For a depleted Celtics squad facing off against the white-hot Oklahoma City Thunder — a team that entered TD Garden on a six-game winning streak — Boston was going to need a dramatic flare from its group Tuesday night and that’s exactly what they got in a thrilling 100-99 last-second victory.
Given life when Carmelo Anthony misfired on a pair of free-throws with 7.7 seconds left, facing a two-point hole, the Celtics’ first shot at a tie game stalled when rookie Jayson Tatum attempted to go for a game-tying layup but ran into a wall. But rather than forcing a low-percentage look, Tatum found Marcus Morris behind the arc.
Morris gave his defender a pump fake, took one dribble to his right before releasing an off-balance three-pointer that dropped through the net with 1.8 left on the game clock. And as a Russell Westbrook three came up just short at the buzzer, it was Morris and the Celtics escaped the Garden with an improbable victory.
One they had no business capturing.
Clinging onto a one-point advantage in the final minutes (82-81), the Celtics failed to convert three consecutive shots from deep before the Westbrook and Anthony connected on back-to-back treys as Oklahoma City pulled ahead by five.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens wasted no time in calling a timeout to insert Tatum back into the game and the rookie made his presence felt by immediately draining a 3-pointer. Anthony answered Tatum with one of his own and so did his teammate Corey Brewer. The late-fourth quarter turned into a shootout between the two teams with the Thunder momentarily keeping the Celtics at bay before Boston put together one heck of a run in the final minute that ended with a game-winning dagger from the 6-foot-9 forward.
Facing a six-point deficit with only 24.7 seconds, Tatum’s field goal brought his team back in it before Westbrook split a pair from the charity stripe. Terry Rozier’s 3-pointer then carved the Thunder lead to just two before Anthony’s aforementioned collapse at the free-throw line gave Morris his opportunity to knock off Oklahoma City with a game-winner.
Tatum scored a team-high 23 points to go with his 11 rebounds, Morris finished with 21 points and Greg Monroe led the second unit behind his 17 points.
In a 26-18 hole through the first quarter thanks to Paul George and Steven Adams combining for 16 points, Boston’s second unit quickly responded. Led by Monroe, who took advantage of the Thunder not boxing him out down low and converted three offensive rebounds into six points, a three-pointer from Abdel Nader helped cut Boston’s deficit into a one-possession game (29-32).
Later came a Rozier sequence where he pulled up for a 3-pointer, stole the ball on the other end and weaved through Thunder defenders for an easy two.
Boston briefly regained their lead from the first quarter before heading into the break trailing the Thunder, 48-45. A back-and-forth third quarter that was highlighted by Westbrook’s 12 points, set the stage for a compelling final frame as Shane Larkin’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer cut the Thunder’s five-point lead into two.
In what was a relatively low-scoring game given the firepower on the Thunder side of the court, the Celtics held Westbrook to 27 points, George scored 24 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, while Anthony finished with 13 points.
Boston will take the momentum of its incredible victory on the road with them when they head out West for a four-game road trip.
Full article @ Celtics 100, Thunder 99: Marcus Morris connects with 1.6 seconds left for comeback win
Source: GreenStreet Blog