OKLAHOMA CITY — It’s a sports tenet coaches and players love to recite, a line that has turned cliché through decades of usage: Wins are never ugly and should never be unappreciated.
There’s some truth to that, and the Celtics won’t nitpick one bit if they bounce the Thunder on Sunday.
A win of any flavor in the always-boisterous Chesapeake Energy Arena, where the Thunder are 27-4, would sit atop the mountain of Celtics wins in recent memory.
But, all that said, coach Doc Rivers is less than thrilled with how the Celtics have recently closed out games, despite the fact they have been winning them.
Sure, the Celtics have been the victor in five consecutive games, but their average margin of victory has been 5.2 points, with two wins coming in overtime.
Part of the issue, Rivers said after the 107-102 overtime win Friday against Atlanta, is that the Celtics ease up once they lead by double digits.
The Celtics, Rivers went on, then give up on the up-tempo style that built the lead and just hand the keys to the offense to their captain, Paul Pierce.
“The habit we get into, to me, is when we get a lead, we want Paul to bring the ball up every time down,” Rivers said. “And that’s not what we want. We want to get the ball up the floor and the ball will find Paul.
“It just seems like we get safe all of the sudden. We get the lead by being aggressive and then all of the sudden we get into these safe modes.
“Listen, you can’t blame them. If I’m Courtney [Lee], I’m going to throw the ball to Paul, too. But I would rather for us to just see if we can get something and then see if we can set it up.”
Kevin Garnett bristled at a question about whether the Celtics need to improve on putting teams away.
“We’re not perfect, Holmes,” Garnett said. “New people — same system, new guys in it. We’re playing an NBA team. We’re not playing high school, middle school teams.
“We’re playing other teams that have great, great talent on their team, being well coached by good coaches.
“And you have to anticipate beating someone in someone else’s gym on the road, like Philly, they play really well at home, we grind that out. Indiana plays really well at home, we grind that out. Now, at home, we played a really, really good Atlanta team and had to go to overtime and grind that out.
“So, give other teams credit, too. They’re good, too. It’s a grind-out thing.”
Take them along
D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph were on the team flight here Saturday, a strong indication that the Celtics will re-sign them to 10-day contracts. White’s initial 10-day contract was set to expire at midnight Saturday and Randolph’s is set to expire at midnight Sunday.
Jordan Crawford has blended into the Celtics nicely since joining the team Feb. 21 after a trade with Washington. “He does have a pretty good role: be aggressive and shoot the ball,” said Rivers. “That’s a sweet role to have for anybody. But he’s doing the other things. He’s playing defense and he’s making the right passes.” Crawford’s averaging 5.6 points in 13.6 minutes since joining the team. “It’s important for the coach to let me play my game,” Crawford said. “I’m glad he shows faith in me.”Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BaxterHolmes.