The Celtics were again without their starting point guard, Isaiah Thomas, as the team traveled to Oklahoma for a game against the Thunder. Playing without the biggest little guy in the game meant that Boston was reliant on strong defensive pressure, good ball movement and long-range shooting, which for the most part proved to be an effective strategy.
The Celtics established strong defensive presence right from the opening tip, ball hawking and hustling on every possession. But on the offensive end the shots weren’t falling early, and it took a bit of time for the team to get going.
By the end of the first quarter both teams were firing a bit more effectively, and the game was moving with a lot more speed. That was until Thunder guard Victor Oladipo over-committed to a defensive play against Jonas Jerebko and ended up landing in an awkward position, which stopped play for some time with only five seconds left in the first. Oladipo was injured on the play and would not return for the rest of the game.
When the first quarter finally did end the Celtics were up 24-21 against OKC, and Jae Crowder led all scorers with 9 points.
The second frame saw more of the same as the Thunder continued to rely heavily on Westbrook, with mixed results. Likewise, the Celtics continued to fire from beyond the arc, also with mixed results. However, the consistent team play from the Celtics gave them the edge as the half ended with the Celtics in front 43-39.
The third quarter looked to belong to Boston as they extended their lead, going up by double digits. But some careless play and defensive lapses allowed Westbrook and the Thunder to sneak back into the game. As the final frame started, the lead had been whittled down to just four points, but the Celtics were still in front, if only barely.
Crowder got into foul trouble and was benched for much of the fourth quarter. His absence was noticeable, as the defensive effort slipped for the whole team. But with Crowder resting up on the bench Jaylen Brown was given some extra playing time in the closing minutes, and the rookie managed to make a positive impact on the game, scoring, assisting and maintaining good positioning.
Westbrook, as he is prone to do, tried to put the Thunder on his back, but the one-man band couldn’t quite overcome the Celtics strong team-oriented play. Instead it was Steven Adams who managed to get the Oklahoma City crowd onto their feet with some crafty interior play.
Coach Stevens brought Crowder back briefly in a move that would prove ill advised, as he quickly fouled out of the game. While this didn’t seem too important with the end of the game in sight and the Celtics still in front, it was shortly after this point that OKC managed to tie up the score with just over a minute left in the game.
A series of bad plays from Boston gave the Thunder plenty of opportunities to take the late-game win. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Russell Westbrook took advantage of the Celtics’ sloppy play, and with just 30 seconds left in the final period he laid up an all-too-easy bucket that gave OKC a two-point lead.
Another broken play on the offensive end led to a late-game jump ball, with the game essentially on the line. Unfortunately the Celtics couldn’t gather themselves and allowed OKC to maintain their lead with little time left for Boston to answer.
Out of timeouts and out of options, the Celtics weren’t able to do anything to get the win in the final minutes and instead allowed Russell Westbrook to lead OKC to victory.