The Boston Celtics came into this game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on a six game winning streak. The Thunder were coming off beating the Milwaukee Bucks with impressive defense. Everyone thought the Thunder found their chemistry in the last two games and were going to be able to continue that success against the Celtics. OKC came out looking unstoppable as they were able to connect on anything that they did early. Russell Westbrook was able to get his teammates involved and was able to find Adams,George, and Anthony in their sweet spots. The biggest difference in this OKC team that was shown in the last couple of games is the defensive end. OKC has stepped the defense up to another level and they also were able to stop Kyrie Irving in the first half. Both teams came into the matchup the number 1 & 2 defenses in the NBA and it was on full display as it was a tale of two halves as Billy Donovan said after the game.
Oklahoma City’s Big 3 finished the game with 54 points and majority of it came in the 1st half against Boston. For the first time Carmelo Anthony struggled with his shot in a Thunder uniform. Melo finished the game with 10 points on 3-17 shots from the field. One thing about Melo is he’s a true professional and knows how to bounce back. Melo didn’t have it going but that didn’t mean that Westbrook and George couldn’t help pick up the offense to help Melo. The best thing about George and Westbrook as a back court is the fact that they turn defense into offense and they did just that in the 1st half. OKC had their biggest lead of 18 points on the night and were able to kind of take the foot off the gas. The Thunder were able to get the bench involved in that first half as well as Grant and Patterson stepped up in big moments during the game when the Thunder needed it. If the Thunder can defend the way they did in the first half against everyone they would be unstoppable. The team is still trying to find that identity and it was defeintely noticable going into the seond half against the Celtics after going up large into the half.
The Celtics were down but felt like they were never out in the game going into the 3rd. Kyrie Irving was missing everything in the 1st half and couldn’t doing anything to get his shot or drives to the basket to fall. All that did was motivate Irving as he was just waiting on his moment in the game and they it clicked automatically. Kyrie Irving was able to get into mismatch situations where he was being guarded by Steven Adams and other bigs on switches. Kyrie was able to will the Celtics back into the game as he was able to hit everything starting around the 8 minute mark in the 3rd. There was a point in the game when Kyrie had 15 points and scored more than OKC in the quarter. Overall it was a scrappy effort for Kyrie to get his young team back into this game. Kyrie is the best finisher in the game and wanted to make an impact against OKC and he did just that. Al Horford also stepped up in the 4th and was hitting some incredible shots that went down when left open by the Thunder. The Thunder defense was not switching in time and they didn’t get to the shooters and paid for it. Horford and Irving combined for 45 points and were in their zone in that 4th quarter. Momentum was on the Celtics side and they continued to play defense and get stops to turn it into offense.
The Thunder have so much potenial and they have what it takes to be a champion. OKC plays great on both ends of the floor and have showed that anything is possible as long as they remain together as a team in those tough times. Kyrie is the best finisher in the game and loves the pressure moment and showcased that tonight. The Thunder will be able to get back on track when they play the TrailBlazers on Sunday.
Photo: AP/Sue Ogrocki