"Big Three" lead the way as Celtics rout ThunderNov 6, 2008 - 7:06 AM OKLAHOMA CITY (Ticker) -- The Boston Celtics were the best road team in the NBA and the top defensive team in the league en route to winning the championship last season. It looks like they plan on taking that route back to the playoffs.
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett combined for 55 points and 26 rebounds as the Celtics put up a strong defensive effort and cruised to 96-83 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
Leon Powe came off the bench to add 11 points and Kendrick Perkins chipped in 10 points and 11 rebounds for Boston, which completed its first road trip of the season with a pair of wins in three games.
"It's funny," Garnett said. "Once you win a championship, teams come after you. This is our second time playing a back-to-back on the road, and the teams are just coming at us like crazy with energy I've never seen. It's like we used to do playing Chicago or San Antonio when they were winning, so I've learned a lot about being the hunted."
The Celtics put on a defensive display, holding the Thunder to 37 percent shooting (31-of-84) while forcing 15 turnovers and blocking five shots. Boston entered the game second in the NBA, holding its opponents to 37.8 percent shooting.
"Every night we try to set the tone, but more than anything on the defensive end," Garnett said. "One thing I know about (Oklahoma City), the teams that have been here, the crowds have been into the game. The energy is here, its like a playoff atmosphere. We knew it wasn't going to happen without our defense, they fed off the crowd. Once we settled in, and got our rotations going and got to slow (Kevin) Durant down. There were moments where we let them hang around, but we were able to put them out late."
After falling behind, 29-21, at the end of the first quarter, Boston turned it on in the second frame to pull into the half with a 51-44 lead. Pierce scored seven points in the second and Powe scored all 11 of his points in the period.
"I think they played great," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said. "They were key to our second quarter. I think they came out with a lot more energy than our starters."
The Thunder managed just five field goals in the second and shot 16-of-46 in the first half.
"We came out aggressive in the first quarter, made shots and played very well," Oklahoma City coach P.J. Carlesimo. "Then their bench came in, Leon Powe and Big Baby (Glen Davis) took over the game on defense and down low in the paint. Their defensive intensity made it tough for us to enter the ball into the post."
It was even worse for the young Oklahoma City team in the third, as the Celtics came out of the break and did not let up, allowing only 11 points in the period to sprint into the final quarter up, 70-55.
"I thought after the first quarter we played terrific defense," Rivers said. "If we can make a team play against our half-court defense, we think we are going to do pretty well. But in the second and third quarter, they didn't get a lot of easy shots. We forced them to set up. They want to run, but we don't want to allow them to run."
Allen shouldered most of the second-half scoring load for Boston, pouring in 14 of his 18 points after the break.
"It was one of those ride them out games," Allen said. "We did it in a fashion that we limited our mistakes and we took better care of the ball, so I think we're getting better. It's a new year, we're still trying to learn who to expect where. The first 20 games for every team is like getting your driver's license, you learn to drive after the fact."
Garnett, Allen and Pierce combined for 12 points in the final 3:19 to seal the win.
"They share the ball well, they play well together," Rivers said of the 'Big Three.' "They are everything you would want from a team. But its not just those three. But as a group we aren't where we want to be, but we are starting to move in that direction."
Durant led the way with 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting and rookie Russell Westbrook came off the bench to add 13 for Oklahoma City.
"We're taking good shots, they are just not falling," Durant said. "We've got to continue to work and get better. I don't think we settled at all, we took some good shots, but they defended us well."
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