By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t used to losing at home. So when they lost back-to-back games last week at their house, it came as a shock.
The Thunder found that home swagger again Sunday when they rolled to a 119-96 victory over the Boston Celtics Sunday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The win not only snapped a two-game home losing streak for the Thunder (27-7), but it also ended a recent trend of surrendering big fourth-quarter leads at home.
“I’m pretty happy with the way we came out and made sure we put this game away and didn’t let it come down to the stretch like the last two games,” Thunder guard Reggie Jackson said.
Boston (13-21) lost its fourth game in a row and seventh in its last eight outings. Coach Brad Stevens watched his team play competitive ball for a half, then saw the game get away with a lackluster second half.
“One of the things we have to do as a group is when things don’t go well, we need to collect ourselves quicker,” Stevens said. “Make things go in our favor again. When things are going well, we’re not bad. When things don’t go well, we haven’t responded well lately.”
Jackson led the Thunder with career-high 27 points. Coming off a 48-point effort the night before, Kevin Durant posted 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in only 27 minutes on Sunday. Serge Ibaka added 17 points and 11 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the season.
The Celtics were led by Jeff Green, who collected 19 points, two assists and one rebound. Avery Bradley also scored 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting, and Jordan Crawford chipped in with 17 points.
Jackson had his shooting stroke going early on. He reeled off 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the game’s opening five minutes.
“I liked his aggressiveness,” Durant said of Jackson. “He was picking and choosing his spots well. He just went at them. He went at Crawford. He went at Avery Bradley.
He just went down hill to the rim every time. That’s what we need from him.”
As hot as Durant was Saturday, he was just as cold to start the game against the Celtics. He missed his first three shots from the field. However, he still had three assists and helped the Thunder grab an eight-point lead after one quarter of action.
“I think it’s on me to get every body involved and get aggressive for myself,” Durant said. “Me being aggressive is maybe me looking for my teammates. They put me in great position and I was able to make some passes.”
The Celtics used the 3-pointer to keep itself in the game.
Led by the sharp-shooting of Bradley and Crawford, the team combined to knock in eight from long range in the first half and got the deficit down to seven with 1:06 on the clock.
But a late scoring surge by Jackson and Durant gave Oklahoma City a 66-56 halftime advantage.
Oklahoma City’s defense took over the contest in the second half. The Thunder held the Celtics to six points until midway through the third quarter. They turned that defense into fastbreak opportunities and finished them off with alley-oop dunks and wide open 3-pointers.
Trailing 89-68, Green buried back-to-back 3-pointers to close gap to 15. However, that would be as close as Boston would get the rest of the night as the majority of Thunder starters did not play in the final period.
“I think we always want to come out in the third quarter with some energy,” Durant said. “The last two homes we didn’t do that. We moved the basketball. We had 28 assists, so that’s the formula for us. Everybody has to be involved.”
Notes: Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook spoke to the media for the first time since he it was announced he would be out of the lineup with a knee injury. He’s scheduled to return after the All-Star break. “I don’t pay no attention to those projections man,” Westbrook said. “I just wake up and try to get better each and every day.” ... Boston coach Brad Stevens and Thunder general manager Sam Presti have developed a friendship built on being young in the NBA. “Our first conversation was just about being young guys and trying to do the best that we could knowing we had some youth to us,” Stevens said. “But it was a great conversation. He is a really interesting guy.” ... Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks is amazed with rookie center Steven Adams ability to absorb punishment.
“The elbows and all that, I don’t know if that’s an iron man. I don’t know if that’s very smart,” Brooks said with a laugh. “He is as tough as I’ve been around any player. Every day he just plays. The elbows, the pushes, Nothing phases him. All he cares about is eating a lot of food and playing basketball.”
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