The first three quarters were simply this:
The C’s finally picked up their defense in tonight’s fourth quarter. There were only two problems: the defense was a few quarters too late, and the offense didn’t come along for the ride. The result was an ugly 89-84 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, a loss that never should have happened. Not with Kevin Durant injured.
Westbrook and his scorching hot hand finally ran into the law of averages in the fourth quarter, but his run of bricks was matched by an equally brick-tacious Celtics squad. The Thunder missed their final thirteen field goal attempts, but the C’s missed nine straight of their own. The final miss was a Delonte West three-pointer from the corner that would have tied the game. The Celtics amped-up defense was electric, but they didn’t deserve this win. Not after three quarters of listless play.
Say what you want about the Thunder’s 6-9 three-point shooting clinic being an aberration (they came into the game last in the league in three-point %), but any guard in the NBA can make wide open jumpers. Okay, there are a few who can’t. One Celtic comes to mind. But almost every guard can make wide open jumpers, and that’s what the Thunder were getting. In the fourth quarter the Celtics finally started actively contesting shots, and guess what happened? Bad shooters missed tough shots. That’s kind of what happens, folks. As the defense improves, shooting percentages go down. There were a few Thunder shots that were lucky (I KNOW Royal Ivey didn’t call glass), but for the most part they made the easy shots and missed the difficult ones. It wasn’t rocket science.
Now comes where I break down individual performances. Do you want the good news or bad news first? Okay, we’ll start with the good. Shaq continued to play like a perfect fit. He positioned himself for easy shots, and the Celtics found him. It’s that simple. The Ray-to-Shaq alley was beautiful in the eye of any beholder. Paul Pierce’s dunk was also spectacular. My neighbors are still pissed off after my reaction. Luke Harangody played 21 seconds. That was a blast. Glen Davis drew a few more charges. To be expected. Rondo’s putback slam made him look like Shawn Kemp. Ridiculous. And Delonte West played great defense on Westbrook down the stretch. Good stuff.
Which brings us to the bad news. Why was West in the game down the stretch? Because Rondo hurt his hamstring and couldn’t finish out the game. Plus, Westbrook was abusing him so thoroughly that Bill Simmons tweeted, “Do any other Celts fans think Westbrook drove Rondo to pull Al Czervik’s ‘oooh, my arm, I think its broken!’ routine or am I too cynical?” Simmons is being too cynical. Firstly, Rondo’s as competitive as NBA players come. He’s no Vince Carter. Being torched made Rondo play harder, and he had already picked up the intensity before being forced to the bench. But Westbrook still treated him like a child for most of the night.
The C’s also couldn’t rebound worth a damn. Garnett only mustered two boards, and the C’s were out-rebounded by six caroms. The Thunder are frail inside. That should never happen. One more major flaw: It’s getting to the point where backup point guards eyes light up when they play the Celtics. Eric Maynor (13 minutes, 9 points, 4-6 shooting) is just the latest decent player Nate Robinson allowed to look like an All-Star. But hey, look on the bright side: at least it wasn’t Jose Juan Barea this time! And oh yeah, Glen Davis shot two fer ten. And two fer six from the line.
The Celtics dug in late, but failed to take advantage of opportunities. They enraged me pretty much throughout the entire 48 minutes, and at one point during the fourth quarter (I think it was when Shaq was called for a bogus flagrant foul), I’m pretty sure I was homicidal. Those are the times when I repeatedly whisper “Woo-sah” and remind myself, “Hey, at least it’s only one game.”
To beat an NBA team, even if Kevin Durant misses a game, you have to try for more than one quarter. Or at least, if you only try for one quarter, you can’t make only two field goals in said quarter.
Remember, folks: It’s only one night. Thank God.
(Images via @jose3030)