Friday, October 26, 2018

All It Took Was Some Fun

The Celtics stormed back from a 16-point halftime deficit against the Thunder last night in a 101-95 victory.

Boston closed the game on a commanding 16-1 run. They also poured in 40 points in the third quarter after scoring just 34 in the entire first half.

Something clearly sparked a change during halftime. Who would have guessed that the adjustment was something as simple as remembering to have fun?

The Canadian Press
As Jayson Tatum told reporters after the game, “Nobody was smiling. Nobody was having fun. And that was the difference in the second half.”

He also said Brad Stevens told the Celtics they were playing well and just needed to loosen up.

Many coaches might not react that composedly to a team that missed all eleven three-point attempts in the first half while exhibiting frustrated body language and overall lack of confidence.

But their struggles gave way to renewed energy and big smiles at the start of the third quarter when the Celtics caught fire and knocked down nine three pointers in less than ten minutes.

Overall, Boston outscored Oklahoma City 67-45 in the second half. Marcus Morris played a critical role off the bench with 21 points and 10 rebounds. He also led the team in plus/minus (+16) and drilled a three-pointer with 28.7 seconds left to give Boston a 98-95 lead.

Four Celtics (Tatum, Morris, Al Horford, Kyrie Irving) finished with at least 15 points as teamwork and quick ball movement facilitated their second-half scoring barrage.

Tatum tied his season-high with 24 points, leading the Celtics in scoring for the third time in five games. The dynamic 20-year-old is already playing at an All-Star level with averages of 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.

Horford also energized the offense when he shockingly knocked down three treys in a 41-second span.

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Horford gave credit to his point guard, saying that “Kyrie looked at me and said ‘Hey, we’ve got to set the tone. We have to be more aggressive.’”

Aggression and confidence are vital to the Celtics’ success. They have one of the most talented and versatile rosters in the NBA and a brilliant head coach.

They also currently rank atop the Association in defensive rating by a significant margin.

This is largely thanks to four players (Horford, Tatum, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart) who could each garner consideration for Defensive Player of the Year.

Boston has not dominated opponents, but the season outlook is trending up with last night’s performance serving as a stark reminder to the rest of the NBA that the Celtics are still clearly one of the fiercest teams.

As Irving and Gordon Hayward continue working back to full health, game-changing explosive scoring runs will become more common.

According to Irving, “We’re capable of doing that any quarter, anytime… It felt good to go out there and focus on who we are as a team, and how special we can be.”

The Celtics will keep shaking off the rust and gradually improving as Stevens implements a variety of effective lineup combinations that fully access the wide range of talent on one of the Association’s deepest rosters.

It will not be long before the Celtics find their groove as they continue to grind towards ambitious postseason goals.


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