The Oklahoma City Thunder engaged in a tight contest against the Boston Celtics on Friday night in Oklahoma City. The Thunder put together an impressive first half but failed to execute in the 2nd half. The Celtics would grind out a 101-94 victory after outscoring the Thunder 64-39 in the 2nd half.
In the first half, the Thunder looked like a well-oiled machine that just overpowered the Celtics at every turn. The defense was stifling, the offense was flowing freely and the crowd was in a frenzy. Russell Westbrook knocked down threes and yelled to the crowd, Carmelo Anthony was engaged on the boards, and Paul George continued to find his groove. The Thunder were simply clicking on all cylinders and went into the halftime with a 55-37 advantage.
Kyrie Irving had 3 points and 0 assists at halftime. The Thunder defense forced Irving into long, contested shots and also made it tough for him at the rim. In the 2nd half, Irving came out with a different mentality. The entire Celtics team took the fight to the Thunder.
In the 2nd half, The Thunder defense started to give up easy baskets. Jaylen Brown had a monster dunk off of a blown assignment, Marcus Morris scored an and-1 layup in transition, and Irving connected on numerous mid-range jumpers to find his groove. The Thunder lead continued to trickle down as the offense stagnated, scoring only 16 points in the 3rd off of 6-22 shooting. Meanwhile, the Celtics showed patience on offense and got into the free throw bonus early, earning 11 FTs to get back into the game.
The lead was knocked down to 71-67 after three quarters. In the 4th quarter, Irving was in full attack mode. He picked up apart the Thunder defense at every turn, whether it was getting to the basket or connecting on an off-balance three while getting fouled. Irving also set up his big man Al Horford for wide open after collapsing the Thunder defense. The Celtics outscored the Thunder 34-23 in the 4th to take home the victory.
The Thunder defense was stifling in the 1st half, but seemed to lose focus after sucha dominant stretch. Offensively, the Thunder settled for contested jumpers in the 2nd half and there was less ball movement. They reverted back to the offense that Thunder fans had hoped would be gone. Despite all of this, the Thunder still had their opportunities to win.
The Thunder shot 40% from the field and hit 13 threes. The rebounding battle was close but the Celtics got the edge, 49-48. The numbers were all fairly close but the Thunder will look back and see the missed opportunities on offense that led to transition opportunities for the Celtics.
Irving led the Celtics with 25 points (including 22 in the 2nd half) and 6 assists. Horford chipped in 20 points with 8 rebounds and also connected on all four of his three point attempts, three of which came during the comeback.
George paced the Thunder with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Westbrook added 19 points and 11 assists. Melo had 10 points and pulled down 14 rebounds, but shot a horrific 3-17, including multiple pull-up threes in transition that failed to fall (0-5 on the night).
The Thunder will look bounce back in the first game of a three game road trip against the Portland Trail Blazers.