It was a tale of two halves for the Boston Celtics on Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Celtics dug themselves an 18-point hole during the first half against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the team that had won six consecutive games coming in emerged during the third quarter.
Boston finished the third on a 19-9 run to cut the lead to four, and then Kyrie Irving took over in crunch time to lift Boston to a 101-94 win.
With Boston leading by one with 4:17 to play, Irving buried a 3-pointer and got fouled by Russell Westbrook. Irving would miss the free throw, but he rushed in to grab the rebound and put the layup home for a 5-point possession.
After a Paul George 3-pointer cut the lead to three with 37 seconds left, Irving blew past Steven Adams and finished at the rim to seal the win.
Irving (25 points) and Al Horford (20 points) scored 39 of the C’s 64 second-half points to complete the comeback.
The Celtics improved to 7-2 with the win, while the Thunder fell to 4-4.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
Both teams struggled out of the gate due to the hard-nosed defense that has become the calling card of both squads early in the season. The Thunder’s frontcourt, however, began to assert itself during the second half of the first stanza, as Oklahoma City went on a 15-2 run toward the end of the quarter to take a 31-18 lead after one.
OKC’s frontcourt scored 23 of the team’s 31 points in the period, led by George’s 10 points.
The Celtics struggled from the field as they shot just 30 percent in the period.
And Steven Adams did this to Baynes:
LONE BRIGHT SPOT
Oklahoma City’s defense continued to suffocate the Celtics in the second quarter. Boston’s offense struggled to move the ball from side to side, often settling for long, contested jump shots.
While four of Boston’s five starters struggled in the first half, Tatum did his best to keep the C’s in the game. The Duke product scored 13 points, including a personal 7-0 run in the second quarter to keep the Celtics within shouting distance.
The Thunder began to pull away near the end of the half, however, as they took a 55-37 lead into the break.
Tatum’s 13 points led all scorers in the half, but he was the only Celtic in double figures. Westbrook paced the Thunder with 12 points, while George chipped in with 10 and Carmelo Anthony added eight.
HERE COMES BOSTON
While the first half belonged to the Thunder, the Celtics owned the third quarter.
Marcus Morris, making his team debut, scored seven of the C’s first 11 points in the quarter to cut the Thunder lead to 10. The Celtics’ defense clamped down during the third stanza, as Oklahoma City struggled to get quality looks at the hoop.
After a George dunk put the Thunder up 11, Brown and Irving finally broke the seal on the hoop by draining back-to-back triples to cut the lead to six.
Boston finished the third quarter on a 19-9 run to cut the Thunder’s lead to four after three quarters.
KYRIE THE HERO
Irving struggled during the first half, scoring just three points in the first two quarters.
But the star guard took over in the fourth quarter. After Horford drilled a 3-pointer to give Boston the lead, Irving came down two possessions later and splashed a trey — plus the foul — to extend the lead to four. Irving missed the free throw, but collected the rebound and put the layup home to give the C’s a six-point lead.
The Thunder cut the lead to one, but Horford buried a 3-pointer to push it to four, and then he splashed a mid-range jumper to push the lead to six.
OKC got within three after George drilled a trey, but Irving put the final dagger in the Thunder when he drove into the lane and finished at the rim with 14 seconds remaining.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
The Celtics will take the court again Sunday against the Orlando Magic. Tip-off from Amway Center is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports Images
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