After an electric win over the Los Angeles Lakers last night, the Boston Celtics just barely took care of business tonight. Despite a late-game scare, they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on night two of a back-to-back, winning 111-105. While defense has been the key to success for most of this season, Boston’s offense led the way against the Thunder.
Before the game, head coach Ime Udoka spoke about the Celtics’ success driving and finishing against the Lakers the other night. “We were very aggressive if we had a matchup we liked,” he stated. “We penetrated and kicked to open guys… it’s really what I’m yelling about most of the time.”
Well, the Celtics heard Udoka’s cries ahead of the game. The drive-and-kick game acted as their primary form of offensive attack and it worked to perfection. Dennis Schroder, Marcus Smart, and Jayson Tatum found a ton of success as playmakers, while guys like Grant Williams reaped the rewards.
The C’s ended the night with 28 assists on 41 made shots. Smart led the way in that category with eight dimes, followed by Al Horford (7), and Schroder (6). The team’s passing game was on-point throughout the contest, as everyone was always willing and able to make the extra pass.
Schroder continued his revenge tour, dominating yet another one of his former teams. He tallied 29 points on the night. The German point guard carried the ball-handling duties for Boston and found a ton of success finishing at the rim. Schroder was also able to dominate the mid-range, picking apart Oklahoma City’s defense. NBC Boston’s Mike Gorman explained it perfectly during the broadcast, proclaiming, “that in-between game is his.”
Tatum also managed to put on a show. He followed up his elite, 37-point performance against the Lakers with a 33-point game. He started off by taking a couple of ill-advised step-back threes, but quickly found a rhythm by driving to the paint and draining a couple of mid-range shots. Once he did that, the three-pointers started falling and the floodgates opened. He was on fire for the rest of the night.
As those two dominated the scoring column, it opened up opportunities for others, too. As mentioned, Williams was getting open looks left and right off of drive-and-kick plays. The third-year forward ended with 14 points while shooting 4-6 from deep.
The game wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though. There were a couple of times throughout the contest where the Thunder was able to make a run. The Celtics gave up a few too many open shots in the third quarter but fought off that run to go up big going into the fourth. However, a late fourth-quarter run had Celtics fans sick to their stomach. Boston abandoned the amazing offense they had been playing up to that point, and Oklahoma City was capitalizing on that opportunity to make a comeback. Udoka was visibly frustrated when he was forced to take a timeout.
Oklahoma City’s biggest issue was the inability to convert open looks. They got solid contributions from a few different players, but none of them were particularly efficient. Shai Gilegous-Alexander, Lu Dort, and rookie Josh Giddey all had over 10 points, but they all shot below 40 percent from the field. However, some lackadaisical play in the fourth allowed the young and hungry Thunder to inch their way back into the game.
Udoka won’t be too happy that he had to put the starters back in to close things out, but the Celtics got the win, regardless. They are above .500 for the first time this season. Boston will have a chance to make it three wins in a row this Monday when they take on the Houston Rockets. That game tips off at 7:30 p.m. (EST) and can be streamed on NBC Sports Boston and NBA League Pass.
For more postgame coverage of the Celtics wire-to-wire win against the Thunder, tune into the the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown. Plus, the guys will discuss Jayson Tatum’s recent resurgence and the potential returns of Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams.