This year’s Celtics are a serious defensive unit, perhaps even more so with scoring demon Isaiah Thomas down for the count, and they managed to keep the Thunder at bay through most of the evening, jumping out to a lead as large as 13. OKC is seldom daunted by big deficits, at least big deficits in the third quarter, and early in the fourth they fought back to a tie at 71. Still, the Thunder faced issues, both short- and long-term. For the moment, Victor Oladipo, who came down hard on his late in the first quarter, is gone; as has happened several times recently, OKC was utterly horrible at the foul line, though the Celtics fouled just about as often as they possibly could. (Jae Crowder got his sixth with about three and a half minutes.) Boston bore down, though, and held their ground; at 2:40 OKC, on the strength of a Russell Westbrook trey, tied it up at 92, and two minutes later it was still tied at 94. Westbrook delivered the go-ahead bucket at :31; Jerami Grant piled on two more fifteen seconds later. Marcus Smart stuck an Al Horford miss back in to make it 98-96; Westbrook added one free throw, and Smart tossed up a wide-open trey at the buzzer, which didn’t go in. Oklahoma City 99, Boston 96.
Downside, if you want to call it that: Westbrook’s triple-double streak ended. (His line: 37-12-6.) Upside: the Thunder bench outscored Boston’s reserves, 38-24, though OKC clearly had to go deeper in the bench to compensate for the loss of Oladipo. And something has to be done about Thunder shooting: while they were competent for normal two-point field goals, they were terrible on three-pointers (3 of 21), and just as bad on free throws (14-27, 52 percent). On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for not fouling: the Celtics only got to the line eight times, making five. Al Horford led Boston with 19 points.
And now, it’s back to the West: Portland Tuesday night, then Utah on Wednesday.