Fueled by Offensive Fireworks, Celts End Thunder's Streak
BOSTON – Who wanted defense on Super Bowl Sunday anyway?
Hours before New England’s attention turned to the Patriots’ bid for a sixth championship, its fans watched the Boston Celtics set off some offensive fireworks inside TD Garden while taking down the Oklahoma City Thunder 134-129.
This featured matchup on ABC was between two title contenders and was supposed to be all about defense, seeing as these two teams entered Sunday tied for second in the league in defensive rating. Instead, offense was the name of the game – for both teams.
Boston’s offense earned the slight edge in dominance, however, as indicated by all of the numbers it racked up. The C’s scored 134 points, marking their second-highest total of the season. They shot a season-best 59.3 percent from the floor. And eight – yes, eight! - of their nine players who appeared in the game scored in double-figures.
This was an offensive clinic by Boston that made a statement to the rest of the league.
“It says we can compete with anybody,” Marcus Smart, who scored 18 points, said after the win. “They’re one of the best defenses in the league and we dropped 134 points on them.”
The precision with which Boston dropped those 134 points was what stood out most.
Sometimes when an NBA team puts forth an abnormal offensive explosion, that team makes a bunch of shots that aren’t of high quality. In essence, that team gets a bit lucky with its shooting during that particular game.
Such was not the case Sunday afternoon. During this game, the Celtics did make a bunch of shots, but nearly all of them were of high quality.
“We shot the ball unreal, but we were getting really good looks. That’s the difference,” said Al Horford, who scored 17 points while shooting an efficient 8-for-13 from the floor. “It wasn’t like lucky shots and stuff like that. We were getting the quality shots that we look for and we just made a lot of them.”
Horford’s coach, Brad Stevens, concurred with that assessment.
“We moved it, we made some good plays, we attacked the paint first and then we had some big possessions where we made them,” Stevens added of Boston’s shots. “You know, sometimes it boils down to that.”
On Sunday, it boiled down to the fact that the Celtics made more of them than the Thunder – but not by much.
Oklahoma City’s offense wasn’t too shabby itself, as it scored 129 points on 48.9 percent shooting from the field. Those 129 points mark the highest total Boston has given up all season long.
The Thunder, too, were buoyed by balance. Six Thunder players scored at least 11 points, with Paul George leading the way with his game-high 37. They also put pressure on Boston’s defense to consistently get to the line, as they attempted 34 free throws to Boston’s 17. OKC converted on 25 of those freebies.
All of this offense led to the scoreboard featuring final-score type numbers as the teams headed into the final period. Boston owned a 99-93 when the fourth quarter opened up.
The C’s had just enough offense to close things out during the final frame, thanks in large part to their superstar point guard, Kyrie Irving.
Irving re-entered the game with 5:46 left in the fourth quarter and immediately got to work. On his first possession, he assisted on a Terry Rozier jumper, and he went on to score or assist on Boston’s final six field goals of the game. Irving finished the contest with 30 points and 11 assists, including six points and three assists during the final five-plus minutes.
Irving carried the Celtics during crunch time, but their balance the rest of the afternoon was what put them in position to end Oklahoma City’s seven-game win streak.
Now Boston has now won nine of its last 10 games and is 24-9 since Nov. 26. With the victory, it also jumped up to third place in the Eastern Conference for the first time since Nov. 17.
Typically, Boston would be able to point to its defense as the driving force behind such facts. Sunday, however, that driving force came from the other end of the court as the C’s set off some unexpected fireworks on offense.