OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma City Thunder had been struggling on their own court, losing two straight and three out of their last four at home. Kevin Durant made sure that trend didn’t continue Sunday night.
Durant overcame a slow start to finish with 21 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, Reggie Jackson scored a career-high 27 points, and the Thunder rolled to a 119-96 win over the Boston Celtics.
Serge Ibaka added 17 points and 11 rebounds for Oklahoma City, which had struggled at home after starting the season 13-0 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder (27-7) have the best record in the Western Conference.
Oklahoma City is 4-2 since All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook had arthroscopic knee surgery on Dec. 27.
A day after the Thunder narrowly avoided a three-game losing streak — rallying from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to win at Minnesota behind Durant’s season-high 48-point effort — they seized control early against the Celtics, going on a 10-0 run in the first quarter and never trailing again.
“We just want to come in here and focus every time, especially after an emotional win last night,” Durant said. “On the back-to-back, it might have been easy for us to relax, but I think we did a good job of playing hard.”
Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said the emphasis wasn’t so much on winning at home, but instead eliminating the in-game lapses that led to the Thunder’s recent home losses to Toronto, Portland and Brooklyn.
“It’s just important that we just play a 48-minute game,” Brooks said. “I thought we had good moments on the games that we lost, but it wasn’t consistent throughout the game and the other teams got hot down the stretch and we couldn’t stop it.
“But we didn’t go into the game and say, ‘Guys, we’ve got to win tonight because we’ve lost three out of our last four at home.’ We went into the game, ‘Guys, we want to keep playing our style of basketball.”’
Jeff Green and Avery Bradley scored 19 points apiece for Boston, which has lost four straight games and seven of its last eight.
Oklahoma City matched its season high for points in a half and led 66-56 at the break. The Thunder scored the first six points of the second half and the Celtics came no closer than 11 the rest of the way.
“I thought our ball movement in the first half was really good,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “That dried up in the second, and we didn’t help each other on defense very often. One of the things we’ve got to do as a group is when things don’t go well, we’ve got to collect ourselves quicker and make things go in our favor again. When things are going well, we’re not bad, but when things don’t go well, we haven’t responded well lately.”
Durant didn’t record his first field goal until 5 1/2 minutes into the second quarter, but still had 17 points by halftime thanks to 9-of-10 free throw shooting. He sat out the fourth quarter with the game in hand.
Jackson hit six of his first seven shots and was 3 of 3 from 3-point range while scoring 19 in the first half. He surpassed his previous career high of 23 points with 2:57 left in the third quarter, taking a pass from Durant and rising for a one-handed dunk. Jackson, who finished 9 of 12 from the field, said he doesn’t feel extra pressure while subbing in the Thunder’s starting lineup for Westbrook.
“Pressure bursts pipes or makes diamonds,” Jackson said. “I’m cool with it. I put a lot on myself and I expect big things from myself. I’m just happy to have a pretty good game tonight and most importantly come out with another win.”
Moments after Jackson’s dunk, Ibaka followed with another slam to put Oklahoma City ahead 89-68.
“In that third quarter, they went on that run and we had no answer,” Green said. “We came a little bit too attached to our man and let them get easy layups.”
Jordan Crawford scored 17 points and Kris Humphries added 14 for the Celtics. Jeremy Lamb scored 13 points and Kendrick Perkins -—playing against his former team -—added a season-high 12 points to go with six rebounds for the Thunder.
NOTES: Westbrook spoke to the media before the game for the first time since his most recent arthroscopic knee surgery and says there’s “never a doubt” that he won’t be able to return to form. He’s already off crutches and is shooting free throws, but says he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to return to the lineup. The team has said he’ll be out through the All-Star break. . Before the game, Green – who began his career with the Thunder franchise before being traded to the Celtics – went over to the Oklahoma City bench to greet some of his former teammates. . Durant was called for a technical foul 71 seconds into the game for complaining about officiating. . Former Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo, fired by the team after a 1-12 start in the franchise’s first season in Oklahoma City (2008-09), was a color commentator on the Celtics’ television crew.
Green 8-15 0-0 19, Bass 1-5 2-2 4, Sullinger 3-11 3-6 9, Crawford 6-14 2-4 17, Bradley 7-16 3-4 19, Humphries 5-8 4-4 14, Wallace 0-2 1-4 1, Olynyk 3-6 0-0 7, Bogans 1-1 0-0 3, Pressey 1-2 0-0 3, Faverani 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 35-80 15-24 96.
OKLAHOMA CITY (119)
Durant 6-13 9-10 21, Ibaka 8-13 1-2 17, Perkins 5-9 2-2 12, Jackson 9-12 6-9 27, Sefolosha 1-8 0-0 3, Collison 3-4 2-4 8, Lamb 5-10 0-0 13, Jones 2-5 2-2 6, Fisher 2-4 2-2 8, Adams 0-2 0-0 0, Roberson 1-2 0-0 2, Thabeet 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 43-83 24-31 119.
Boston 26 30 22 18–96
Oklahoma City 34 32 26 27–119
3-Point Goals—Boston 11-23 (Green 3-5, Crawford 3-7, Bradley 2-4, Pressey 1-1, Bogans 1-1, Olynyk 1-2, Sullinger 0-1, Wallace 0-2), Oklahoma City 9-19 (Jackson 3-3, Lamb 3-5, Fisher 2-3, Sefolosha 1-5, Jones 0-1, Durant 0-1, Ibaka 0-1). Fouled Out—Sullinger. Rebounds—Boston 51 (Sullinger, Olynyk 8), Oklahoma City 50 (Ibaka 11). Assists—Boston 23 (Crawford 7), Oklahoma City 28 (Durant 8). Total Fouls—Boston 26, Oklahoma City 16. Technicals—Durant, Oklahoma City defensive three second. A—18,203 (18,203).