The Thunder went into Boston on Tuesday night and squared-off with a Celtics team that was without the bulk of its firepower in Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown. Even still, the teams exchanged buckets and the lead for the better part of four quarters, with Oklahoma City never being able to shift gears and pull away in a game that was often difficult to watch.
Yet there it was in the final minute — right there for the Thunder to take. OKC held a 98-92 advantage with 24 seconds remaining, looking poised to escape with a victory. Then, right on cue, the free throw thing happened.
Jayson Tatum cut the Thunder lead to four with 17 seconds to go, followed by Russell Westbrook splitting two free throws on the other end. The OKC lead was at 99-94 with 16.8 seconds remaining. Still comfortable enough.
On the next Celtics possession, Terry Rozier buried a 27-foot heave to make it 99-97 with 12.7 seconds to go. Boston would then foul Carmelo Anthony with 8.4 seconds left, sending him to the line with a chance to put the game out of reach.
He missed them both.
This left Boston with a little more than eight seconds to either tie or go for the win. After cutting off a Tatum drive to the basket, he found Marcus Morris on the perimeter, who proceeded to pump fake Paul George out of the picture. You know what happened next:
Morris hit the game-winning three-pointer with 1.2 seconds left on the clock — capping a furious Celtics comeback that became complete when Westbrook came up empty on his desperation toss at the buzzer. Tatum led the way for Boston in the win with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Morris was the second leading scorer with 21 points. Terry Rozier added 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Russell Westbrook was the Thunder’s leading scorer in a losing effort, contributing 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists on 9-of-21 shooting. Paul George was next in line with 24 points and 13 rebounds on a 9-of-19 clip. All five Thunder starters were in double-figures but OKC got just 10 points out of its bench. That hurt.
The loss drops the Thunder record to 43-30 on the season and snaps a six-game winning streak. OKC returns to action at home on Friday against the Miami Heat.
41.2: The Thunder hit 41.2 percent of its shots, compared to 41.4 percent for Boston. It wasn’t exactly pretty.
37: OKC went 10-of-27 from deep, good for 37 percent. Boston went 13-of-36, 36.1 percent.
65.5: The Thunder shot 19-of-29 from the free throw line. That’s 65.6 percent and also the entire subject of this recap.
-8: OKC was outrebounded 52-44 and 11-8 on the offensive glass.
-25: The OKC bench was outscored 35-10.
13 & 19: The Thunder had 13 turnovers and forced Boston into 19.
12 & 10: There were 12 lead changes and 10 ties.
Fourth Quarter Highlights
This game wasn’t interesting until the end. Here are those highlights.
The Free Throw Thing. Free throw shooting cost OKC the game but this issue isn’t a new one. The Thunder entered with a 71.3 percent conversion percentage from the line — 29th out of 30 NBA teams. It’s not the first game the team has lost due to free throws and, unfortunately, won’t be the last if the group can’t put together a better effort than 65 percent.
Bad Night for Melo. Melo couldn’t have been much worse for most of the evening but seemingly salvaged his night with a pair of monster threes late in the game. The second put OKC up 90-85 with 2:40 to go….but…you know… the free throws. He finished with 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting, wrapping up as a team-high +11 in 35 minutes.
Russ & PG. Russell Westbrook was fine, finishing with 27-8-7 on 43 percent shooting. Paul George had an underwhelming 24 points and 13 rebounds — shooting 5-of-8 from deep but coming disengaged for painful stretches. The “He’s quitting on this team!” I saw on Twitter was a bit overblown but I’ve certainly seen him look more interested.
Steven Adams. Adams finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds on 4-of-7 shooting. He was 4-of-5 from the floor in the first half and then got two shots in the second. That has to be worked out.
The Bench. The Thunder bench combined to shoot 4-of-13 from the floor, good for just 30.8 percent. Jerami Grant made three of those buckets himself but even he finished as a -13 in his 10 minutes of action.
Corey Brewer Strike One. Corey Brewer returned to earth in the Thunder’s first loss with him in the starting lineup. He scored 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, going just 1-of-6 from downtown. He finished as the only Thunder starter with a negative net rating, wrapping up as a -3 in 36 minutes.
The Other Guys. Five Celtics scored in double-figures: Tatum (24), Morris (21), Greg Monroe (17), Rozier (14), and Shane Larkin (13). Larkin hit a buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter to cut OKC’s lead to two. Kinda felt ominous at that exact moment.