Boston Celtics: Encouraging Signs from Their Win over the Thunder
Finally, we have seen signs of greatness from this Celtics team. All season I've been saying that this team is not elite yet, and they still aren't, but they are closer.
Following a two-game losing streak and a sub-.500 record looming, the Celtics came out and played some of their best basketball of the season.
Throughout the game, they gave us many reasons for hope going forward this season. If they can build on this win and these encouraging signs, then soon enough they may become an elite team again.
Ability to Beat an Elite Team
I'd be remiss to not force a reference to Notre Dame at some point given their success. So here goes: Lou Holtz used to say, "You don't have to be the best team in the world, you only have to be the best team in the stadium." Notre Dame has been embodying that all season (and will continue to do so against USC and in the national championship game).
Last night, though, it was the Celtics who took that quote to heart. They weren't the best team in the NBA last night, but they were good enough to beat the defending Western Conference champion Thunder and that's all that matters.
The Celtics may not have the talent to be the best team in the world, but I'm confident that they can be the best team in the arena on any given night, just as they were last night.
Paul Pierce Can Still Score with Anyone
Regardless of how old or slow he gets, Paul Pierce will always find a way to score—even (especially) when he is against a prolific young scorer like Kevin Durant.
Pierce will never back down in a fight, whether it's on the court or at a bar. If a player like Durant scores on him, all he wants to do is score on the other end. He can't do it with isolation plays anymore, but he can still do it and that's all that matters.
His 27-point performance last night against Durant was further proof that Pierce can still give any player in the league a run for their money scoring wise.
In the end, Durant did outscore Pierce by two points, but the Captain was the far more efficient player, shooting over 50 percent in every category and taking four less shots than the younger Durant.
Jeff Green Shines with His Play off the Bench
The trade that swapped Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green has seen its fair (or unfair) share of criticism in the past two years. Last night, however, there was no doubt which team got the better of the deal. Jeff Green lit up his old team to the tune of 17 points.
Meanwhile, Perk was his defensive-minded self, but still failed to make close to the same impact that Green did.
This performance by Green is certainly encouraging as we would all love to see games like this from Green more often. It is still no guarantee that this will inspire further big games as the last time he played like this was in a big win over the Utah Jazz.
In the four games separating that game from last night's game, he failed to score in double digits once. Hopefully, this will finally be the game that inspires prolonged success.
Celtics Bench Outperforms the Thunder Bench
In order for the Celtics to beat great teams, they need to win the battle of the benches—and with the talent they have coming off the pine, they should win this battle every game. However, that has not been the case this season.
Last night, though, the Celtics bench outplayed the Thunder bench in a big way. At the game's end, the Celtics bench had a combined plus/minus of plus-39. Meanwhile, the Thunder bench finished with a pathetic minus-47.
On top of that, the Celtics' reserves also outscored the Thunder's reserves by 22 points. Therefore, this win was just as much because of the bench as it was because of the starters.
Jason Terry Provides Clutch Shooting
The most memorable moment of Jason Terry's career was the three-pointer he hit over LeBron James to lead the Mavericks to a win in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. On a smaller stage last night, Terry did just about the same thing.
With a little over 30 seconds remaining, Terry hit a huge three to put the game out of reach, just as he had done in the Finals two years ago. Hopefully, that is the first of many big shots he will hit as a Celtic because shots like that make us forget that we ever had a guy named Ray Allen that used to hit those same shots.
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