With 5:28 left in the first half, the #Thunder held 10 point lead over the Celtics. We have to work on our in-game mental toughness, but we also have to show some fortitude the next time we step on the court on Sunday, " said veteran guard Arron Afflalo, a mentor to numerous Magic's younger players who are experiencing success for the first time.
Then came the third quarter, when Boston point guard Kyrie Irving turned them flat. But Boston got a nice look at the way Morris can help out during the second half, and this was by far the team's best win after feasting on a rather agreeable schedule over the past two weeks.
That OKC first-half defense was as swarming as it's been all season, including during the previous two games.
Irving scored or assisted on 37 of Boston's 64 second-half points after accounting for only 3 points in the first half, according to ESPN Stats and Information data. It's the Celtics' seventh straight win and has pushed them into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. "We took away some things they were feeling comfortable within the first half, picked up our pace and our defensive pressure and things started going our way, and then we just kept battling to the end".
"The first half, we played extremely well defensively", Anthony said. "It's going to be how he responds to today's work. I'm excited to come back". Irving missed the free throw, but collected the rebound and put the layup home to give the C's a six-point lead.
"Elfrid looked good. He competed and you saw that his conditioning is a little behind - as to be expected - but he had a good practice, " Vogel noted.
He came into Friday's game shooting 47.5 percent from 3-point range in his career against the Thunder, which is the best he has shot from 3-point range against any team. In his 11th season, the only thing that Horford wants this season is a championship, and he has shown that he and Kyrie can deliver when their team is put in a bad position.
Jerami Grant went 5 of 7 from the floor for 11 points off the bench and Carmelo Anthony had 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder (4-4), but shot just 3 of 17.
"We had a tough-shooting half both from the 3-point line and at the basket and missed some layups, but you have to play through that stuff and stay true to who you are", Orlando coach Frank Vogel said.
Al Horford was similarly clutch and dropped 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter as he shot 8-of-10 from the field, including 4-of-4 from three. Boston found ways, whether on the secondary break or with Irving's slithering to change the theme come quarters three and four.