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The Read & React: rumble young man rumble

With five players nursing injuries, it’s the 20-year-old rookie that’s stepping up at the end of the regular season.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Keith Smith: Somehow this shorthanded Celtics team keeps battling and hanging in games. Each night is a different guy stepping forward. Marcus Morris hit the game-winner, but the guy who got them there was Jayson Tatum.

Tatum scored 23 on 8-of-12 from the floor and grabbed 11 rebounds, his first 20/11 effort of his young career. But most impressive might have been his four assists. Tatum has been a good scorer since day one, but his playmaking for others has grown more than any other skill in his considerably deep toolbox. The find to Morris for the game-winner is just the latest example. And it showed Brad Stevens faith in him, as the final play was drawn up for Tatum to either shoot or pass.

OK...I lied. The most impressive thing Tatum did was the filthy crossover to the step-back for a triple in Corey Brewer’s face. Each game he seemingly breaks out something new and as long as Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown are out, Boston will need every bit of it.

Bill Sy: It’s hard to criticize the Celtics on a night where Moose, Mook, and the Rook were instrumental in beating a healthy Thunder team who were 10-3 since the All Star break. However, this was the worst I’ve seen Al Horford play in a while. Admittedly, it’s one game and he’s knocking off rust after missing two games from illness. However, last night on offense, he seemed pressed and really looking to score when at times, it wasn’t there.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

What I’ve noticed teams doing in the second half of the season is pressing up against Boston’s bigs, particularly Horford. Whenever Al gets the ball in the high post and in a comfortable position to make a play for the Celtics’ athletic wings, defenders are crowding Horford; he’s not much of a threat to drive past his defender and he’s forced to pass the ball away from the basket rather than facing up to look for shooters and cutters. Last night, he had seven assists with most of them coming off making the next pass in the play progression. Unfortunately, there were a few times where he tried to make a play off the dribble or thread a needle in traffic that lead to four turnovers.

Before you hit the comment section, chill, Horford stans. I’m a big Al fan. He was fantastic (again) on defense and you can see him getting back into the flow of things. While he may be pressing a little with so many injured players on the mend, I’m confident he’ll get back to his team player role when everyone comes back.

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