A busy stretch for the Boston Celtics continues when they bring a six-game winning streak into Monday night’s home bout with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Jaylen Brown (knee), Al Horford (back) and Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring) were all out with injuries on Saturday, but Jayson Tatum’s season-high 43 points led the way as the Celtics were 117-108 winners at Detroit.
“If you want to get to where you want to get to, it has to be a player-led team,” Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla said. “They all came together and understood what was needed to win. … It started with (Marcus) Smart at both ends of the floor and Jayson. The entire team took ownership of the game.”
With or without injuries to the supporting cast, Tatum has been the driving force behind Boston’s 10-3 start. His 420 points in 13 games (32.3 per game) lead the NBA. His average during the team’s current six-game winning streak is even higher (34.8) on 47.0 percent shooting.
“This is definitely the best I’ve ever felt to start a season,” Tatum said. “It kind of feels like how I felt like I was playing towards the end of last season when we really went on that run in the playoffs. It feels great to start a season like this because I definitely know what it feels like to be on the other side.”
Tatum, who scored 28 points in the second half on Saturday, also supplied 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block.
The team effort also included 19 points from Grant Williams, as well as 18 and 10 assists from Smart.
“Overall, our offense is just better,” Tatum said. “Our attention to detail in watching film, managing those late-game offensive situations, and being intentional about what we want to do and (which opponent) we’re trying to put into action.”
The Thunder have curbed a four-game skid with two triumphs and looks to complete a back-to-back sweep after Sunday’s 145-135 victory over the Knicks in New York.
The Thunder’s 145 points were four points shy of tying a franchise record, following a 132-113 Friday win over Toronto in which eight players scored in double figures for the first time in team history.
“We’re playing the right way,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “When we’re playing unselfish, fast and for each other, things like that happen.”
Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 37 points on Sunday, eclipsing the 30-point mark for the eighth time, while adding eight assists, three steals and two blocks.
“He sees the bigger picture at a pretty elite rate for a young player,” said Thunder coach Mark Daigneault, a Massachusetts native.
Josh Giddey (24 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds) was also impressive, joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to record triple-doubles in each of their first two games at Madison Square Garden.
“He really used effort to try to get himself on track and I thought that was very encouraging,” Daigneault said. “Ever since he’s done that, he’s been back in a good way.”
Oklahoma City’s 110.7 defensive rating ranks 15th in the NBA, and Monday’s meeting in Boston will pit them against the Celtics’ league-best offense (119.5 points per game).
Boston won both meetings with Oklahoma City last season, with Tatum leading the team in scoring.
–Field Level Media