On the night of the 2007 NBA Draft, the Celtics traded Delonte West, Wally Szcerbiak, and the rights to the No. 5 pick- Jeff Green- to the Seattle Supersonics for Ray Allen. The trade was a key part to the Celtics' eventual championship in which they brought home Banner 17. That seems like a long time ago though.
Three seasons later, Jeff Green, no longer an inexperienced rookie, would storm into the Garden with fellow teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and hand the Celtics another tough loss at home. While it was Durant and Westbrook doing most of the damage throughout the game, Green stepped up huge late in the fourth quarter, draining two three-pointers in the closing minutes to maintain the Thunder's slim lead. It was the Thunder's version of the Big Three that got the best of the Celtics tonight. Twelve ties and 25 lead changes later, the Thunder outlasted the Celtics, 109-104.
If you're a sucker for offense, this was the game for you. Both teams seemed automatic from the floor at times, hitting from all over. The Celtics were 25-6 when shooting .500 or above from the field coming into tonight's game. They shot 59.5% tonight in the loss, while the Thunder shot 50.7%.
"I've never been, in all of my 15 years, part of a team where you shoot 60 percent and still lose," said Rasheed Wallace who dropped 18 points on 7-8 shooting off the bench tonight. "But Jeff (Green) hit a couple of big threes down there and I think they had like 30-something foul shots, so you can't win against that."
On the night, the Thunder got to the line 34 times. Kevin Durant had 15 free throws alone, making all 15 of them. The Celtics on the other hand went 13-17 as a team from the free throw line. There was no doubt frustration amongst members of the Celtics after the game because of the free throw disparity.
"I thought we were playing Michael ... Jordan tonight the way he was getting the whistle," said Kevin Garnett after the game. "Durant ... near shot more free throws than our whole team."
"A team shoots 34 free throws to our 17 on our home floor- that's a tough one," said Coach Doc Rivers. "I thought we were aggressive, too. I thought we were attacking, and we just didn't get to the line."
Rasheed Wallace also noticed Durant getting a lot of calls, saying, "I mean he's a good player, but damn, you can't breathe on him."
The Celtics wanted to perform well tonight after Sunday night's blowout loss to the Spurs. They did perform well, which is what makes this loss even more heartbreaking.
"It's tougher when you know you were in the game and you had it, and you still lost it," Rivers admitted. "That's a tough one. That doesn't happen very often. When we play well we usually win."
Tonight was the exception, but a loss like tonight is the type of loss you'll take over a loss like the one against the Spurs. This was definitely a frustrating loss, but the fight was there tonight.
"I like the way we battled, and I can expect us to be that way each and every night for the rest of the season and going into the playoffs," said Pierce. "Somehow we have to find a way to win these close ones."
Kendrick Perkins, who played tonight after sitting out with knee tendonitis, was more critical of his team's defensive effort, and did not blame the loss on anyone else.
"I thought we played bad on the defensive end tonight. Guys missed assignments that were supposed to be there. A lot of missed assignments tonight add up. They got to the line whenever, we just fouled. We were late on rotations, so we didn't play any defense tonight. Durant is a crafty player. You know he's a scorer in this league. There's a reason he's averaging almost 30- he gets to the line. He did what he had to do and everybody else just kind of fed off of him."
With the win, the Thunder have now beaten every team in the league, something the Celtics did during their championship run in 2007. Durant had 37 points on the night and added eight rebounds. Russell Westbrook may have gotten the best of the matchup with Rajon Rondo tonight, tallying 21 points and 10 assists while only turning the ball over twice. Rondo dropped 16 points, dished out 11 assists, but accounted for four of Boston's 14 turnovers.
Six Celtics scored in double figures tonight, including Wallace and Glen Davis off the bench. The bench as a whole scored 36 points tonight. They will need to turn in more nights like tonight down the stretch and into the playoffs if the Celtics want to be successful.
"Not only Rasheed is getting better as these games come down the stretch, but I think Big Baby is playing well, Mike Finley is giving us a boost- I think our bench is getting better," said Garnett. "Guys are coming in with a lot more energy, so I would say Sheed is definitely having a more productive season coming down the latter, and that's what you want to see."