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Celtics complete 16-point comeback to defeat Thunder 101-95

Celtics finally look like themselves in the second half.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

After falling behind in the first half by 16 points, the Boston Celtics completed their first major comeback win of the season to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 99-95. Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 24 points to go with 6 rebounds. Marcus Morris wasn’t far behind him with a stellar performance off the bench (21 points and 10 rebounds).

The Celtics came out slow despite urgency following a loss in Orlando. The Thunder jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead. Celtics couldn’t seem to make any wide-open looks, which is hurt the offense, obviously. Too many jumpshots. Too many passes. Bad all around.

An issue in the first was that no one is running to the offensive boards. Al Horford started looking for his shot midway through the quarter when the B.W.A. (Bench With Attitude) started to trickle in. No freethrow attempts for the Celtics came in the 1st quarter. OKC went cold at the end of the first, missing 8 straight shots and allowing Boston back in the game behind a 10-3 run.

This run was punctuated by a poster dunk by Jayson Tatum right in the grill of Paul George:

Boston shot 35% in the first quarter and trailed 22-16 behind 6 points and 5 rebounds from Al Horford. Brad Stevens after the first quarter: “One of these days, for this group, [open shots] are going to fall” (Spoiler alert: shots started to fall).

Every time the Celtics started make a run with a momentum changer, either they shot themselves in the foot or Oklahoma City stole the thunder right back. Boston’s first non-technical freethrow attempt came at the 5:57 mark of the second quarter. Kyrie Irving missed both of them. Jaylen Brown got a couple of freethrows a few trips down. 0-2. Gordon Hayward a few minutes later? 1-2. Progress.

Even the free ones gave Boston trouble. Boston let the lead get up to 16 at the end of the first half, trailing the Oklahoma City Thunder 50-34. At halftime, both Paul George (finishing with 22 points and 8 rebounds) and Jayson Tatum led their respective teams with 13 points apiece.

After going 0-12 from behind the 3-point line in the first half, Gordon Hayward opened the second half with a 3-pointer followed by a powerful Jayson Tatum slam through traffic. Boston attacked the third quarter by attacking the basket more, and the good looks came as a result. It’s actually incredible what attempting a non-jumpshot will do for your offense.

Al Horford (19 points, 9 rebounds) came alive once again in the 3rd, scoring 11 points, including a stretch with 3 straight 3-pointers. It was refreshing to see someone – anyone – get hot for any length of time. Boston rode that momentum to come all the way back from their 16-point deficit to take their first lead of the night. They ended the first quarter leading OKC 74-73 after a 40-point quarter.

The Celtics hit 0 3-pointers in the first half. They hit 9 3-pointers in the 3rd quarter.

The 4th quarter was pretty much what this game should have been from the start: a fun back-and-forth affair that showcased two of the more talented and deeper teams in the NBA. Marcus Morris really helped carry the team with superior shot-making ability, and Boston wasted no time getting in the bonus.

Things started getting out of hand midway through the 4th. Oklahoma City regained their shooting touch with players like Alex Abrines taking advantage of wide-open 3-pointers. Boston getting in the bonus so early in the game proved to be invaluable as OKC bailed out the Celtics on a couple of late possessions with freethrows early in possessions.

Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum took turns carrying the Celtics down the stretch, but the team’s unsung hero so far this season, Marcus Morris, punctuated the assault with a 3-pointer with 27 seconds left. Boston closed the game on a 16-1 run.

And that was all she wrote. The Celtics knocked down the Thunder to 0-4 while improving to 3-2 themselves. They still have a lot to figure out, but the second half tonight was a massive step in the right direction. The Celtics head to Detroit on Saturday for a bout against the undefeated Detroit Pistons next.

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