The Boston Celtics and the Oklahoma City Thunder engaged in a close game Sunday night at TD Garden. While the Celtics held a double-digit lead at halftime, they gradually let the game go, which created a back-and-forth fourth quarter.
Ultimately, the Celtics weren't able to win against the Thunder. Dennis Schroder had a late-game steal and layup to put the Thunder up one point with 8.5 seconds left. Jayson Tatum missed the Celtics' final chance to earn a victory.
Here are three instant overreactions to the Celtics' loss, starting with the return of Gordon Hayward.
1. Gordon Hayward should keep shooting the mid-range shot
Verdict: Not an overreaction
Taking too many mid-range shots is frowned upon in the modern NBA. The reason behind that is analytically based, as teams value shots close to the bucket and only view longer-range shots as valuable if they're from behind the 3-point line.
But Hayward still takes a fair amount of mid-range shots and we saw that on Sunday night. In the first half, Hayward made five shots. The first three came within 13 and 18 feet of the basket.
Simply put, Hayward has a good feel for that range. According to NBA Advanced Stats, he shoots 48.4 percent in the 10-to-14-foot range, second-best on the Celtics behind Marcus Smart among players averaging at least one attempt per game from that area. And in the 15-to-19-foot range, Hayward makes 40 percent of his attempts, fourth-best on the team.
While it may be frustrating to see Hayward miss the occasional shot from that area, it's still one that he should continue to shoot from. As we saw against the Thunder, he was able to spark his offensive production from that range after he missed his first three shots on the evening. He went 9-for-16 following that, including a strong 4-for-6 beyond the arc in that span, largely thanks to those mid-range shots.
So if the mid-range game makes Hayward most comfortable and gets him in rhythm, he should continue to utilize it, especially early on in games.
2. The Celtics didn't take enough 3-pointers late against the Thunder
The Celtics had a strange game from beyond the arc against the Thunder. Through three quarters, they had 36 3-point attempts and it seemed like they'd have a chance to come close to their season-high of 49.
But in the fourth quarter, they only took one shot from behind the arc. They finished the game with 37 attempts.
So the question is, should they have attempted more threes? Some may argue yes based on the final result of the game. But the reality is that when the Celtics take 35+ 3-point shots in a game, they have a 20-11 record. So more often than not, they win when they chuck about 37 3-point attempts. They just didn't Sunday.
Maybe they should've taken a few more threes in the fourth quarter, especially considering that they had a couple of bad misses at the rim late from Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum. But their problem wasn't taking too few threes. It was not making enough of the open chances that they had late in the contest and not balancing long-range and interior shots throughout the game.
3. Romeo Langford needs to continue to be aggressive to earn more playing time
Verdict: Not an overreaction
Langford was the top bench player for the Celtics against the Thunder. He played the most bench minutes (20) and made an impact on the game with his aggressive play.
Early on, Langford was flying around the court and did what he could to impact plays. After checking in, Langford was nearly able to notch a steal and disrupt a Thunder possession. Shortly after that, he showed great defensive instincts and took a charge, as you can see below.
Langford also crashed the boards, notching five total during the game, and did a lot to help the Celtics compete. And his dunk after an offensive rebound in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty.
Langford still made some mistakes, but the 19-year-old rookie showcased exactly what he can bring to the floor on any given night for the C's. And his six-point, five-rebound, one-steal stat line plus the energy he brought should help him earn a role in the rotation. If he can stay aggressive and consistent as he was Sunday, that will give him a chance to earn more minutes off the bench for the C's.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Pacers-Celtics, which begins Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.