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10 takeaways from Celtics-Thunder: Kristaps Porzingis and defense stand tall

10 takeaways from Celtics-Thunder: Kristaps Porzingis and defense stand tall

BOSTON — The Celtics trailed early in an eventual rout that surprised, even with Boston’s top-six available and the Thunder’s two star guards out. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams sat and watched Josh Giddey keep Oklahoma City in it until Payton Pritchard helped pull Boston away with stellar first and third quarter stints. Kristaps Porzingis recovered from a slow start and recent lulls relative to his early season dominance, scoring 27 points and blocking five shots, while Jaylen Brown managed to score 23 despite dealing with a sore left hand. Boston dominated the fourth, 42-17, as the Thunder bench emptied.

1. Jaylen Brown’s left hand ailment mostly remains a mystery

Brown called the injury, seemingly aggravated during a steal attempt in New Orleans on Saturday, a strain or sprain in his left hand. He’s healthy enough to play and didn’t want to blame his five turnovers or 4-for-11 first-half shooting. He did acknowledge it impacted him on Wednesday, though. While expressing no long-term concerns, he noted that he’ll evaluate how he responds to it as information in case it worsens. Joe Mazzulla said before the game that Brown came away fine after getting the hand looked at, something he expressed wanting to do after entering Monday’s win in Charlotte questionable. He appeared on the injury report again before this latest win, leaning on defense to impact the game.

“In a game like tonight, even if it’s not going well, quote-unquote, offensively, (Brown’s) ability to rebound,” Mazzulla said. “I thought the two plays he made in the first half where he tried to take the charge on Holmgren, and then he got the block at the end of the quarter which saved the basket … it might not be going to your expectations offensively. How can you still impact the game? He’s taken pride in that.”

2. Brown also calls for more from Kristaps Porzingis

The super friends combined for the sequence of the night, Brown attempting to take a charge on Holmgren, who Boston held to 5-for-14 shooting, before Porzingis blocked him. Brown then kicked a pass behind his back to Porzingis for three as the big man rolled to 27 points and five blocks. His stellar defensive showing drew praise, along with some pressure, from Brown to showcase that caliber of play more often. A ring back to the 2022 Celtics’ collective and more open accountability. Mazzulla also acknowledged Porzingis’…

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