NORMAN — OKLAHOMA CITY -- There are days when Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook will not have a good game. Very rarely is there a day when the Oklahoma City duo both have poor shooting performances at the same time.
That was the case Sunday afternoon when the Thunder hosted Boston. With both stars not having their normal high production days, Oklahoma City relied on its defense to pull out a 91-79 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“Their defense was excellent,” Boston’s Jason Terry said. “They forced us out of our comfort zone and made us stagnant. They took us out of our game plan offensively. It’s something they must do if they want to get where they want to go, and that is to the finals.”
The loss stops Boston’s win streak at five games and evens the season series with Oklahoma City at 1-1. But the Celtics tried their best late to make Jeff Green’s return to Oklahoma City a good one.
Trailing by 14 with 2:45 left in the game, Boston tried to make one last run. Terry drained consecutive 3-pointers to cut the lead to 87-79 with 2:10 on the clock.
The Celtics (34-28) came up with another defensive stop and set Green up for a 3-pointer. But, with a defender flying at him, his shot was off the mark.
The Thunder (47-16) got the rebound and Russell Westbrook ran the clock down to 37 seconds before feeding Serge Ibaka for an easy layup that pushed the deficit back to 10 and sealed a Thunder victory.
“It was a good win,” Westbrook said. “It was a good team win. I think we did a good job of staying with it and we got the win.”
Durant led all scorers with 23 points on 6-for-16 shooting. That included not hitting a single 3-pointer in four attempts. Westbrook was held to 15 points (5-for-11) and managed only two assists. Kevin Martin came off the bench to score 12 points.
Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 20 points and six assists. Avery Bradley scored 12 points and handed out five assists while Kevin Garnett had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. As a team, the Celtics had 18 turnovers and shot only 37 percent from the field.
Durant got off to a strong start for the Thunder making three of his first five shots. But he picked up his second foul with 3:13 left in the period and had to go to the bench.
This gave the Celtics a chance to cut Oklahoma City’s lead to one by the end of the first quarter.
Even though Durant continued to get his shots, Bradley did a good job on Westbrook. He was able to get physical and not let Westbrook use his supreme athletic prowess. He locked up the All-Star point guard for much of the afternoon.
The Celtics kept the game close and the Thunder took a 50-45 advantage into halftime.
Boston began to do what it does best in the third quarter. They turned the game into a slugfest and got Oklahoma City out of its normal tempo.
As the fouls began to mount, so did the Thunder’s temper. Ibaka was assessed a technical while on the Oklahoma City bench after exchanging words with Garnett.
The Celtic’s defensive intensity and rebounding allowed them to cut the Thunder’s lead to 68-65 going into the fourth.
With the Thunder needing an adrenaline shot, Reggie Jackson and Nick Collison came off the bench and led Oklahoma City on an 11-2 run.
“Going into this game we knew it was going to be a physical game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “The way Boston plays, they play hard, tough, physical defensive-minded basketball. We did a good job of matching that toughness.”
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