Celtics Notes: Boston Continues Playing Best Ball Against NBA’s Elite

BOSTON — The 2018-19 Boston Celtics have had their struggles, to be sure.

But when the lights shine brightest, and the opposition is at its toughest, the Celtics always seem to play their best.

That trend continued Sunday afternoon with Boston’s 134-129 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at TD Garden. The win gave the Celtics four straight victories, while the Thunder snapped their seven-game winning streak with the loss.

No, the game didn’t offer much in the way of defense, but it was yet another example of the Celtics rising to the occasion.

In addition to their win over OKC, the Celtics now have wins against the Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers. Boston is a combined 8-2 against those clubs. And while there’s no such thing as moral victories, the Celtics’ four-point loss to the Golden State Warriors in late January also serves as a reminder that Brad Stevens’ team can play with anybody.

Defense aside, Sunday’s game was one of the season’s best examples of the Celtics playing as a team. Eight of nine players who dressed scored in double figures, with Gordon Hayward being the odd man out.

“Good team basketball,” Stevens said after the game. “We got a lot of good performances.”

The Celtics, of course, still have much they can improve on. And if Hayward continues playing like a barely serviceable bench player, it’s hard to see Boston making a deep playoff run, given how beatable it’s looked this season.

Still, Sunday afternoon served as a much-needed reminder that the Celtics are capable of beating the best the NBA has to offer.

Here are other notes from Celtics-Thunder:

— On the first play of the game, Marcus Smart tied John Havlicek on the Celtics’ all-time steals list.

— Prior to the game, center Aron Baynes said he expects to miss “a few weeks” with a left foot contusion.

— The win moved the Celtics (34-19) a season-best 15 games over .500.

— Daniel Theis led the Celtics’ bench with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He also wore a “Beat LA” shirt to the Garden, for what it’s worth.

— Kyrie Irving (30 points, 11 assists) has racked up at least 20 points and a double-double in four consecutive games, a career high. He’s the first Celtic to do that since Kevin Garnett in 2007.

— Irving’s 14 double-doubles this season are a career high, as well as the most by a Celtics guard since Rajon Rondo had 20 in 2012-13.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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