Thursday, April 4, 2024

Celtics 135, Thunder 100: Kristaps Porzingis' dominant all-around game fuels C's blowout victory

Behind Kristaps Porzingis' 27 point, five block performance, the Celtics dominated the short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder at home, 135-100 to secure home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

With leading scorers Shai Gilgeous- Alexander and Jalen Williams absent, OKC struggled to keep up with Boston's potent offense and their 17 3-pointers.

At 60-16 and only six games remaining in the regular season, the Celtics are hoping to enter the playoffs with a different mentality this season and are happy with their play of late.
"We feel good. Now everyone's healthy at the right time. We have a few games left. We want to finish the season strong no matter who we're playing against and head into the postseason with the right mindset," Porzingis said in his postgame interview with NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin.
Porzingis led the team on 11-of-14 shooting to go along with 12 boards, while Jayson Tatum added 24 points. Jaylen Brown's hot fourth quarter fueled his 23-point output and Al Horford chipped in 16 points off the bench for the Celtics -- that improved to a league-best 33-3 at TD Garden.

Josh Giddey finished with 17 points, Lu Dort added 15 points and Isaiah Joe chipped in 13 points for the Thunder, who dropped to 52-24 on the season.

Boston's offense got going early with a 7-2 spurt out the gate -- running their offense through Porzingis, who was attacking mismatches in the post. Shooting 3-of-3 from the field (8 points), and knocking down his first two 3-point attempts, the Thunder's defense had no answer for Porzingis to start.

Oklahoma City would however have an answer for one of Boston's stars. Brown (hand sprain), after missing Monday's 118-104 victory over the Hornets, showed some rust in his return with three turnovers alone in the first quarter. Giddey's nine point opening frame got the Thunder's offense going for the first nine minutes, but that would quickly change. Boston responded late, finishing with a 11-2 run in the final few minutes giving them a seven-point advantage.

Porzingis led Boston's offense in the second period once again with another nine points. After a missed Horford three, Porzingis finished a thunderous two-hand putback dunk over Chet Holmgren and Aaron Wiggins leading to a roar from Boston's faithful. Shortly after, grabbing his own miss, Porzingis dished it out to Payton Pritchard in the corner to extend C's lead to 14.

After a rough start to the game, Brown regained some confidence in the second quarter adding another six points, and getting his teammates involved. With just under five minutes to play in the first half, driving left, Brown, spinning off Giddey, dished out a flashy no-look pass off a euro step to Porzingis -- who knocked down his third triple of the night. Boston's effort never wavered to the very end of the quarter, with Brown capping off the Celtics' strong first half with a big chase down block on Holmgren to keep the Celtics' ahead 61-47 at the break.

Despite dominating the first half, Boston failed to build off their momentum early on in the third quarter, allowing the Thunder to go on an 11-4 run and failed to make a field goal in the first four minutes. Even without their superstar, the Thunder continued to hang around, cutting the deficit down to as many as six. Holmgren put the difficult first half behind him, scoring seven points in the third.

Tatum would be aggressive however, adding 13 points to his total in the third quarter highlighted by a tough contested trey over Holmgren in front of the Thunder's bench. Although Boston's offense had its moments, Isaiah Joe and Lou Dort made it difficult for the Celtics to pull away, and kept their team in striking distance (93-83) heading into the final frame.

After knocking down his first 3-pointer of the game on the team's first possession, Brown came up with a big steal and finished an easy one-handed tomahawk in transition to secure his seventh point of the quarter (3-of-3). On the Celtics' next possession, Brown drawing attention from the defense in the paint dished it out to a wide open Holiday for three at the end of the shot clock to get out to an 18 point lead on their way to outscoring Oklahoma City 42-17 in the process.

Boston didn't take their foot off the gas and closed out the Thunder in dominating fashion. With 33 assists on 50 baskets, their ball movement played a pivotal role in the team's victory. Although the team's 60th win was impressive, the Celtics won't dwell on it with a focus on preparing for the postseason.
"I think it's important to not take it for granted. I think it's important to have the gratitude for that. It's very hard to do," Joe Mazzulla said postgame, fresh off being named Coach of the Month for March. "We should enjoy it tonight, and when we wake up tomorrow nobody cares, so just gotta get back to work."
The Celtics hope to build off their recent success at home when they host the Sacramento Kings (44-31) Friday night. NBA TV has the tip-off at 7:30 pm ET.

Game Notes:

Boston out-rebounded the Thunder 46-31 and won the points in the paint battle 58-54. The C's also dominated with second chance opportunities with a 27-11 advantage. Boston knocked down 42.5% (17-of-40) of their 3-pointers, while holding the Thunder to only 5-of-24 (20.8%) shooting from deep. 

Ian Carrano

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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