– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
BOSTON — The irresistible forces that are Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook and forward Paul George tried their best to lead the Thunder to what would have been an improbably victory on Sunday afternoon. But, on a day where the city was awash with Super Bowl fever due to the New England Patriots’ presence in the Big Game, the Celtics made sure they gave their fans a taste of what might be in store later in the evening.
Like Tom Brady, Boston guard Kyrie Irving once again closed out another victory on a Sunday, hitting two jumpers late while coming up with a key deflection on a Westbrook drive to the basket on defense to preserve the Celtics’ 134-129 victory over Oklahoma City, their 13 win in the last 14 home games at TD Garden.
Irving made the plays late in the game, but almost every Celtics player contributed to what, arguably, was the team’s best performance of the season, shooting a season-high 59.3 percent from the field. Eight of the nine players who participated for the Celtics scored in double figures, led by the 30 from Irving.
“That’s good team basketball. A lot of guys did a lot of things,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “I thought they were all very active. We had a day where we made shots, and we needed every one of them. You know, obviously, I think Oklahoma City plays as hard as anybody in the league and comes at you non-stop for 48 minutes, and we needed all those points from all those different guys. I thought we got a lot of good performances.”
Trailing 76-73 midway through the third quarter, Boston exploded for a 17-2 run to take their largest lead of the game at 90-78 with 3:38 remaining in the game.
“I didn’t think it was a great defensive game for us,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “I thought our three-point defense in the first half was good. I didn’t think it was great in the second half. I think they obviously have a highly skilled team. Especially, when (Al) Horford is at the five because of his ability to handle and pass. So he kind of connects them a little bit and really puts you in rotation. There were times we did a good job and times we didn’t.”
Oklahoma City did not take the lead once more after the Celtics’ decisive run, but Westbrook did all he could in the fourth quarter to amend that, going for 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the quarter alone. Overall, Westbrook recorded his sixth consecutive triple-double: 22 points, 12 rebounds and 16 assists. George ended the game with 37 points, though he made just 11 of his 27 field goal attempts.