Celtics

Brown and Tatum's balanced effort critical in C's win over Thunder

Celtics

It didn't look like the Boston Celtics were going to have enough to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder through three quarters on Saturday night. Every time the Celtics get close, the Thunder would find a way to pull away ever so slightly.

But in the fourth quarter, the pendulum swung wildly in the favor of Boston. They outscored the Thunder 35-14 and went on a 19-0 run to earn a 111-94 victory on the second night of a back-to-back.

While the fourth quarter clearly was the most impressive part of the game for the C's, there were some other performances that were critical for the team as they stayed competitive with the upstart OKC team.

Notably, the balance from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in the second half helped Boston to emerge with their 23rd win of the season. As a result, they finished their five-game week with a 3-2 record.

Here are three quick observations from the C's win over the Thunder.

1. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum each carry Celtics for a quarter

The Celtics were trailing by five points to the Thunder at halftime. They struggled to score, and Brown and Tatum had combined for just 17 points on 6-of-24 shooting.

But in the second half, things changed. Brown and Tatum ratcheted up their effort, got into a scoring groove, and ultimately carried the team to victory.

The two All-Stars complemented each other nicely. Brown did his own thing and led the way in the third quarter while Tatum was hot in the fourth. The balance from those two allowed the C's to emerge with a victory.

 

Dynamic duo

Brown's points in 3rd quarter
13
Tatum's points in 4th quarter
13

With each star taking over their own quarter, the C's were able to overcome the deficit they faced against the Thunder for the first three quarters. Brown kept them in the game with his 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the third quarter while Tatum sparked a 19-0 run for the C's to pull away in the fourth.

Too often this year, Tatum and Brown have gone cold simultaneously. But if they can each pick and choose their spots to go off as they did on Saturday, the C's will be in a good place.

That's easier said than done, but it would be a good start for the C's as they look to improve their ability to close out games.

2. Payton Pritchard saved Celtics in first half

While Tatum and Brown were key forces in the second half, Pritchard did a lot to keep the C's in the game in the first half.

On nights that Kemba Walker has had to sit in the past, the Celtics often have struggled to find significant scoring contributions outside of the two Jays.

But Saturday night against the Thunder, they were able to get just that. Pritchard provided them a key spark in the first half when they desperately needed it.

The C's started the game ice-cold and were trailing the Thunder big in the first quarter, 14-5. Then, halfway through the period, Pritchard came into the game for Tatum, and he helped to kick-start the Boston offense.

It all began one a little floater off a follow. Once Pritchard saw that one go in, he was able to get going.

Pritchard was also one of the few players who was able to carry over his hot shooting from Friday night into Saturday. He made some deep shots that had a high degree of difficulty, like this tricky step-back.

His foot was on the line, but those were still two points that the Celtics desperately needed to make up ground against the Thunder.

It wasn't just the scoring though. Pritchard also had five first-half rebounds and was motoring around the court. His hustle seemed to wake up the C's and started the process of getting them back into the game.

Pritchard finished the night with 12 points (all in the first half) and a career-high seven rebounds. He was a much-needed jolt for the team early, so hopefully he'll continue to play well, especially when Kemba is out in the future.

3. Luke Kornet looks good in Celtics debut

Not much was thought of Luke Kornet when he came over in a three-team trade with the Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and Washington Wizards. Most of the energy was focused on Moritz Wagner.

However, against the Thunder, Kornet proved to be a critical asset for the C's, especially in the fourth quarter.

Kornet checked in for the first time during the second half and on the first play of the fourth quarter, he had the ball in his hands. He immediately found Tatum cutting to the hoop on a perfect bounce pass for an easy jam.

 

Later on, Kornet continued to make strong plays on the offensive side of the floor, especially when Moses Brown was guarding him.

Kornet hung out on the perimeter on back-to-back plays and turned passes from Smart and Tatum into 3-point makes. Those two shots gave the C's their first lead of the day and then extended it to six.

That keyed a 19-0 Celtics run that put the pressure on the Thunder and was the first step for the Celtics as they closed out the game.

Kornet finished the day with eight points and five rebounds and went 2-of-3 from 3-point range. He looked good doing it and posted a ridiculous plus-21 in just 13 minutes of action.

Maybe he was more than a throw-in to the Theis deal after all.