The Boston Celtics managed to win a close one over the Thunder. Concentrated team effort and Marcus Smart holding up the fort on defence were the major factors for their win.
It was a rare instance in which the Celtics were operating with all of their top players. It offered a reminder, on the road against a very good Western Conference playoff team, of what it looks like when Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward are all humming at once.
Walked finished with 27 points, Tatum had 26 points and 11 rebounds, Brown had 17 points and Hayward added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Hayward led the team in scoring in the first quarter. Tatum held the honour in the third and Walker took care of the fourth.
The Celtics had a 9-point lead with just 1 minute, 10 seconds left, and then most of it disappeared. Suddenly, Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was rushing upcourt in the final seconds with a chance to hit a 3-pointer that would have sent the game to overtime.
Marcus Smart stepped forward, stayed calm, and held his ground. And as Gilgeous-Alexander dribbled near the left arc, Smart reached in and poked the ball away before grabbing it, sealing his team’s seventh consecutive win.
“That was an unbelievable steal by Marcus,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
Kemba Walker was more than thankful that Smart was there to help the team win on defence. He thinks Smart should easily win Defensive Player of the Year at the end of the season.
The Celtics are playing good basketball and should be able to make a lot of damage in the Eastern Conference. As long as Marcus Smart performs well defensively, they have a shot at making the NBA Finals.