The Oklahoma City Thunder last played the Boston Celtics in the Chesapeake Energy Arena and lost that matchup by one point, 112-111. They got the chance for redemption a month later and were victorious. They defeated the Boston Celtics by doing the same thing the Celtics did to them in Oklahoma City, doubling down defensively and making big plays offensively. Thunder won, 105-104 in the TD Garden after being down by 18 points.
Here are a few reasons they handed the Celtics their fourth-straight home loss.
Players stepped up in the absence of their ‘star.’
By players, we’re talking about Dennis Schröder and Chris Paul, who never quit in this game, despite OKC being down by 18 points. Paul, specifically, scored 18 points in the second half. He made his intentions clear: he knew the Thunder needed to win this game. The Thunder as a whole hasn’t been playing well lately, especially against the league’s best, so a loss to Boston on Sunday evening would have been detrimental to this team’s mental state.
OKC’s defense was stellar when it counted.
Their defense was very impressive throughout the game, despite getting down by 18 points. A large part of Boston’s 14-3 run halfway through the second quarter was due to OKC turning the ball over too much, but defensively, OKC was pretty stellar.
Credit that to Dennis Schroder, who played a lead role defensively for the Thunder. Schroder had a great game offensively and defensively, scoring 27 points and adding two steals, one of which lead to a game-winning layup to put OKC up 105-104 with less than 15 seconds to play.
Another player that deserves credit for the game he had was Abdel Nader who quietly finished the game with a career-high 4 blocks.
Boston hit shots, but OKC held them to 41.3 percent shooting which is an accomplishment dealing with this team that usually shoots well.
Despite absent inside play offensively, the Thunder found their identity elsewhere.
I said that Steven Adams playing a good game was essential for a Thunder victory and I was wrong, but the only reason I was wrong was because of OKC’s ability to put what we just mentioned (defense and other’s stepping up), in front of everything else to the point that Adams and Nerlens Noel’s subpar performance almost went unnoticed.
Adams scored 3 points in the first half, but only played 9 minutes. We all thought that maybe he’d get into a rhythm in the second half but that wasn’t the case, and Adams’ backup Nerlens Noel didn’t step up much either. OKC’s duo of centers combined for 11 points on 2-of-5 shooting in 58 minutes of play.
Oklahoma City needed this game not only because of playoff seeding implications but for their confidence. They won their previous two games, but that was against the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks, two of the league’s worst and dysfunctional franchises. Them winning those two games and losing this game would have meant nothing, because they wouldn’t have won the game that matters, but they did.
Next up: The Utah Jazz in The Peake.