Celtics

Stars, studs, and duds: Irving and Horford shine in second half vs Thunder

Stars, studs, and duds: Irving and Horford shine in second half vs Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY – What a whirlwind of a game this was for Kyrie Irving. 

The rim seemed like a moving target that Irving could never lock on to in the first half, only to absolutely dominate the Oklahoma City Thunder in leading the Celtics to a 101-94 come-from-behind win that extended their winning streak to a league-best seven in a row. 

After starting off 1-for-9 shooting, Irving bounced back with a 9-for-13 shooting display in the second half and finished with a team-high 25 points. 

I asked him what adjustments did he make to his game at halftime. 

“I didn’t really make any adjustments,” he said. “The first four shots I took, they were pretty good looks. They were loading up on the weak-side when me and Al (Horford) were coming off our pick-and-rolls. It just took a matter of time for us to settle in.”

Once that happened, the defense began to click, shots began to fall more often and the Celtics delivered an unexpected victory on a night when they fell behind by as many as 18 points. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens was pleased with how Irving and the rest of his teammates played with poise in the second half after a first half in which very little went their way. 

“Being able to stay the course and focus on the next task is important, and it’s hard to do,” Stevens said. 

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday’s 101-94 Boston Celtics win over the Oklahoma City Thunder which extended the Celtics’ league-best winning streak to seven in a row. 

STARS

Al Horford: One big shot after another fell for Horford in the fourth quarter as he delivered yet another strong performance in helping lead the Celtics to victory. He finished with a 20 points, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter to go along with eight rebounds and four assists.

Kyrie Irving: After a first half Irving would just as soon forget ASAP, he bounced back in the second with arguably his most impressive game of the season. Irving led all Celtics with 25 points, 22 of which came in the second half after he missed eight of his nine shot attempts in the first half. He also had six assists and five rebounds. 

Paul George: He spent most of the first half as the game’s dominant performer, and still finished with a strong game in leading the Thunder with a double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Russell Westbrook: It was another night in which Westbrook seemed on pace for a triple-double, but a not-so-great showing in the second half - 7 points on 3-for-10 shooting with three turnovers which nearly equaled his four assists – had Westbrook finishing with a double-double of 19 points and 11 assists with six rebounds.

 

STUDS

Jaylen Brown: The more he plays, the more he figures out exactly what he needs to contribute when his shots not falling. Brown was just 3-for-8 shooting, but finished with a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds. 

Marcus Morris: There was some clear and undeniable rust on his game after such a long layoff, but Morris’ presence was definitely needed and was among the factors contributing to Boston’s victory. In addition to doing a solid job defensively against Carmelo Anthony, Morris also had nine points and four rebounds with a plus/minus of +11 that was second only to Kyrie Irving (+15).

 

DUDS

Carmelo Anthony: The Celtics collectively defended him well all game. While he was one of four players on the night to have a double-double, Anthony’s impact was minimal. He had 10 points on 3-for-17 shooting to go with a game-high 14 rebounds.

BEST OF BST PODCAST: Celtics can't get it done without Kyrie

best_of_bst_podcast.jpg

BEST OF BST PODCAST: Celtics can't get it done without Kyrie

0:41 - With Kyrie Irving out with shoulder soreness the Celtics looked like a shell of themselves, losing to the 76ers, 89-80. A. Sherrod Blakely joins Michael Holley and D.J. Bean from the TD Garden to break down the loss.

7:43 - Tom Brady is injured! This is not a drill! Brady missed practice on Thursday and remains a question mark for the AFC Championship Game. Tom Giles, Jeff Howe, D.J. Bean and Tom Curran discuss the severity of the injury.

15:09 - Dave Dombrowski’s plan for the upcoming season - or lack of one - has continued to confuse everyone, though he made it clear that he’s not waiting for next year’s huge free agent class. Michael Holley, Tom Giles and Tom Curran react to Dealin’ Dave’s comments on the situation.

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE

Kyrie Irving: Sitting out with shoulder injury 'just precautionary'

Kyrie Irving: Sitting out with shoulder injury 'just precautionary'

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving has long since understood the balancing act he must walk between embracing the moment while being mindful of the big picture. 

That’s why the decision to sit out Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia was one that, while certainly didn’t do Boston any favors against the Sixers on Thursday, does provide him some much-needed down time to rest his sore left shoulder.

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Sixers

The good news is that tests taken on the shoulder show no structural damage. And with the way the schedule is shaping up now, Irving will have plenty of time to rest and be ready to play when the Celtics return to the floor on Sunday to host the Orlando Magic. 

“Just precautionary stuff, making sure everything's alright from a strength perspective,” was how Irving described the injury. “Obviously a few days will put me where I need to be. And we'll just see what goes on for Sunday's game, but you know it's nothing too crazy, just giving me a little discomfort over the last few weeks and I've just been playing through it doing what's best in terms of preparing best for every single game. I thought it was best just to get a few tests and make sure everything's alright so, everything's cool.”

Irving said the tests came back negative which is a huge positive for the Celtics and Irving who was selected as an NBA all-star starter for next month’s game. 

As far as how it happened, Irving said there was no specific event or play in which he suffered a blow to the shoulder or anything like that. 

“Gradual soreness” is how Irving described the injury.  “You know, kinda going into my shot, driving left, just not feeling as confident as I would like to be and just thought it would be best just to take a day or two to get it evaluated, meet with our medical staff, meet with our strength conditioning coach and strengthen it up and then hopefully go on Sunday.”

The Celtics (34-12) have now lost two of the three games they played this season without Irving. It's a small sample size, but there’s no denying the impact that a healthy Irving has on this roster when it comes to impacting winning. 

“First off, I just had to make sure some of the major parts of my shoulder just weren't damaged,” said Irving who added, “And then at this point it's just a strength program and doing what's best with that.” 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE