The Celtics return home Monday for a seven-game home stand, their longest of the season with the added bonus of having fans in the Garden for the first time. They’ll need it, figures Brad Stevens.
“I don’t know how many teams have played more road games than us. I certainly feel it, personally, And certainly this has been a tough stretch,” Stevens said of the four-game road trip that ended in a 111-94 win in Oklahoma City Saturday night. “But I think that guys will welcome the opportunity to sleep in their own bed and get into a routine at home. It will be nice to be at home, get a chance to sleep in our own beds, see our families, and hopefully build a little bit with a little bit less bouncing all over the place.”
With Kemba Walker out for load management purposes and the newest Celtics weapon, Evan Fournier, suddenly in health and safety protocol, the Celtics had to fight off a late winter chill to push their record back to .500.
With newcomer Luke Kornet supplying back-to-back 3-pointers and a block in the fourth quarter, and Jayson Tatum finally beating the cold with a fourth quarter breakout in his 27-point performance, the Celtics beat the Thunder for their second straight win.
The Celtics, who put this one away with a 22-2 fourth-quarter run that included their first lead of the night, thus finished their last road trip for two weeks at 2-2.
The Celtics trailed by four (80-76) at the start of the fourth quarter, and one night after burying 22 3-pointers in Milwaukee, they had only hit seven.
Tatum opened the quarter with a dunk off a feed from new teammate Kornet, and with 10:34 tied the game at 82-82 after picking off a pass at midcourt.
Kornet hit a 3-pointer for an 85-82 lead — the Celtics’ first of the night — and came back on the next possession with a second bomb from the top of the arc for an 88-82 edge.
Smart drove to extend the run to 12-0 and the lead to 90-82, setting up Tatum to bury a 3-pointer. A block by Kornet set up a Tatum transition dunk for a 13-point lead with seven minutes left.
The run extended as far as 19-0 for a 97-92 lead, and to 22-2 when Tatum buried his fourth trey of the night. They hit a peak lead of 15 points.
The combination of 36 percent shooting (3-for-20 from downtown) and a 17-point, 19-rebound eruption by OKC center Moses Brown, found the Celtics trailing, 52-47, at halftime.
On the second night of a back-to-back with Walker sitting out, Stevens deepened his rotation with players like Carsen Edwards and Tacko Fall seeing more than anticipated court time.
And little changed early in the third quarter, with the Celtics still cold and Brown, who dunked on the first possession, still hot.
But the other Brown was starting to heat up, and cut the OKC lead to 68-65 with a three-point play.
But the next time Brown scored, with a lefty floater, it was to once again cut the OKC edge to three points. Brown had 13 in the quarter, 23 overall, and in addition to Pritchard was the only Celtic getting it done offensively.
The Celtics trailed after three, 80-76.