The Oklahoma City Thunder had a rough opening week to the regular season, dropping their first three games. They were winless coming into tonight’s national television broadcast game against Boston Celtics. The Thunder led nearly the whole way, but gave up 16-1 run late in the 4th, and dropped a tough one to the Celtics 101-95. OKC led by as many as 16 points, held Boston to only 34 points in the first half, but gave up 67 points in the second half, including 40 in the 3rd. The Thunder now drop to 0-4 to begin the season.
After losing their first three games of the season, Billy Donovan decided that it was time for a change into the starting lineup. He inserted Jerami Grant for Patrick Patterson at the power forward position. The rest of the starters remained the same with Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams and Terrance Ferguson.
The change in the starting lineup seemed to be just what the Thunder needed, as they jumped out to a 18-6 lead early. They forced all contested jumpers on the defensive end and took efficient shots offensively. The Thunder defense held the Celtics to just 16 points in the first quarter.
The Thunder bench kept the defensive intensity up, quickly building the lead to double-digits. Dennis Schroder was able to pick apart the Celtic defense, getting into the paint for layups. When Schroder was not finishing at the rim, he was setting up Nerlens Noel for dunks. The starters came back in and turned it up a notch. The Thunder led 37-27 and then pushed their lead to 16 after a 6-0 run. OKC’s defense frustrated the Celtics, leading to an 0-of-12 three point performance. The Thunder led 50-34 at the half.
Boston is too well-coached and too talented of a basketball team to not make adjustments. They came out in the second half extremely aggressive, but the Thunder defense also lost their intensity. The first two offensive plays for Boston were a three for Gordon Hayward (their first of the game) and an easy dunk for Jayson Tatum. The Celtics’ confidence slowly came back and the Thunder offense slowly deteriorated. OKC still maintained a double-digit lead at 63-53 midway through the quarter. Al Horford knocked three consecutive treys and pulled the Celtics within single digits. Marcus Morris hit two more threes and pulled the Celtics closer. The Celtics hit nine three pointers in the quarter and scored 40 points total. The Thunder trailed 74-73 at the end of the third.
OKC was now in a dogfight and needed to find their intensity on both ends in the fourth quarter. The bench unit gave the Thunder a much needed spark. Hamidou Diallo remained aggressive attacking the paint, Noel was finding himself wide-open off pick-and-rolls, and Patrick Patterson scored seven points in the period. However, the Celtics were matching OKC every step of the way. The Thunder led 86-83 midway through the fourth. Then, OKC went on a quick 8-2 run after two treys from Alex Abrines. The Thunder led 94-87 with 4:14 remaining.
The Celtics began chipping away at the lead, getting to the free throw line, and finding lanes for layups. Offensively, OKC’s flow was completely gone. Westbrook had a tough night shooting the ball and he continued to struggle in the clutch moments. The score was tied at 95-95 with 30 seconds remaining. The Celtics found Morris open after a timeout for a three, giving Boston a 98-95 lead. After missed threes from Westbrook and George, the Celtics sealed the game at the free throw line for the victory. The Thunder only had a Adams’ free throw fall in the final 4:14 of the game, getting closed out on the wrong end of a 16-1 run, despite holding Boston to 28% shooting in the 4th, but putting them on the free throw line 18 times.
The Thunder shot 39% from the field and only hit seven out of 28 threes (25%). OKC struggled again from the free throw line, hitting 14 out of 25 (56%). They won the rebound battle (57-45) and forced 12 turnovers. However, the Thunder had 16 turnovers of their own. After holding the Celtics to zero threes in the first half, the Thunder gave up 11 threes in the second half.
George led the Thunder with 22 points (7-of-21 shooting) and 8 rebounds. Westbrook struggled shooting the ball (5-of-19 shooting) but finished with nearly a triple double of 13 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists. Adams put in 12 points and 6 rebounds. Dennis Schroder scored 10 points off the bench.
Tatum finished with 24 points to lead Boston. Morris scored 21 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Horford had 19 points and nine rebounds. Kyrie Irving chipped in 15 points, five rebounds and five assists.