The 2022-23 Boston Celtics have become the basketball equivalent of a rollercoaster ride. Just over a week after their biggest win of the season, 139-118 over Milwaukee, sparked some momentum, they’ve once again found themselves at a low point. The Oklahoma City Thunder may not be nearly as bad right now as they’ve been in recent seasons, but in their listless 150-117 defeat to the young squad, the Celtics recorded their most frustrating loss of the season.
Both teams entered tonight’s game shorthanded. Robert Williams III sat for the Celtics, as they continue to manage his surgically repaired knee, while the Thunder were without the services of superstar guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (non-Covid illness) and emerging youngster Aleksej Pokusevski (non-displaced tibial fracture). For Boston, Jaylen Brown paced the team with 29 points, but recorded a team-worst plus-minus of -28, emblematic of the team’s absent defense. The Thunder, meanwhile, poured in points, with seven players hitting double-digits in scoring, including a whopping five with at least 20 (Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Jalen Williams, Isaiah Joe, Tre Mann).
Brown took the helm of the offense in the early going, scoring 10 first quarter points, and Marcus Smart quickly made some highlights, with a put-back dunk and an extremely Smart-like defensive stop on a 3-on-1 fast break for the Thunder. By and large, however, the Celtics looked like a team that took their opponent too lightly. The first quarter defense was incredibly leaky, even with the Thunder lacking their offensive engine. A 13-5 run late in the first kept the Celtics in the mix, but 50% shooting from the field for Oklahoma City kept them behind after one, 34-33.
The Boston run to end the first quarter was, itself, quickly erased as the second began, as the Thunder opened the quarter with a 13-5 run of their own to put the Celtics’ deficit right back to nine. This time, the ensuing minutes didn’t quite put things right. Oklahoma City’s shooting percentage continued to tick upwards, and they nearly doubled up the Celtics’ scoring output in the frame, 40-21, to take a shocking 74-54 halftime lead.
There isn’t much of interest to be said about the second half. Any hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed as the third quarter began — a quarter in which the Thunder scored a jaw-dropping 48 points, capped off by a completely unbothered coast-to-coast dunk from Thunder rookie Jalen Williams. Coach Joe Mazzulla emptied the bench as the fourth quarter began, as he should have. This game was over.
Next up, the Celtics will carry on with their miniature West Coast road trip, playing their second of three straight games on the other side of the country against the Dallas Mavericks this Thursday at 7:30 PM EST on TNT.