The Oklahoma City Thunder led the Boston Celtics 90-75 with 4:11 left in the third quarter but to quote Jaylen Brown, the energy shifted.
In a 126-122 high scoring affair the Thunder actually had control for most of the game. Their length and intensity through about 34 minutes of this game caused trouble for the now east leading Celtics. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued to cement himself as an all-star caliber player scoring 37 points on 50% shooting. Furthermore, young talent like Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, and Aleksej Pokusevski showed flashes but it wasn’t enough in the end.
The third quarter was ended on a 14-6 run with the help of one Payton Pritchard.
Pritchard, who spent much of the early season on the bench, has benefited from the Malcolm Brogdon injury. Firstly, he has averaged 8.6 pts and 3.6 reb in only 15 minutes over his last three games. Secondly, his effort has been infectious. Pritchard has 11 rebounds his last three games which is good for a guard his size but nothing remarkable. What moves you is that eight of those boards are OFFENSIVE. He had four against Denver and added three more here against OKC. His hustle is on full display here on the Celtics play of the year so far.
Lastly, His timely three later followed by a steal and buzzer-beating layup to end the third gave the Celtics the momentum they needed to enter the fourth. In that quarter the one loved and trusted by all took over.
Marcus Smart had another stellar game finishing with totals of 22 pts, 5 reb, and 8 ast. 20 of his 22 points came in the second half, scoring 10 in each of the last two quarters.
Marcus is widely known for his defensive prowess following his Defensive Player of the Year campaign last year. Consequently, his offense has become undervalued. Marcus’ stocky and strong build allows him to be one of the best post-up guards in the league. According to BBall Index, Smart ranks in the 91st percentile in post-up impact per 75 possessions. His fearless approach along with that size makes him successful posting up anyone even guys bigger than him. Sometimes his fearless attitude on the offensive end has caused him to take some ill-advised shots but this year he’s in more control.
Above all, his playmaking has been truly remarkable. In his last five games, Marcus has three 10+ assists games and 45 total over that span. Furthermore, he is taking care of the rock. In those five games he has an incredible 7.5 asts/tov ratio.The playmaking burden didn’t seem to be too much for Smart to handle last year and now that the team has added another playmaker in Brogdon, it has allowed him to play freely.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum quietly had solid all around games. Jaylen ended with 25, 6, and 6 and really kept the Celtics within striking distance with his 18 first half points. Tatum shot the ball poorly (39%), but his approach never wavered. He was 8 of 10 from the line which allowed him to have 27 pts on only nine field goals. Tatum’s steady stellar play coupled with Boston’s success has him climbing MVP ladders everywhere. He added 10 rebounds and played tremendous defense just like the whole team did in the fourth quarter.
After a historically good 2021-2022 season defensively, the Celtics have dipped a good amount on that end through 14 games.
Last year the Celtics ranked first in defensive rating (106.9), opponent’s points per game (104.5), and opponent’s field goal percentage (43.4%) according to Basketball Reference. However, this year they rank 24th in defensive rating and 14th in opponent’s points per game. But, when you have the top-rated offensive of ALL TIME through 14 games, you will be fine if you get timely stops and that was tonight.
OKC committed 13 of their 19 turnovers in the 2nd half and had 7 in the fourth quarter. OKC got off a game low 21 shots in the 4th quarter scoring 21 points from the field. The intensity on defense picked up for the Celtics and the young Thunder were coughing the ball up along which ultimately caused them the game. Overall, a great flip of the switch game from the C’s.
Next Game : Wednesday November 16th, Vs. Atlanta Hawks
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