1. This was a good win for the Celtics, even if it looked a little dicey for about three quarters of the game. Boston has to beat bad teams the rest of the way. Coming off a big win over the Bucks on a back-to-back with several players out, it was bound to be a trap game for the Celtics. If Boston was winning with regularity, you could have written it off as a schedule loss.
As it stands, because they continue to hover around .500, the Celtics can’t afford even a schedule loss against a bad team. It took a while to get going, but it was good to see Boston put together a big fourth quarter for a victory.
2. It wasn’t his best game offensively, but Grant Williams had a major impact defensively and on the boards. Williams got the start, as Boston went a bit bigger with Kemba Walker sitting out. He grabbed seven rebounds, snagged two steals and blocked a shot. And he was regularly contesting attempts by Isaiah Roby and Aleksej Pokusevski.
Williams lone basket was something Boston should go to more. He’s got a solid post-up game. This could be a way to steady the offense when the Celtics are struggling:
3. As Boston muddled through the first half, Payton Pritchard helped keep them within striking distance. All 12 of Pritchard’s points came before the break. In the second half, with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum getting going, Pritchard focused on being a ball-mover and setting up the offense.
Pritchard said postgame that he wants to be aggressive, but that his mindset has changed since Jeff Teague was traded. Pritchard said he knows he’s the primary backup point guard now and that allows him to play more freely. This lefty finish was a new one from the rookie and a sign of him diversifying his game a bit:
4. Marcus Smart’s role might be a little different with Evan Fournier eventually joining Boston’s rotation. Will Smart start or return to his “stretch six” role off the bench? It probably doesn’t matter. He’ll play a lot no matter what and will be a factor in closing lineups. What does matter is Smart remains the Celtics best playmaker for others. He had eight assists against the Thunder, as he focused on a distribution role.
This is super simple, but good basketball:
And this is the kind of pass that only Smart makes on this team. His head is up immediately and he hooks up with Jaylen Brown for the strong finish for the and-1:
5. Aaron Nesmith got a good amount of run. Nothing from the box score line will jump out at you, but he’s starting to figure things out pretty quickly now. This lob to Tacko Fall is a play Nesmith would have tried to score on earlier in the season. It’s also a good, quick roll by Fall:
Brad Stevens called this shot one of the more important ones in the game, as it kept Boston right there at the end of the third quarter. Jayson Tatum accepts the double-team and passes to Nesmith. Instead of trying to make something happen off the dribble, Nesmith immediately swings it to Carsen Edwards (who played well with 12 big points) for the wide-open corner three:
Nesmith has made hustle plays all year long. Those are starting to pay off now. Two Thunder players are closer to this loose ball than Nesmith is. Nesmith gets it and races the other way for a layup:
6. Boston made the game a blowout with a huge fourth quarter. They outscored Oklahoma City 35 to 14 in the final period. While you wish it didn’t take that long, it’s good to see the Celtics have that ability in them. For a second straight night, they were able to steal a little bit of in-game rest for their key players.
7. Jaylen Brown has become a pretty crafty finisher. He’s got one of the better jump-stop moves in the league. Brown has also gotten good at using head fakes to get the defense to bite. And he’s strong enough to finish through a lot of contact too:
The basket above and this next one was part of Brown putting Boston on his back in the third period. Brown hit 5-of-6 shots for 13 points in the third, as he kept the Celtics in the game. This lefty jump-hook was a new move for Brown and shows some of his growth as a scorer in tight quarters:
8. Jayson Tatum took over from Brown in the fourth quarter, as Boston took the lead and pulled away. He scored 13 points to help close out the game. This one-legged fallaway was Dirk Nowitzki-like and helped Tatum get going in the third quarter:
9. Luke Kornet made his Celtics debut and had a major impact. This was a simple set-play to open the fourth quarter, but it got Kornet involved and showed off his passing chops:
A couple of minutes later, Kornet hit his first shot as a Celtic and it gave Boston their first lead of the game:
On the next trip down, Kornet buried another three-pointer and the Thunder never threatened again. Kornet also contributed as a defender and on the glass as well. Overall, Kornet played 13 straight minutes from the end of the third quarter to almost the end of the fourth quarter and was a big reason the Celtics won.
10. Now, it’s back to Boston with two in a row on the plus side. The Celtics are back to .500, but they are set up to make a nice run moving forward. No team in the NBA will play more home games the rest of the way than the Celtics will. And they’ll welcome fans back to TD Garden this week.
Boston has seven straight home games over the next two weeks. Most of those are against teams the Celtics should beat. As Marcus Smart said postgame: “We have our fans coming in. It’s time for us to play Celtics basketball and make this run.”