Celtics

Morris drills game-winner to lead Celtics over Thunder, 100-99

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Morris drills game-winner to lead Celtics over Thunder, 100-99

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving was decked out in all black, as was Jaylen Brown. 

The look was fitting for the somber mood many Celtics fans are in right now with Irving’s sore left knee being worse than initially thought

These are not the best of times for the Celtics as they try and cope with yet another rash of injuries.

The Celtics may not be where they want to be fit-wise. 

But that has nothing to do with their fight which was once again alive and well. 

And Boston’s gritty effort was rewarded with a 100-99 win over Oklahoma City. 

Marcus Morris drained the go-ahead basket, a 3-pointer, with 1.2 seconds to play.

Following an Oklahoma City time-out, Russell Westbrook’s desperation heave barely grazed the rim as time expired.

Boston was indeed on the comeback trail most of the fourth quarter.

With the Celtics trailing 95-92, Westbrook missed a 3-pointer that was rebounded by Jayson Tatum. 

However, Greg Monroe was called for a foul against Steven Adams that sent the 7-footer to the free throw line with less than a minute to play. 

Adams, who had 14 points and seven rebounds made both free throws. 

But as we’ve seen with this team, they play until the final buzzer. 

After a 3-pointer by Terry Rozier made it a 99-97 game, Oklahoma City’s Carmelo Anthony missed a pair of free throws, leading to a Celtics time-out with 7.7 seconds to play which set up Morris’ game-winning basket.

Boston opened the third quarter with a 12-4 lead capped off by a Tatum 3-pointer to lead 57-52. 

But once again the Thunder rallied back and went into the fourth quarter ahead, but not nearly as comfortable as they would have liked after Boston’s Shane Larkin made a 3-pointer at the buzzer that cut the Thunder’s lead to 75-73 after three quarters of play.

The game being so close down the stretch was indicative of how it began. 

Boston and its patchwork lineup stayed within striking distance in the first quarter, but found themselves on the short end of a 13-3 run near the end of the first quarter which ended with the Thunder leading 26-18.

The Celtics spent most of the second quarter on the comeback trail, but eventually blazed a trail of prosperity that allowed them to go on an 8-0 run fueled by Rozier that put the Celtics ahead 41-36.

But the Thunder, winners of six in a row coming into tonight’s game, bounced back with back-to-back baskets in a matter of seconds to make it a one-point game.

Oklahoma City went on to score eight of the last 12 points to lead 48-45 at the half.

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Bucks approaching Game 5 as if they'll see Smart

Bucks approaching Game 5 as if they'll see Smart

BOSTON – When it comes to the playoffs, it’s always a good idea to have as many contingency plans as possible.

For the Milwaukee Bucks, that means making sure they are prepared to see Marcus Smart make his series debut tonight.

The 6-foot-4 guard has been given clearance to potentially play in tonight’s pivotal Game 5 matchup.

As much as Smart and the Celtics would love for him to be on the floor tonight, Brad Stevens cautions that his return tonight is not a given.

“He still has to go through some things later this morning after our shootaround, and then we’ll see how he feels after that,” Stevens told reporters. “If he feels good, then he’s been cleared physically to go. If he has any pain or anything comes up, then we’ll hold him out.”

Regardless of how those tests go, the Bucks are approaching Game 5 as if Smart will be on the floor at some point.

And while he hasn’t played in more than a month, the Bucks are well aware of how impactful a potential return by Smart can be.

Khris Middleton is one of the Bucks players who'll see plenty of Smart.

“He’s a competitor,” Middleton told NBC Sports Boston. “He goes hard. He’s a crafty player, a smart player. Great defensive player. So, you’ve just gotta be smart with him. He’s a guy that can make plays with the ball in his hands and knock down some big shots. Just gotta do a great job of trying to contain him if he plays tonight. We’ve just gotta be aware of him on the defensive side.”

Milwaukee interim coach Joe Prunty acknowledged Smart is indeed on the scouting report for tonight’s game.

“We know how he plays. We know how he plays within their system,” Prunty said. “He’ll definitely add an element for them. If he does play, we’re prepared for that.”

A potential Smart return comes at a time when the Celtics’ defense, which came into the postseason with a league-best defensive rating of 101.5, has actually been among the worst defenses in the playoffs.

Boston’s has had a defensive rating of 99.1 when Smart has played.

And while there’s no telling if Smart in the lineup will make that big a difference to the team’s defense against the Bucks, there’s no denying Smart playing tonight will provide a much-needed boost for Boston.

“He does a good job for them at both ends of the floor, by defending and on offense, moving the ball, facilitate a lot on the offensive end for them,” said Milwaukee’s Thon Maker. “With us, we have to find a way to match his energy if he does play tonight.”

Even though Smart hasn’t played in a competitive game in more than a month, the Bucks have every intention of going at him as though he had played in every game of this series.

“He’s still been working,” Middleton said. “You can’t disrespect him just because he hasn’t played in a while. You have to play him like he’s been playing all year long or this whole series, which is, get after him some too.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE