Surging Celtics look to silence Thunder

The Boston Celtics can secure the No. 1 overall seed and home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs by beating the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.

The Celtics (59-16), who already have clinched the best record in the Eastern Conference, wrapped up a six-game trip with a 118-104 victory over Charlotte on Monday. Boston will play six of its final seven games at home, where it is 32-3 this season.

The Celtics were 19 of 53 from 3-point range against the Hornets in winning for the 11th time in the past 13 games.

“Usually, we take good ones,” Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Those types of shots that we get, especially the corner ones, I think our corner 3s have increased a little bit, but it’s a shot that we have to be able to take, that teams are willing to give, but if you make a couple, it forces the defense to guard you differently. So again, our goal is not to necessarily shoot 3s, but to get the best shots.”

No Celtic has been better from 3-point distance lately than Sam Hauser, who made 7 of 11 attempts from beyond the arc against Charlotte and scored 25 points in 24 minutes. It was the third time in the last seven games that Hauser has made at least seven 3-pointers.

“If I can get my feet down underneath me and explode up, I think it has a good chance of going in,” Hauser said.

Hauser is shooting 43.9 percent from 3-point territory this season.

“I think the layers of our offense is what unleashes him, and the guys understand that he’s a weapon in different ways,” Mazzulla said. “When we get to the second and third layer of our offense, especially when teams are guarding us a certain way, it really unleashes guys like Sam.”

Oklahoma City (52-23) was without leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (quad bruise) for Tuesday night’s 109-105 loss at Philadelphia. Gilgeous-Alexander, who is averaging 30.3 points per game this season, has not played in three of the Thunder’s last four contests.

The Thunder also played without Jalen Williams, who is nursing a sprained ankle. Chet Holmgren scored a team-high 22 points for Oklahoma City, which is battling Minnesota and Denver for the top spot in the Western Conference.

“Obviously we want those guys back as soon as possible, but it is an opportunity when they’re out to stretch guys’ minutes, stretch guys’ role a little bit,” Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said. “We learn a lot about our team in these situations.

“We’re always going to be conservative with our guys. We’re not going to put them out there if there’s any harm, but we also want them to play. … We want them out there, but not at the expense of any sort of risk.”

Oklahoma City has qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2020.

Wednesday’s matchup will be the second between the teams this season. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 36 points to help Oklahoma City earn a 127-123 home victory on Jan. 2. Boston received 34 points from Kristaps Porzingis and 30 from Jayson Tatum in the loss.

–Field Level Media