Luke Kornet provided the Boston Celtics something they were in desperate need of Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and in doing so he got off to a strong start in his first 13 minutes with the organization.
Kornet, who caused havoc at the rim and spread the floor on the offensive end, scored all eight of his points in the final period. He hit pair of 3-pointers to spark a fourth-quarter run along with teammate Jayson Tatum and it helped the Celtics run away with a 111-94 victory over Oklahoma City.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was clear in his praise for the newcomer, who was acquired from the Chicago Bulls ahead of Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline.
“The biggest thing with Luke, obviously, Luke is a guy who can shoot the ball,” Stevens said during his postgame video conference. “We’ve also been intrigued with Luke for a long time because of his pick-and-roll defense. His ability, he’s always in good position. He’s long. He effects shots at the rim. He’s a guy that we’ve always had an interest in because of those two things.
“(Oklahoma City’s Moses) Brown was dominating us,” Stevens continued of the 21-year old who had 17 points and 19 rebounds in the first half. “In the first half, obviously, but even at the start of the second (he) had some plays. We felt like we had to spread him out a little bit with shooting. That’s why we went with Luke. And I thought he was really good on both ends. … That group at the start of the fourth was terrific.”
The 7-foot-2, 250-pound Kornet was part of that group to start to fourth and help the Celtics go on a 19-0 scoring run. Boston went into the fourth trailing the Thunder 80-76 before outscoring OKC 35-14 over the final 12 minutes.
“? We got guys coming in that’s eager to make a name for themselves, to prove themselves, to come out here and contribute,” Marcus Smart said regarding Kornet and fellow newcomers Mo Wager (two points in seven minutes) and Evan Fournier (did not play). “Each of those guys bring something unique to the table for our team. ? We’re excited, I know those guys are. We’re ready to get it going.”
The 25-year-old Kornet is averaging 6.1 points and 2.6 rebounds in his 115 career games. He spent the last two seasons in Chicago after starting his career with the New York Knicks. The eight points he scored for the Celtics were his second most on the season.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Thunder:
— Kornet wasn’t the only one who found himself in trade deadline discussion Saturday as Smart spoke to reporters for the first time since the deadline, too. Smart explained his mindset, especially since he had been rumored in trades leading up it.
“I think anytime you hear your name in trade talks you prepare for the worst,” Smart said on a conference call with reporters. “You pray for the best, but prepare for the worst. This is seven years in for me, my name has been in trade talks every year. So, it’s nothing new. It’s a business. Sometimes you get so attached to guys, to players, to teammates, to organizations that we forget that. But we’re human. Especially when you’ve been in one place for a very long time and your name come up in trade rumors, you definitely, like I said, just preparing for anything to happen. So, I wasn’t really concerned, but I was prepared.”
— Stevens offered an update on Semi Ojeleye, who has been revealed to have a “left side strain” ever since leaving a game against the Milwaukee Bucks last Wednesday.
“He?ll be out for 10 days, plus,” Stevens said. “He’s got a small, you know, I don’t know if it was a contusion or a small, small tear in that oblique. … Nonetheless, gonna have him out for a couple of weeks.”
— Payton Pritchard was one of the many Celtics who provided a boost off the bench. Boston’s bench contributed 40 points in the win while Pritchard and Carsen Edwards each scored 12.
Pritchard, with the trade of Jeff Teague coupled by the fact Kemba Walker will continue to miss the second night of back-to-backs, figures to play a crucial role in the back court. The rookie first-rounder seems excited for the challenge.
“That’s what I work for as a player,” Pritchard said on a postgame conference call. “… Nights like this I try to be extra aggressive and make things happen.”
— The Celtics will travel back to TD Garden for a seven-game home stand, the first of which will start Monday against the New Orleans Pelicans.