Thunder Show Best and Worst in Loss to Celtics
The Thunder showed the very best and very worst of what they could be on Friday night versus Boston. As Billy Donovan said:
“Who we can be was out in front of us for the first 24 minutes, and what we can be on the other end was the second 24 minutes.”
OKC led at half 55 – 37, and the offense was clicking while the defense was dominant. New Zealanders were dunking on Aussies and everything felt right.
Paul George was great to start the game. He was moving well off the ball, finishing in the paint and had a couple fantastic dunks. The Thunder seemed to try and get him going early, and he did, scoring 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the first quarter. Steven Adams was an absolute monster defensively, and finished well around the hoop again. The Thunder looked like an unstoppable force controlled by their monster point guard Russell Westbrook. It was the kind of performance that makes you think “This team is going to the Western Conference Finals.”
The Celtics came out as flat as the Earth in the first half, as Kyrie Irving and Al Horford combined for 6 points through two quarters. That all changed in the second half. Irving, who couldn’t hit a layup to save his life, got into the paint was was able to score with ease on the lazy Thunder defense. Al Horford looked like giant Steph Curry finishing 4 of 4 from three.
All-in-all, the Thunder was outscored 62-39 in the second half, with Irving and Horford combining for 37 points in the final two quarters. A brutal loss for a Thunder team that looked like it was putting things together. Still a lot of work to do.
In the first half the Thunder was getting great shots and it was because Russ was dissecting the Boston defense in the pick and roll. He was finding Adams for easy shots at the rim, hitting shooters for open threes in the corner, and getting to the bucket with ease. He even played outstanding defense on Kyrie Irving. It was a nearly perfect half.
The second half was the opposite. All the momentum was gone in a flash. Westbrook forced shots and passes, while playing some horrendous defense — falling asleep on a pick that led to a wide open corner three for the tie late in the game. Russ picked up his fourth foul with 7:57 left in the game, and would pick up his 5th on a Kyrie Irving three. Irving completed a very rare 5 point play after rebounding his own miss and laying it up. A devastating sequence that put the Celtics up 6 with a little over four minutes left.
In the third quarter the Thunder shot 27 percent and scored only 16 points. Some of that was OKC not playing with the same aggression as they did in the first half. Another big part was the ball and player movement stopped, and Russ couldn’t orchestrate the offense like he did in the first half. They were stagnant. They settled for tough shots, and they paid the price.
Melo’s Ugly Shooting Night
Carmelo started the game in a very Knicksy way. Isolations on the young Celtics forwards, Brown and Tatum. He drove many times, but couldn’t get foul calls. He took tough contested jumpers and early clock threes. Nothing. He went 3 of 17 from the field and was 0 of 5 from deep.
Carmelo did crash the glass well with 14 total boards — 3 offensive. It was nice to see him contribute in that category, but the Thunder need Melo to do what he does best: score. As he said, “Offensively for me personally wasn’t there tonight. Those nights happen”.
Hopefully this won’t happen again versus Portland on Sunday.
OK3 Shot Distribution
The Thunder continue to find a balance between its three stars.
Russ: 7 of 20
George: 9 of 20
Melo: 3 of 17
The shot totals are overall a good sign of things to come for the Thunder… they just need to hit them.
“Is Jerami Grant Good?” Watch
Jerami Grant had another solid performance: 11 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block and a three. He was a +2 in his minutes and played some solid defense on players big and small.
The thing that is most impressive are his drives to the rim. He has been more in control and finishes with regularity around the basket. He isn’t shooting well on threes for the season, but he’s finding other ways to contribute. His versatility and aggressiveness will continue to give him a big role on this team.
- Adams posterized Aron Baynes… and it was glorious.
- Adams hurt his hand, or as he put it post game, his “phalanges” on that emphatic dunk on Baynes.
- Roberson ended the first half with a massive block on Irving. The Peake was on fire.
- I’ve never been more shocked in my life than when Roberson hit that late game corner three.
- Unusual amount of Celtics fans at the Peake. Moderately loud cheers when the Celtics did good things.
- Josh Huestis didn’t play tonight. He hasn’t played meaningful minutes since the Thunder declined his fourth year option.
- Terrance Ferguson played and had a foul. The foul was a clear flop by Marcus Smart, who Ferguson couldn’t push down if he wanted to.
- Paul George said the words “It’s our first year together”….. I’ll let you discuss.
- Semi Ojeleye is going to be a solid rotation player. Gave the Celtics big minutes. Boston has some good young guys if you didn’t know.
On to the next one. Portland on Sunday night.