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.

Celtics are calm, focused, and ready for Game 4

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Celtics are calm, focused, and ready for Game 4

MILWAUKEE – Inside the Boston Celtics locker room, there was an unmistakable calm among the players moments removed from a 116-92 thumping at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Players talked among themselves about what went wrong, about what they will do different in Game 4 on Sunday but more than anything else, they owned the loss.

There was no finger-pointing or second-guessing the head coaches’ player rotations or not-so-stealth putdowns of an opposing player who had been playing well – all things done by the Bucks thus far in this series.

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The post-game highlights were still in heavy rotation, but the Celtics had already moved on mentally to Sunday’s Game 4 matchup.

“They did what they had to do. It is what it is,” Marcus Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “Can’t dwell on it. We’ll see them on Sunday.”

As much as Boston has been a team that’s built upon a “Next Man Up” framework, an “on-to-the-next-game” mindset is also deeply woven into this team’s DNA.

That’s why win or lose, the Celtics don’t spend much time thinking or talking about what just happened.

And it is games like the one we saw on Friday where that approach is absolutely critical to them continuing along a successful path and not let rough nights such as Friday’s beatdown, derail them.

More than anything else, the Celtics have extracted elements beyond the X’s and O’s of Friday’s loss as their takeaways in helping improve their overall play for Sunday.

It’s easy to forget that Friday’s game was the first time this team had played a postseason road game together which any NBA veteran will tell you, is different than what you experience during the regular season.

Boston’s Al Horford believes having gone through that with this group for the first time on Friday, will benefit the Celtics in Game 4.

“We learned what the level of intensity is when you’re playing in the playoffs on the road,” Horford said. “At home, you feel good. You’re comfortable and confident. Even though we’ve been playing on the road all year, it’s different in the playoffs.

Horford added, “it’s a good learning experience for our group.”

And while there are sure to be adjustments made on Boston’s part, don’t expected them to stray too far away from who they have been all season.

“We’re super excited about Sunday,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “(Friday), we dropped the ball. We feel like we could have played a lot better. We can’t wait for Sunday, and we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing all year.”

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Morris fined $15,000 for criticism of officiating

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File Photo

Morris fined $15,000 for criticism of officiating

MILWAUKEE – Marcus Morris has been fined $15,000 for “public criticism” of officiating relating to Boston’s 116-92 loss to Milwaukee on Friday night.

Following the loss, Morris was asked about the technical foul he received after some brief words with Bucks forward/center Thon Maker.

Morris was the only player whistled for a technical foul for either team.

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"I can't even speak on it, man," Morris told reporters when asked about the technical foul. "It's been the same (bleep) all year. I'm expecting it. They knew what they wanted before the game started. They knew who they wanted to go after.”

Morris was ejected in a Celtics win over Toronto on March 31, and afterwards tapped the official on his backside as he left the court.

Since then, Morris has sensed officials were giving him the cold shoulder and to a lesser degree, not giving him the same benefit of the doubt or leeway as other players.

After the ejection, Morris took to Twitter to apologize for making contact with an official.

“Sorry @NBA for smacking the ref ass after getting ejected. I see other refs took offense to it. My apologies

— Marcus Morris (@MookMorris2)”

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