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Celtics-Thunder halftime hot takes

Ahead 65-51 at the break, the Celtics are one solid half away from their fourth straight win.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Oklahoma City Thunder Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Quick injury update

The Celtics are without two of their Defensive Player of the Year candidates tonight, Marcus Smart (illness) and Robert Williams (right patella tendinopathy). But before you begin to worry, it’s worth noting that neither Smart nor Williams is expected to be out long, according to head coach Ime Udoka.

Aside from being down two defensive stalwarts, Boston’s injury report is spotless — nobody else is out with an injury. Aaron Nesmith is available after missing multiple games with a sprained ankle, but has yet to see the floor. Just a stone’s throw away from the NBA postseason, Celtics fans should be encouraged about this team’s clean bill of health *knocks on several wooden objects*.

“Batman” came to play

Twenty-four hours removed from clamping down 2021 NBA MVP Nikola “The Joker” Jokic in Denver, Grant Williams put together a torrid start to this game on the offensive end. Just 6:30 into the contest, Williams already accumulated 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting. Even more impressive than the point total is the various methods he used to find the net. For example, he connected on his patented corner three and made some timely cuts for at-the-rim looks to boot.

Williams has evolved into a cerebral player for the Celtics this season. He is spacing the floor for Tatum and Brown, making timely dives to the front of the net when they’re doubled, and expertly employing his size and strength to make life nightmarish for bigs on defense. Williams’ high basketball IQ has been brilliant on both ends for several months now. After a sophomore slump, he has truly found his footing as a pro.

Derrick White’s shooting slump continues

White’s playmaking, slashing, and perimeter defense have all been excellent in his time in Boston so far. But the three-point shooting? Not so much. White was never a knockdown shooter in his time with the Spurs (34.6% from deep last season), but he was a reliable threat when open. Fast forward to the current day, and White is shooting a dreadful 21.7% on threes with the Celtics and has hit just one of his last eighteen, including an 0-for-2 start tonight.

While it’s too early to fret too much about White’s shooting woes, he needs to turn things around sooner rather than later. If he wants to play a large role in the playoffs, as many expect, he needs to knock down his looks from three and in general. If not, teams will be able to sag off White on the perimeter in the postseason, which could come back to bite Boston’s offense.