Doc Rivers thought it was awful.
Though he probably could have thought of some more colorful metaphors to describe his Boston Celtics’ shooting performance in Oklahoma City on Sunday afternoon, he refrained.
After all, the Celtics’ 91-79 loss to the defending Western Conference Champions wasn’t all bad – the defense was smothering, limiting star forward Kevin Durrant to 6 of 16 shooting and point guard Russell Westbrook to a mere 15 points, and was able to virtually eliminate second chance points…
…but the indiscriminate manner in which they turned the ball over coupled with the team throwing up enough bricks to build a chimney doomed any chance Boston had of staying with the powerful Thunder.
Settling for jumpers instead of attacking the basket, the Celtics shot an abysmal 37% from the field for the game, and when it came to decide the game, the Celtics reduced themselves to arbitrarily throwing the ball at the rim, hoping the shots would fall.
Paul Pierce had a solid 20 point effort and Avery Bradley 12, both shooting 50% from the field and hustling to slow down their respective counterparts, but after those two, it was brick city.
“We were bad all game offensively,” coach Doc Rivers said. “We were forcing things and offensively the ball stuck at times. Their length bothered us at times. Sometimes you want to win too bad, and that was us today.”
Kevin Garnett had just 10 points on 5 of 19 shooting and Boston’s bench – one of the stronger second units in the league – went a combined 7 of 25 and had eleven of Boston’s 19 turnovers. Jeff Green scored 8 points and Jason Terry had nine, not nearly enough for a unit that normally has a far greater positive impact.
Durrant had 23 points for the Thunder, eleven of those coming from a perfect effort at the stripe, while Westbrook scored his 15 and Kevin Martin had 12 off the bench. Oklahoma City shot just 44% from the field, but was saved by both their defense and the sloppy ball handling and questionable shot selection by the Celtics.
“I thought it was awful. Really,” Rivers said of the brickfest “I thought we missed some open shots, which I always love those, but I thought we got stuck a lot on one side of the floor.”
He pointed in particular to Garnett, “Those weren’t great shots tonight,” Rivers said of his future Hall of Famer, “So, I want him to be aggressive, but we want to get him better shots than he had tonight.”
“I love him having 20 shots, but I’d like to have him 20 good shots. I thought he had 10 good shots and then 10 very tough shots.”
The Celtics actually managed to shoot 51 % in the first half, but still trailed the young greyhounds from the plains by five at the half, and had managed to cut that lead down to three at the end of three, Green driving the baseline and ripping a reverse jam that seemed to give the Celtics the momentum heading into the final frame…
…but then the Thunder turned on the jets, going on an 11-2 run to start the 4th quarter and leading by as many as 14 points while holding Boston to 18% shooting in the quarter.
The victory extended the Thunder’s winning steak to five games while snapping Boston’s five game streak in the process. Now Oklahoma City travels to San Antonio for a matchup with the Western Conference leading Spurs tomorrow night before returning home to host the reeling Jazz, who have lost three straight since losing to the Celtics in overtime last week.
Boston heads to Charlotte for a grudge match against a Bobcats’ team on Tuesday that beat them a month ago in a game where the Celtics blew several chances to win, and then return home to tip off against the Raptors on Wednesday to finish off a back to back start to the week.
Though the game will go down in the record books as a loss, the familiar grit displayed by the Celtics in defeat was encouraging to the entire team, Captain Paul Pierce in particular.
“We’re showing that we can compete against pretty much anyone, but we have to bring our A-game most of the time, and that involves not turning the ball over and not fouling as much.”
From what we’ve seen of the Celtics this season, this loss was an aberration. Everyone has a bad night shooting now and then, but it’s rare when just about the whole team does.
Crediting the Thunder for a good defensive effort and moving on to the next challenge is the mark of a solid team, so Celtics’ fans can expect that their team will back in the win column soon.