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Celtics give up 127-123 statement win to Thunder

Boston maintains the first-overall league record despite nail-biting loss

NBA: Boston Celtics at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder are incredibly good. Heading into tonight’s matchup, they were still seeking their statement game – the one that makes people say, “they’ve arrived.”

Don’t get me wrong. They’ve had a few great wins against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets over the last few weeks. A win against the historically great Celtics at the peak of their powers, though, would be a special win.

They got it tonight, in a truly thrilling game of basketball between the two hottest teams in the league. The Thunder remained focused through an incredible Celtics run and got a tough win.

It was a messy one to start. Boston had 3 turnovers in the first three minutes of the game, and an alarming number of loose balls seemed to find the hands of Thunder players. Despite some solid play, including two consecutive threes from Kristaps Porzingis, Oklahoma led 31-29 after one. Porzingis had 12 in the first, and finished the game with 34 points and 10 rebounds.

Derrick White left the game with five left in the first because of a cut on his head, but returned midway through the second. He had 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists.

At the half, Boston led 61-58 despite giving up 17 points to Gilgeous-Alexander, who finished with 36, 7, and 7.

Jaylen Brown was 1-8 from the field and 0-4 at the half, but he still turned in a better performance than Vertigo Cube, the halftime duo that basically just played with hula hoops the whole break.

The third quarter opened with some bad Celtics shooting, and finished with some even worse Celtics shooting. They were outscored 40-25 in the third, thanks to a ridiculous shooting display from Gilgeous-Alexander. They also let Josh Giddey get way too many easy looks, and the score was 98-86 Thunder heading into the final period. Giddey finished with 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Two quick threes from Oklahoma City to open the fourth seemed like they would seal the deal. Then, some Derrick White heroics brought the deficit back down to 8 with five minutes left.

What followed was some of the most stressful basketball of the season. The Celtics surged, then gave up bad offensive boards, then got a few steals to keep it close. There was a Payton Pritchard vs 7’1” Chet Holmgren jump ball, that Pritchard sort of won. Holmgren hit multiple threes. Jaylen Brown basically airballed a free throw, Derrick White hit a CRAZY three to complete a 27-11 run for Boston. And then they lost.

Here’s that White shot:

Boston didn’t really have a section of bad basketball. They moved the ball pretty well, and the shot selection was acceptable. They just went cold – from everywhere – when the Thunder got scorching hot.

Plus, Brown was bad. He had 15 points on 4/18 shooting and 0/8 from three. Tatum ended with 30, 13, and 8, but couldn’t claw out the win for his team.

Celtics fans might not remember this one in a few months. But for the Thunder, this was a big, gritty win. This Thunder team is good, and I’m sure Boston will have more battles with them in the near future.

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