Thunder outplays Celts in second half, wins 122-118

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Thunder center Enes Kanter battles for the ball with a Celtic defender during Wednesday's 122-118 win.
Anthony Morrow gives thanks for a three-point shot he made during Wednesday's game. Morrow finished with 20 points and six rebounds.
Dion Waiters, left, scores on a layup while being defended by Boston's Marcus Smart.
Russell Westbrook moves around a screen set by Enes Kanter. Westbrook finished with a game-high 36 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.
Dion Waiters (23) is pressured by Boston's Jae Crowder.
Enes Kanter attempts a hook shot by Celtic defender Tyler Zeller. Kanter finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

By Tim Farley

A 40-point third quarter jump started Oklahoma City Wednesday night and clutch free throw shooting sealed the 122-118 win over the Boston Celtics at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

After trailing 57-53 at halftime, the Thunder used the decisive third quarter as league MVP candidate Russell Westbrook and center Ends Kantar combined for 25 points to give Oklahoma City a 12-point cushion. Westbrook hit only three of 10 shots in the quarter, but made eight of 10 free throws while Kantar connected on four of five shots and two free throws.

As a team, Oklahoma City hit 47 percent of its shots compared to 37 percent for Boston, which was successful on 64 percent during the first half.

“At halftime, we came back and I thought we did a great job in the second half, take away the last 45 seconds,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said.

Brooks also credited Westbrook and the team defense with being a spark in the third quarter.

“Russell didn’t make shots up until that point,” he said. “And then, he changed the game around I thought with his defense and his passing. Every night, you’re not going to make shots, but you have to be able to pass and you have to be able to defend and he did a good job tonight doing that.”

On the defense, Brooks said, “We got after it. We changed our whole mindset. We were going to be aggressive, we were going to fight through screen, we were going to use our bodies to bump and we did.”

The win lifted Oklahoma City into sole possession of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, a ½ game ahead of ninth place New Orleans. The Pelicans begin a three-game West Coast road trip against Phoenix Thursday followed by games Friday at Golden State and Sunday at the Los Angeles Clippers.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City hosts Atlanta on Friday, Miami on Sunday and the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

Boston, which had won four of its last five games, and Oklahoma City played close throughout the first quarter until the Thunder took a 28-24 lead to close the first 12 minutes. After tying the Thunder at 38-38, Boston outscored Oklahoma City 19-15 the final five minutes of the first half, taking its four-point lead into intermission.

The second half was a different story as the Thunder exploded for one of its highest scoring quarters this season. Trailing 70-66, Oklahoma City went on a 13-0 scoring spurt to lead 79-70. During that stretch, Westbrook and sharp-shooting Anthony Morrow accounted for all the points, including two big treys. From that point, Oklahoma City never trailed again although Boston pulled to within four points, 120-116, late in the game.

“I thought we were bad in that stretch (second half),” Boston head coach Brad Stevens said. “We didn’t balance poise and assertiveness in what we do well and it’s a fine line. You have to be under control at all times. You have to play the game quickly. We just didn’t do it well enough, but credit them. Westbrook, we just couldn’t keep him off the foul line.”

The Thunder led by as many 16 points early in the fourth quarter after center Steven Adams and Morrow hit back-to-back buckets for a 101-85 advantage. Still, Boston fought back, getting to within 108-103 on a free throw and two consecutive three-point baskets.

Oklahoma City responded by connecting on 12 of 14 free throws in the final 2:11, off-setting a trio of late treys by the Celtics. Westbrook was responsible for eight of the free throws and another two-point bucket.

Westbrook led Oklahoma City in scoring with 36 points and 10 assists while Kanter tallied another double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Adams chipped in 14 points and 13 boards while Morrow tallied 20 points and D.J. Augustin added 10 more.

Westbrook was guarded primarily by former Oklahoma State University star Marcus Smart, who finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

“There’s really no stopping him,” Smart said. “He’s going to get his, you just have to stop those other guys and make sure those other guys don’t get into the 20s and 25 mark. It’s extremely difficult, the way he changes the pace. He throws his body around and kind of forces you to foul him.”

GAME NOTES: Oklahoma City outscored Boston in the paint, 56-48, and had more second chance points, 21-6. However, the Celtics tallied more fast break points, 19-17…The Thunder won the rebounding battle, 46-39, including 18 offensive boards with Kanter and Adams collecting 13 of them…Despite losing, Boston finished the game shooting 52 percent from the field compared to 47 percent for Oklahoma City.

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