Theis’ Strong Effort Powers C's Past Adams, Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY – Daniel Theis returned from an ankle injury Sunday afternoon and was thrown directly into an Oklahoma City storm cloud. His assignment: to go up against 7-foot, 265-pound Thunder center Steven Adams, who is widely regarded as the toughest physical matchup in the NBA.
“He’s like a tree,” the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Celtics center described of his mammoth counterpart. “You just can’t move him.”
Though, Theis at least made this tree sway in the wind, as he outdueled Adams in just about every major statistical category at Chesapeake Energy Arena, where he helped the C’s muscle their way to a hard-fought, 112-111 win.
On the offensive end, Theis logged 13 points to go along with a game-high-tying five assists. Defensively, he helped limit Adams, a 60-percent shooter, to just four points on 2-of-10 shooting.
“He did a really good job and he plays stronger than his weight would indicate,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Theis following the game. “I thought he did a lot of good things.”
One of those good things was the way in which he battled on the boards. Despite the four-inch height disadvantage, Theis was able to match Adams’ game-high rebounding tally of 11, which included five on the offensive end.
“I just try to box him out early,” Theis said of his rebounding strategy against Adams. “I try to work him early so he doesn’t have position. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.”
Theis’ impact went well beyond his matchup with Adams, though, as he made his presence felt against many of OKC’s offensive weapons. A few of his greatest defensive contributions actually came while switching onto smaller, speedier guards, including during crunch time against 10-time All-Star Chris Paul.
“What he's great at is covering for us all,” Stevens explained. “He'll guard those [bigs] as hard as he can, but it's still hard to keep Adams from getting a bucket every now and then, or (Nerlens) Noel's rolls, or the big guys that he guards night-in, night-out. But what he does is he sniffs out issues with everyone else and covers for us. He does so much that doesn't go into the box score. Even on that last play, he had (Chris) Paul and guarded Paul on one of the last plays of the game. His length bothered the shot. He just does a lot of good things.”
Gordon Hayward claims that Theis has been doing such good things for the C’s all season long.
“He’s been tremendous protecting the rim for us being an anchor defensively, always challenging guys at the rim,” the veteran wing stated. “And then offensively, he’s just got a great feel for the game – screening, rolling, half-rolling, popping. Today, I think he did a good job of passing it as well. He’s been instrumental to our success.”
Many of Theis’ contributions also fly under the radar, which is why Kemba Walker believes that he is “definitely underrated.”
“He just does so many things that don’t show up on the stat sheet, and he never complains,” Walker elaborated. “He just wants to win and help us be at our best every night … He just battles every night, gets his butt kicked every night just because of the work he puts in. He’s a smart player. He’s fun to have around. He loves basketball, loves to compete. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Such qualities were missed during Theis’ three-game injury absence, but he returned just in time Sunday afternoon to help the C’s muscle their way past Adams and OKC’s highly-skilled offense for their seventh straight win.