the act of littering compost and, also, the pass.
- This Celtics team is sharing the rock really well. They have six assists on seven field goals and most of it is coming from elbow- and under-screens. KG and Pierce have two apiece. All of that hearsay about their being a generational split between the Rondo-Perk contingent and the KG-Pierce contingent was — let’s be real here — either made up to begin with or no longer existing.
- I’ll probably retract all of that once the Celtics’ bench comes in.
- I just wrote two paragraphs about Kevin Durant that, looking at it now, in an attempt to fawn over how great of a basketball player he’s become so quickly and how he’s filling out and starting to develop an unstoppable NBA body, come off as overtly sexual. Thank you, Control-Z.
- Durant gets, maybe, two inches of separation and drops in a 15-footer. 19-16, Thunder.
- Westbrook gets no separation whatsoever and banks in a twirling righty floater/hook concoction. 21-16, Thunder.
- Durant. Again. They’re shooting 71.4 percent (10 of 14) from the field. I’m not sure it matters how much the Celtics have gelled — the Thunder might just be a more talented, better team.
- Rasheed is getting straight up booed for flubbing a drop pass. They are not saying boourns.
- Know what would be a very effective Rasheed chant? “Rasheed, I hope you diet.” Because it can be easily confused.
- The Celtics call timeout and rattle off six straight. A pair of Rondo steals gets him a free layup and Marquis a $20,000, gold-plated one. 23-23.
- The refs have invented a new offensive foul tonight that has something to do with aura, I think, or maybe odor or shoelace color.
- 30-23, Thunder to end the first. The Celtics scoring is a lot like herpes — spread out (six players have scored), certainly not life threatening (59 percent from the field), but they will pray and pray it’ll never happen again (no one has more than four points).
Westbrook and Durant are a combined 8-of-11, and Russ has 4 assists. This is why I’m here. As a Mavs fan, I would enact the plot of Celtic Pride if we played the Thunder in the first round. I’m simply horrified.
- The Ancient and/or Too-Small-for-Their-Position Lineup of Backups (Rasheed, Big Baby, Finley, Nate, Marquis) has staged a bit of a comeback to start the quarter. Rasheed has hit two usually-suicide-inducing fadeaway 18-footers. OKC leads 34-33.
- Anybody else really like James Harden’s game? He’s not as good as Tyreke, Curry or Collison, but he definitely fits with this team nicely. I feel like if they had drafted any other guard (other than Curry, who would probably make the Nets respectable even as a double-amputee, for he is ridiculous) the whole process of getting him minutes would’ve been intrusive and slightly altered the well-tempered chemistry Scotty Brooks has got working here.
- Boston is shooting 63 percent. Oklahoma City is shooting 67 percent. Boston is still down 6 because they have 9 turnovers.
- Rondo’s athleticism is almost completely negated by Westbrook’s defense. This is the first matchup problem I’ve ever seen for Rondo.
- There’s been an entire momentum shift that OKC has been putting off with Game Notes poison. The Celtics hit a few jumpers and the Thunder are dropping Nenad Krstic free throws like they’re hot.
- Ever since I wrote that “Rondo is being dominated” note, he took over. Three assists and a pretty layup on some ankle-breakers has the C’s trading leads with the Baby Sonics.
- Pierce spins for a bucket and a foul to give the C’s the lead, 59-57. This place just escalated to a playoff atmosphere quickly. I think the crowd is surprised, for some reason, at how good this team is.
- The Celtics might win this game because of how well they’re passing the ball. Yep, that sentence was written this season. 65-61, Celtics, on a Pierce-to-Rondo-to-KG jumper. If they can survive the hit they’ll take when the bench comes in, the Celtics will win this game.
- Westbrook just tipped in an errant jumper over Perk. This team is so long and athletic.
- Durant loses the ball on a double and falls over. Because he’s 14 feet tall, he collects the ball using all of his wingspan. I don’t know if I’m explaining this correctly. He had two people doubling him and both going full speed after the loose ball, but he collected it with the tips of his fingers at full-extension, saving the possession and getting a layup on the other end. He just makes me want to cry.
- Rondo posterizes Serge Ibaka with a follow dunk. He and Westbrook are getting competitive.
- Rasheed just hit a three. He’s 1/1 from three tonight. EVERYBODY BUY A LOTTERY TICKET. 80-76, Celtics.
- Durant strolls back down and hits a dagger three to shut everybody up. 80-79.
- A truly horrendous blown call by Bob Delaney again.
- A Durant iso, covered by Marquis, to end the quarter. This is why I’m here.
- He gets to the line. 83-81, Thunder.
- Rondo walks the dog to the half-court line, burns past two defenders, and tosses home a finger-roll. That’s also why I’m here. 83-83 to end the third. It’s a doozy, kids.
- Ridiculous stat update before we start off the action: Rondo has 16 and 9 assists. Westbrook has 19 and 9 assists. Durant has 29 points. And Rasheed Wallace is 6-of-6. Somebody call the police.
- As bumbling as the guy is, not many people in the NBA play as hard as Big Baby. He gets to the line for two.
- Then gets an own goal trying to snare a rebound from Serge Ibaka position on the other end.
- Michael Finley from 2004 rolls through some picks on the low block and drops a jumper. 90-86, Celtics.
- Rasheed’s best contribution to the team this year might be his awesome jumbotron pump-up speech.
- Kevin Durant is so good he just accidentally finished off an alley-oop. Really.
- Remember those boos for Rasheed earlier? The whole stadium is yelling Sheed right now because he was just fouled trying to tip in an offensive rebound. I hope this is what turns it around for him.
- Oklahoma City’s offensive set this possession: Give the ball to Durant in front of the three-point and have him shoot over Ray Allen, who is so far in Durant’s eye he is making friends with his contacts. It works. Durant has 33. 94-92, Celtics.
- The PA system just stopped playing “You’ve Gotta Fight for Your Right (To Party)” and a half of the crowd just kept singing. I really like Boston sometimes.
- Russell Westbrook with a super strong move for a tough layup with just over four minutes left. He’s such an impossible cover. 98-96, Thunder.
- Another Rasheed three to take the lead. He’s 7-of-7. It’s the apocalypse. Better start buying some shovels. 99-98.
- Durant answers with another covered jumper. He has 35.
- Garnett gets a sharp pass for an above-the-rim dunk. 3:16 left. Jake from ESPN the Magazine next to me: “This is crazy.” Yes, it is.
- Zach Zarba, now, completely blowing another call. Replays and eyes that were watching the game both show the lack of any contact whatsoever on a Kevin Durant bobble. I’ll repeat my Dwyane Wade speech, that I still have to repeat weekly: He’s good enough as it is, you don’t need to give him these calls.
- He hits them both. 102-100, Thunder.
- Jeff Green for three from the corner. The perfect third wheel for this team. This is getting even crazier. 105-100.
- And crazier. Ray Allen and-one on a drive to the hoop. 105-104, OKC.
- Jeff Green RIGHT BACK with a three from the same spot. Jesus. This is unbelievable. I refuse to believe how good this game is. 108-104, Thunder, and they start blaring Thriller in here. And how.
- The first Rasheed miss is a vital one. Wide open on a Rondo drive-and-dish, he clangs it off right-rim. That hurts.
- They trade failed offensive possessions and this one is over. Oklahoma City wins 109-104.