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Celtics aim to continue offensive surge vs. Thunder

Sportsnaut
Mar 20, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) controls the ball under pressure from Denver Nuggets guard Monte Morris (11) in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics’ offense has been humming in the first three games of a four-game trip that will wrap up against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night.

During the three-game winning streak Boston carries into Oklahoma City, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each are averaging more than 28 points per game.

In Sunday’s 124-104 win in Denver, Tatum and Brown scored 30 each to become just the second teammates in Celtics history to score at least 30 points in consecutive games, joining Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, who accomplished the feat in 1988.

Boston’s Payton Pritchard has made all nine of his 3-point attempts over the past two games to become just the fourth player in NBA history to make at least four 3-pointers without a miss in back-to-back games.

Boston also has 62 assists over the past two games.

“That ball is popping and guys are making shots,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “We’re playing well together.”

Boston has won 11 of its past 12 road games after starting 9-15 away from home.

“I do think we kind of embrace playing against the home crowds,” Udoka said. “We want to come out and set a tone. Teams know what we’re about now, but our thing is to come out and prove that.”

The Celtics’ surge has helped them move within a half-game of the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference entering Monday’s game.

Boston figures to have plenty of opportunity to keep its offensive surge up against the Thunder.

During Oklahoma City’s losing streak, which was extended to nine with Sunday’s 90-85 loss in Orlando, the Thunder are No. 29 in the NBA in defensive efficiency, with only Portland behind them.

The Thunder are allowing more than 123 points per 100 possessions during the streak after ranking in the top 10 in the NBA in the category when the streak began.

During the same time frame, the Celtics have more than 121 points per 100 possessions, in the top five in the league. Before that, Boston was in the bottom half of the league in offensive efficiency.

Oklahoma City has lost 10 consecutive games at home.

With Luguentz Dort and Josh Giddey out because of injuries, rookie Tre Mann has had to pick up more scoring responsibility of late.

Mann has been on a roller coaster recently production-wise, including going 5 of 19 from the field and 3 of 11 on 3-pointers in Sunday’s loss to Orlando.

“There’s a volatility to his shot-making right now,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “I think that’s part of why we’re so hellbent on him trying to find some easier ones.”

Boston won the first meeting of the season between the teams, 111-105 on Nov. 20 in Boston.

The Thunder figure to have leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander back after he missed Sunday’s loss with right-ankle soreness.

Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging more than 30 points and seven assists in 12 games since returning from an earlier right-ankle injury.

Udoka said before Sunday’s game that Aaron Nesmith, who has missed seven consecutive games with a right-ankle sprain, was nearing a return.

–Field Level Media