Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
We could harp on the bad — and there was plenty of it, like the 19 turnovers, the poor shot selection, Jeff Green’s dud in his first trip back to Oklahoma City, Kevin Garnett’s off shooting night and a poor effort overall by Boston’s bench — but there were actually some silver linings the Celtics can begrudgingly cling to after Sunday’s 91-79 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Chief among them is that Boston displayed a brand of defense that contained two of the league’s elite offensive players and proved the Celtics are capable of competing with any team in the league. -Chris Forsberg
It would be easy to start the week moping about the Celtics loss yesterday, but I’ll have none of it. Although I was somewhat distracted by the goings-on at our annual party yesterday, I took in most of the game and liked some of what I saw. Particularly the defense. We held the top offensive team in league under 100 points:
The per-possession numbers actually suggest this wasn’t a dominant defensive effort from the Celtics. According to Synergy, Boston gave up 0.938 points per possession (91 points on 97 plays; well above the team’s season average of 0.893 points allowed per play). But even Rivers admitted that his team’s goal was simply to keep the Thunder out of triple figures and Boston accomplished that. Putting Oklahoma City at the charity stripe didn’t aid the Celtics’ cause, but Boston did an excellent job containing both Kevin Durant (23 points on 6-of-16 shooting) and Russell Westbrook (15 points on 5-of-11 shooting). The Thunder lead the league in offensive rating, averaging 110.7 points per 100 possessions. To bring that number down nearly 14½ points — even just for one game — is an accomplishment. At the end of the day, Boston is going as far as its defense can carry it. If the Celtics take care of the ball and knock down shots with typical consistency, they give themselves a chance to win games — including this one — with that brand of defense.
On the other side of the ball, we definitely struggled. Shots did not fall, and KG looked to be still tired from Friday’s OT game vs Atlanta. But we know that’s going to be the case with this squad. Pierce & Ticket simply will not be able to contribute big numbers every game.
So while fully acknowledging the Celtics have plenty of areas to improve on — this team absolutely cannot turn the ball over as recklessly as it has recently, it would benefit from getting to the free-throw line with more consistency and it won’t hang around long in the playoffs if it shoots just 37.7 percent from the floor — let’s pour a big ol’ glass of green Kool-Aid and accentuate the positives.
Brandon Bass, who has been the ire of many a Celtics fan this year with his “inconsistent” play, actually had a productive game against the Thunder. Granted, there were times I was screaming “shoot it”, but of the 4 shots he did take, three fell. However it was his hustle on the glass that was really important. Now if we could only get that from him more often:
The Celtics need to bottle Brandon Bass’ energy from Sunday’s game and figure out how to uncork it more consistently. Bass pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds (helping to keep Oklahoma City off the glass as the Celtics finished with a 44-41 edge in boards). Bass added eight points on 3-of-4 shooting and a block. His defense was still inconsistent (Synergy Sports data had him allowing nine points in eight possessions defended), but the focus on the glass and efficient offensive output is a large part of what the Celtics are looking for more consistently with Bass.
This game never really felt close-mostly due to the way Boston turned-over the ball. Their carelessness really cost them, yet come the 4th quarter, they were still very much in the game. And if not for a dismal 4th where the C’s shot 4 of 22 from the field, maybe we even steal this game:
Everyone in Boston said the same thing at the end of the third quarter: How is this a one-possession game? With the turnovers and offensive struggles, it felt like Oklahoma City should have been up 20. Instead it was a three-point game to start the fourth quarter. After Wednesday’s thrilling win over the Pacers, Rivers noted how the Celtics have been hanging around all season, overcoming all the adversity they encounter and giving themselves a chance to win games. That’s exactly what they did again on Sunday, even if shots didn’t fall for them this time around.
The Celtics now have a three game stretch of winnable games. I’m confident that they’ve put this loss behind them and are ready to begin another win streak.
The rest of the links: