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Celtics-Thunder takeaways: Gilgeous-Alexander leads OKC with MVP performance

Celtics-Thunder takeaways: Gilgeous-Alexander leads OKC with MVP performance originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Three Key Storylines

The Boston Celtics' six-game win streak was snapped Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.

The Celtics came up short in an entertaining showdown with the Thunder, who own the second-best record in the Western Conference (23-9). OKC showed why it should be considered a legitimate contender, shooting 52.7 percent from the floor and a blistering 45 percent (18-for-40) from 3-point range.

The Celtics entered the half up by three points but were outscored by 15 in the third quarter. Although they fought to cut an 18-point deficit to two late in the fourth, they couldn't complete the comeback as they fell by a score of 127-123.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander propelled the Thunder to victory with a game-high 36 points. Josh Giddey chipped in 23 for OKC.

Kristaps Porzingis and Jayson Tatum led Boston with 34 and 30 points, respectively. Derrick White added 19 in the loss.

The C's will return home and enjoy a couple of days off before hosting Danny Ainge and Will Hardy's Utah Jazz on Friday night. First, here are three takeaways from Tuesday's thriller.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shows why he's an MVP frontrunner

Gilgeous-Alexander entered Tuesday's matchup fourth in 2023-24 NBA MVP odds behind Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets), and Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), per Fanatics Sportsbook. His performance against the C's only helped his chances.

The 25-year-old put on a show for his home crowd. Even against dominant defenders in Jrue Holiday and Derrick White, he was virtually unguardable. He dropped 11 points in the first quarter and 17 in the first half, and he was only warming up.

Gilgeous-Alexander picked up his fourth foul three minutes into the third quarter but it didn't affect his play. The All-Star guard tacked on another 16 points in the frame to enter the fourth with 33 altogether.

The Celtics -- primarily Jayson Tatum -- focused on keeping Gilgeous-Alexander in check throughout the fourth quarter. It was an effective strategy as he scored only three points and didn't make a shot in the final 12 minutes. That helped Boston mount an admirable comeback bid, but it just wasn't enough to outlast a hot-shooting OKC team.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 36 points on an efficient 14-of-22 shooting. He also notched seven rebounds, seven assists, and a steal. His zero turnovers only added to his remarkable outing.

It won't be easy to overtake three superstars in Embiid, Jokic, and Doncic, but Gilgeous-Alexander continues to prove that he's a legit MVP contender.

C's third-quarter hot streak comes to an end

The Celtics experienced some serious third-quarter woes early in the season, but those appeared to be a thing of the past as of late. They entered Tuesday's game averaging 36.6 points in the third over their last seven games while outscoring their opponents by an average of 10.5 points.

Oklahoma City put that to an end with a dominant third quarter in which it outscored Boston, 40-25. The C's couldn't get anything going offensively, missing several lay-ups while Gilgeous-Alexander erupted for 16 points on the other end. That proved to be the difference in a game that otherwise was tightly contested.

Potential Finals preview?

This marked yet another statement game for the young Thunder. Before beating the C's, they took down the Nuggets in Denver twice, blew out the first-place Minnesota Timberwolves, and dominated the Los Angeles Clippers.

There's plenty of basketball still to be played this season, but there's no reason to believe at this point that OKC isn't a serious contender. MVP candidate Gilgeous-Alexander is joined by up-and-comers Josh Giddey (23 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists), Chet Holmgren (14 points, 4 blocks) and Jalen Williams (16 points, 3 steals) in an underrated starting lineup. While they could use another piece to complete the puzzle, the Thunder have proven their hot start to the campaign isn't a fluke.

Tuesday's matchup felt like a playoff game. If it was a harbinger of what's to come in June, NBA fans will be in for a treat.

Boston will meet Oklahoma City again at TD Garden on April 3.