Kornet Makes Winning Fourth-Quarter Impact in Celtics Debut
The Boston Celtics were in need of a second-half spark Saturday night, as they attempted to overcome a double-digit deficit in Oklahoma City. What they got was a lightning bolt in the form of 7-foot-2 newcomer Luke Kornet, who helped to strike down the Thunder in an electrifying debut performance for the C’s, which resulted in a 111-94 win.
The Celtics, who trailed by as many as 12 points, were behind 75-69 when Kornet checked into the game for the first time late in the third quarter. But largely thanks to his sharpshooting prowess and defensive presence at the rim, they wouldn’t be trailing for much longer.
After tying the game at 82-82 early in the fourth quarter, Kornet knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give Boston its first lead of the game. He would finish with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field, five rebounds, and one assist, and during his 13 minutes of action, the Celtics outscored the Thunder by a whopping 21 points.
That’s not bad for a guy who had just joined the team one day prior.
Kornet, along with fellow big man Moe Wagner, came to the Celtics byway of Chicago as part of the Daniel Theis trade on Thursday. He joined the team Friday in Milwaukee and did not play on short notice in their win against the Bucks, but couldn’t wait to give the team some assistance Saturday night while playing on the second night of a back-to-back.”
“The last couple of days have been pretty eventful,” the fourth-year forward/center said after Saturday’s game. “Just got a little couple-hour period of just realizing what was going on, and honestly, once I got over that whole part of it, I was just really excited to come here. Boston is an awesome place and a franchise that I’ve always appreciated through watching, so it’s really cool to be here to be able to play with these guys.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens revealed that the appreciation has long been mutual, as he’d had his eye on Kornet for a while.
"Luke’s obviously a guy who can shoot the ball, but we’ve been really intrigued with Luke for a long time because of his pick-and-roll defense,” Stevens said. “He’s always in good position. He’s long, he affects shots at the rim, and he’s a guy we’ve always had an interest in because of those two things.”
Kornet took little time to prove his defensive impact, as he stepped in and helped slow down a scorching Moses Brown, who had 17 points and 19 rebounds in the first half alone. During the time that he and Kornet shared on the court, Brown missed two layups, got whistled for two three-second violations in the key, got called for goaltending, and corralled just three rebounds.
“Brown was dominating us in the first half, and even at the start of the second had some plays, and we felt we had to spread them out a little bit with shooting,” Stevens acknowledged. “That’s why we went with Luke, and I thought he was really good on both ends.”
Stevens told Kornet at halftime to be ready for that exact reason, and Kornet was appreciative of his new coach for trusting his ability to help the team in such a defensive capacity.
“I'm not necessarily really going after blocked shots or even going after defensive rebounds, but I'm just trying to make life harder (on the opposition) and secure the ball for our team,” Kornet said. “So it's great when you have a coach that kind of picks up on the nuances of what you're trying to do and appreciates it."
And the Celtics surely appreciate the way in which Kornet delivered for them. His clutch shot-making and defensive presence made all the difference, as it allowed the C's to pick up their second straight road victory before heading back to Boston for a season-long, seven-game homestand.