OKLAHOMA CITY – When the Boston Celtics formed their version of a Big Three, Al Horford was viewed by most as the third member of the group.
But when Gordon Hayward went down, it required all of the Boston Celtics to step up.
However, you would be hard-pressed to find another Celtic whose game has been elevated as much as Horford’s of late.
But Friday night might have been his best performance to date, leading the Celtics to a come-from-behind 101-94 win.
Horford finished with 20 points, 13 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter.
With the win, Boston (7-2) extends its league-best winning streak to seven in a row on a night when they trailed by as many as 18 points.
Boston also snapped a three-game losing skid to the Thunder (4-4).
Coming into the game, the Celtics knew they were facing a Thunder team that would provide them the stiffest challenge they’ve seen thus far defensively.
Boston came in with the league’s best defensive rating while the Thunder were right behind them at No. 2.
Indeed, Oklahoma City’s defense gave Boston major fits in the first half as they flew around to loose balls, contested shots at the rim and on the perimeter.
No one symbolized Boston’s struggles offensively early on more than their leading scorer, Kyrie Irving.
He was just 1-for-9 shooting in the first half, with his lone basket being a 3-pointer with 2:02 to play in the second quarter. But when it mattered the most, Irving put his imprint on the game with clutch shooting and solid defense before finishing with 25 points with 22 coming in the second half.
Irving’s struggles were surprising when you consider how well he has played against the Thunder in the past, especially when it came to 3-point shooting.
He came into Friday’s game shooting 47.5 percent from 3-point range in his career against the Thunder, which is the best he has shot from 3-point range against any team. You would not have known that by the way the Thunder put the defensive clamps on Irving for most of the first half in limiting him to just 1-for-4 shooting from 3-point range after the first two quarters of play.