GAME RECAP: THUNDER AT CELTICS


Paris Lawson

By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter
okcthunder.com



The Big Picture

Though the Thunder fell 111-105 inside of TD Garden, the team once again put its resiliency and competitive spirit on display in the second night of a back-to-back. OKC rallied as a collective unit from as many as 25 points down to make it a four-point ball game in the final stanza. Boston’s primary scorers and sharpshooting gave them a comfortable lead, but a massive fourth quarter run sparked by the Thunder’s second unit made the Celtics sweat in the final minute of the ball game.


Moments from the 48

Another Fourth-Quarter Surge
Saturday’s matchup marked the fifth game in seven nights as well as the second night of a back-to-back against two veteran Eastern Conference opponents. Neither of those factors meant much to the young, fiery Thunder who for the second consecutive night, put together a monstrous fourth quarter to shave down a deficit larger than 20 points to single digits in the final minute.

“You’ve got to credit the guys for just staying focused and continuing to try to find solutions, not splinter, sticking together and trying to find a way to turn the game and again put ourselves in a spot where we had a chance,” said Thunder assistant coach Dave Bliss.

After falling behind by as many as 25 points in the third quarter, the Thunder outscored Boston 31-22 in the final frame as the team’s offense found its rhythm. The Thunder’s ball movement led to catch and shoot 3’s and helped build an extended 18-7 Thunder run to bring the deficit to single digits. Extra efforts on the glass by the Thunder led to second chances offensively – in the fourth quarter alone, the Thunder generated 12 second chance points. It was a second-chance 3-pointer by Lu Dort that brought the game to within four points with 10 seconds left in the game.

Though the Thunder was unable to mount the full comeback, the effort on the road, on the second night of a back-to-back, in the fifth game in a matter of seven days, spoke volumes to the team’s no-quit mentality.

“We’re going to fight to the end for sure,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “We knew that going into the season that we'd have no chance if we didn't fight every position that we could and that's something that we want to hang our hat on every night. We want to give every possession our all and we want to play a full 48 minutes.”


Giddey Gets Going from Deep
After not making a 3-pointer in the previous four contests, Thunder rookie Josh Giddey notched a new career high against Boston with four triples. In the third quarter, the Australia native drained three of those baskets on consecutive possessions to go on a personal 9-0 run. At the end of the night, Giddey acknowledged “it was good to see the ball go through the ring.”

“The thing that was good with him was the ball movement. He found himself in the corners a number of times, just because of the ball movement,” said Bliss. “Josh getting some catching shoot threes instead of relying on the ones off the dribble or the ones in pick and roles which are higher degree of difficulty. So credit to him for knocking them down but also credit to him, he's starting to figure out like how to generate some of the high value shots.”


Second Unit Spark
For the second consecutive night, the Thunder’s second unit provided a much-needed and timely spark to help shrink a looming deficit. After posting 37 points against Milwaukee on Friday, OKC reserves combined to post 47 points on Saturday compared to just 18 for Boston.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who came off the bench against the Celtics, led the way with 13 points while Ty Jerome chipped in 12 on a hyper-efficient 5-of-7 shooting from the field. Isaiah Roby, who hadn’t been in the rotation for the Thunder over the last two games, stepped in and added nine points while grabbing six rebounds.

“It's really important for us to have that second unit kind of have that spark for us,” said Robinson-Earl. “We have a really talented first group that gets us going and then having a second group that can just continue that and keep that going or are bringing us back from down is really important. There's a lot of great teams out there, so being able to do that on any given night is really important for us.”


3-point Barrage
The 3-point line was generous to both squads on Saturday as both teams shot above 42 percent from deep. Boston’s Jayson Tatum led his team with a season-high six made 3-pointers on the night. Meanwhile, the Thunder cashed in a season high 18 3-pointers in the effort as four players made three or more triples.

As Boston sent multiple bodies to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on his drives to the bucket, the fourth-year guard took advantage and sprayed the ball to open teammates on the perimeter.

“I think it was more of the earlier passes,” said Bliss, explaining the factor that led to the barrage of 3-pointers. “These teams are selling out to take away Shai’s drives and especially in the third quarter, he showed really good trust in his teammates and just fired those early passes to the wings and guys were ready to make plays, ready to make early drives and ready to cut.”


The Last Word

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl on the fight for the second straight night…
“It just shows that we have guys out there that want to win at all costs. No matter what the score is, we're playing like it’s zero-to-zero. We have a lot of young competitors on the team that just want to get after it for that full 48 minutes.”

Josh Giddey on the team’s mentality after game…
"Wins or losses, they don't deter where we're trying to head. You're going to lose some, you're going to win some, but not losing sight of the end goal we're trying to get to is something that's strong within this group."


What’s Next

After its only stretch of the season with five games in seven nights, the Thunder will enjoy a rest day before wrapping up its three-game Eastern Conference road trip. OKC will face Atlanta for the first time this season on Monday at 7 p.m. CT.


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