Facing the team that traded him away to the Celtics for Kendrick Perkins, Jeff Green scored 17 points and led a revitalized bench as the Celtics held on to beat the Thunder, 108-100, Friday night at TD Garden. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 27 and led an impressive display of 3-point shooting, as he and Jason Terry each drained 4-of-5 from long range, helping Boston finish 9-of-17 from beyond the arc.
Rajon Rondo finished with 16 assists, extending his streak of double-digit assists to 36 games, one shy of John Stockton for second-best in NBA history. Magic Johnson is now within reach at 46 games. Rondo can match Stockton Sunday evening in Orlando and could match Johnson on Dec. 15 in San Antonio.
The Celtics moved back over .500 at 7-6 with the win and handed Kevin Durant and the Thunder just their fourth loss in 13 games. Durant (29 points) and Westbrook (26) paced the Thunder.
The Thunder displayed their athleticism early on, jumping out to a 28-19 lead, thanks to nine first-quarter points from Durant. Westbrook added eight point in the opening quarter as the Thunder led 28-21. Green kept the Celtics close with six points in the first quarter and provided big minutes off the bench. The Celtics picked up the defensive intensity in the second quarter, forcing seven of the Thunder's 11 first-half turnovers. The defense sparked the Celtics to a 27-17 advantage in the period and helped them take a 48-45 lead when Jason Terry hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Celtics opened the third quarter on a 7-2 run that helped them open up a 55-47 lead, with Pierce hitting a pair of threes. But it was Green who kept the Celtics rolling. He had seven straight points in an 11-0 Celtics run toward the end of the quarter that helped the Celtics open up a 77-64 lead. The Thunder dealt Green to the Celtics along with Nenad Krstic for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson at the trading deadline on Feb. 25, 2011.
Pierce's fourth three of the night with 9:53 left in the fourth expanded the Celtics' lead to 84-70. In his return to Boston, Perkins finished with just five points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes. The Thunder drew to within six, 93-87, with five minutes left but Kevin Garnett responded with four points in a 6-0 run to push the lead back to 12, 99-87, with 4:20 left. The Celtics went up, 101-89, on a Terry jumper before the Thunder responded again. Durant's three with 2:52 left closed the Celtics' lead to seven, 101-94. Durant and Westbrook followed with free throws as the Celtics lead dwindled to three, 101-98, with 1:56 left.
Durant missed a three in transition and Garnett hit a pair of free throws with 1:01 left to snap the Thunder's 9-0 run and put Boston up, 103-98. Terry's fourth trey of the night from the left wing with 36.7 seconds left put the Celtics up 106-98 and sealed the win. The Celtics are off Saturday before traveling to Orlando for a game Sunday night at 6 p.m. against the Magic. The Celtics return to the Garden next Wednesday to play host to the Brooklyn Nets.