A clutch steal by Marcus Smart in the last minute of regulation in Oklahoma on February 9th was all that separated these two teams last time they met. These two competitive squads are evenly matched as Boston hosted the Thunder on Sunday afternoon after downing the Knicks in New York by 23 points, two nights prior.
Kemba Walker, who struggled vs. the Jazz Friday night got into the swing of things with an early triple and found Marcus Smart wide open for a corner three. Jayson Tatum also got going with some nice work on Ferguson in the high post scoring of a one dribble spin move.
In a back and forth first period, Celtics Rookie Romeo Langford produced a nice cameo late in the quarter as the Thunder led by 3 points 29-26. As the second quarter got underway fellow Rookie Grant Williams had a chase down block early in the second quarter. The productivity of the bench has come into question recently, but it was the young guys who carried the Celtics for a stretch.
Cue Robert Williams who also got an extended run in the second quarter and had several key plays. He had a finger tip block on Dennis Schroder and got out running for a loud slam as the Celtics took the lead.
After taking a shot to the face blocking the taller Danilo Gallinari on the low block, Gordon Hayward nailed a three pointer off a quick catch with 4 minutes the second quarter. Jayson Tatum followed suit with a pair of his own triples as the Celtics went on a big run behind some good trapping D to take a big lead of eleven into the half 63-52.
The ever present sleepwalking after halftime crept into play for these Celtics once more as Chris Paul orchestrated a 9-0 run as the Thunder cut the lead to 5 before Coach Brad Stevens. Containing the mercurial Chris Paul is always a challenge for the C’s, with the extensive pick and roll action deployed by the Thunder. Paul went for 14 in the 3rd was lethal in the mid-range pacing OKC back to within 1 point 84-83.
Gordon Hayward had a fantastic return to the team, leading the way shooting 4-7 from three and logging 25 points. His shooting form was near perfect as he looked to shoot off the catch at every opportunity.
Marcus Smart started once more in place of Jaylen Brown, despite a slow shooting night early, he went full Cobra mode to start the 4th with a loose ball chase down and a fast break take for the and-1. A few plays later the fired up Celtics saw Romeo Langford climb the ladder for the two-handed tip-in dunk over two Thunder defenders.
With the Celtics trading body blows with the Thunder Dennis Schroder stepped into a big long range three pointer to take the lead with 6:30 to go. A late-game coaches challenge proved favourable for the Celtics with the reversal of a three point foul call on Marcus Smart. However, with a string of turnovers including a crucial Kemba Walker miss dribble into Dennis Schroder, Jayson Tatum had a chance to win it late, but missed at the buzzer, as the Celtics gift wrapped the Thunder the win.