OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Boston Celtics are getting to know what it's like to have everyone shooting for them.
Paul Pierce had 20 points and nine rebounds, Ray Allen scored 18 points and the defending NBA champions clamped down on Oklahoma City after the Thunder's fast start to run away with a 96-83 victory Wednesday night.
After giving up 29 points in the first quarter, Boston held the Thunder to 25 percent shooting over the next two periods and didn't let them match that point total for the next 26 minutes.
"We're the defending champions and I think most people are definitely geared up for us, and we're getting a strong hit when the game starts," Allen said. "It's just a matter of us taking it, absorbing the punches, and then start going on offense."
In actuality, the Celtics went on the attack with their defense.
Oklahoma City opened with its best offensive quarter of the season, taking a 29-21 lead through 12 minutes. But Pierce opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer with a hand in his face, and the Celtics reeled off nine straight points to take the lead on Leon Powe's three-point play.
Boston continued to pull away as Oklahoma City started out 1-for-17 in the second quarter, and Kendrick Perkins' layup provided a 46-36 edge.
Oklahoma City never made much of a dent in Boston's lead after that, and Allen's 3-pointer from the left wing made it 70-53 with 2:56 left in the third quarter.
"We've just got to take the punch the first quarter. A lot of teams come out with early gas," said point guard Rajon Rondo, who passed out 11 assists on the Celtics' balanced offense. "That's part of the game. Teams are going to make that run. We've just got to sustain our energy, continue to execute and make plays."
Kevin Garnett added 17 points and eight rebounds, and Perkins had 10 points and nine rebounds. Allen also had nine rebounds as four of Boston's starting five had eight or more.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 17 points, but had another poor shooting night in his team's new gym. He went only 6-for-15 and is 18-for-50 this season at the Ford Center. Jeff Green added 14 points for Oklahoma City, and Russell Westbrook finished with 13 after two late 3-pointers.
"We've just got to make sure that we play for 48 minutes and tonight we didn't do that, but that's a really good team so you've got to give them credit," Oklahoma City forward Desmond Mason said.
Boston moved to 1-1 on the second night of back-to-back games this season, after going 16-3 in those situations last season on its way to the NBA title.
The Celtics beat Houston 103-99 a night earlier after falling behind 6-0 at the outset, and the Thunder duplicated that fast start.
"They came in with better energy than our starters," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "I was worried about this game tonight just because the game last night was so tough and I was worried about us being sluggish.
"I thought we were, and we got away with it tonight."
At this point last season, the Celtics were still an unknown commodity as the NBA waited to see just how well Allen, Pierce and Garnett would jell together. It ended up being a championship-winning combination, and now Boston must learn to play with the proverbial target on its back.
"You don't really get used to it, but you prepare for it," Rondo said. "You've just got to stand in there and take it."
Allen also faced the unique situation of playing his former team in the new city that it relocated to after last season. He was the SuperSonics' star player for more than four seasons before getting traded to the Celtics on draft day last year and was able to avoid the turmoil of the team's subsequent move from Seattle to Oklahoma City.
He talked before the game about how he hoped the NBA would return to Seattle and said again that he'd be willing to work to make that happen.
"I think that's a good basketball part of the country. There's a lot of fans that are very knowledgeable to the game," Allen said, noting that he thought Vancouver was also a good sports town before the Grizzlies left for Memphis. "It's tough to say how many teams there should be in the NBA. It's tough to say how divisions would break down, but I just know that it worked there for the most part.
"If you throw out the disagreements that the city had with the ownership group, and it was just this past ownership group that sold to the Clay Bennett group that the city was somewhat disgruntled with, it definitely worked. I think just to have basketball not only in Portland but in Seattle, it only does better for the league."
The game was delayed about 5 minutes while the net was replaced on the Celtics' end of the court during pregame warmups and another 5 minutes because of condensation under the Thunder's basket in the second quarter. The net was replaced again at halftime. ... Boston is two games into a stretch of eight games in 12 days that includes three back-to-back sets. "This is an amazing way to start a season. That's what it is, and we know we have to somehow get out of it," Rivers said. ... Lauren Nelson, last year's Miss America, sang the national anthem. She is from Lawton, Okla. ... Celtics G J.R. Giddens, a former Oklahoma City high-school standout, was inactive in his return to his hometown.
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