|Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win By Less Than a FOOT||Panic Mode in Full Effect, Minutemen are Struggling||Patriots Survive Gritty Challenge From Jets||Smart Era Gets Off to a Good Start with Win over T’wolves|
Coming into this game, everyone knew that Kevin Durant was going to score a lot, and he did, but with a strong play from the Celtics defense and bench, Boston was able to come away with the 92-83 victory. The Oklahoma City Thunder came back in the third quarter to erase a 22-point deficit down to only six points, but from that point on it was all Celtics. With the win, the Celtics improved to 6-1 on the season while the Thunder fell to an unlikely 3-3 record.
Oklahoma City has a very young and intriguing team this season. They were able to take the Lakers to seven games last year in the playoffs before being eliminated, and even more is expected of them this season. They have been projected to finish as high as second in the Western Conference solely on the fact that Durant can make a strong case for MVP this season. He sure looked like an MVP candidate Sunday night as he was able to score an easy 34 points off 11-of-22 shooting from the field.
From the start of the game it was the Celtics’ plan to limit Durant and make him work hard to get points and it worked, but he still made scoring look so easy. He had almost half of his points come from the free-throw line as he went 10-for-11 from the charity stripe.
Rajon Rondo – Although he didn’t have the best game of his career, he had a very solid game. He finished with 10 points (5-for-8 shooting), 10 assists, five rebounds and three steals. It was Rondo’s fourth double-double of the season and third in a row, all while he is battling plantar facsciitis in both feet. He certainly has been the leader on this team and really gets everyone involved in every play.
He made key steals in the second half of the game that prevented the Thunder from coming back and that kind of play keeps the Celtics in games. If it wasn’t for Rondo, then Boston would really struggle setting up plays and making sure everyone is involved. His assists have dipped a little bit in the month of November but they are still there, and his turnovers are still down (3.5 average for November).
Russell Westbrook – He came in averaging just over 22 points and around six assists per game and it was thought that he was going to be the other factor (other than Durant) on the Thunder, but he wasn’t. He did end up finishing with 16 points but shot a very poor 6-for-16 from the field and went 0-for-2 from beyond the arc. He’s shooting 10% from the 3-point mark on the season (1-for-10). He also dished out 10 assists on the game, but unfortunately for him he had eight turnovers too.
Luckily for the Celtics, Rondo was able to play tough defense on him and only allowed him to take poor shots all night. Westbrook is still only 21 years old and will be in the NBA for a very long time, so Rondo will have his work cut out for him for many years. Westbrook is a very good player but if he wants to be better then he needs to take better shots and not turn the ball over so much.
The Bench – The Celtics bench is what got the team in the game and kept them in it. Big contributions from Semih Erden, Glen Davis and Nate Robinson really allowed for the starters to rest while also giving them some time to shine. The bench outscored Oklahoma City’s 33-12 in the game.
Erden came in a looked more comfortable then ever as he was able to score nine points (2-for-4 from the field) and grab four boards in only 14 minutes of play. Davis continued to show that he belongs on the floor late in the game as he hit a couple crucial shots from the top of the key to extend the lead. He finished the game with eight points on 4-for-7 shooting and grabbed five boards while adding a steal.
Nate Robinson was also solid for the bench as he was able to score nine points (4-for-7 shooting) and dished out three assists. Marquis Daniels quietly chipped in seven points of his own, all in the first half.
The Celtics won’t travel too far as they head to Dallas Monday night to take on the Mavericks. Dallas is sitting in third in the Southwest Division with a record of 3-2. They are recently coming off a loss to the Denver Nuggets at home.
The Celtics will need to be well-rested for the game as Dallas has a lot of star power with Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Caron Butler on the team. They are certainly not the same players they used to be, but they are still a very good team that can win a lot of games. Throw in the fact that they still have Jason Terry and Shawn Marion, and they quickly become a very deep team. Look for the Celtics to really try and lock down on Dirk and push the ball inside.