Contenders already? Thunder make statement knocking off Celtics behind 36 from Gilgeous-Alexander

Boston Celtics v Oklahoma City Thunder
Boston Celtics v Oklahoma City Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — That's another signature win for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 36 points and Oklahoma City held off the NBA-leading Boston Celtics 127-123 on Tuesday night for its fifth straight victory.

Oklahoma City has won eight of nine. During that stretch, the Thunder have beaten defending champion Denver twice, ended the Los AngelesClippers win streak at nine, beaten Western Conference leader Minnesota and now topped the Celtics.

This one was tougher than some of the others. The Thunder beat Minnesota by 23 and Denver by 26 on the road last week.

This time, the Celtics trimmed an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter to two before Oklahoma City held on.

“I thought we were pretty resilient tonight,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “I thought we took some punches."

Josh Giddey had 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and Chet Holmgren added 14 points, seven assists and four blocks for the Thunder, who entered the night with the league’s fourth-best record.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 34 points and Jayson Tatum had 30 for the Celtics, who had won six straight and 11 of 12.

“I thought it was two great teams," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. "The game went about how I thought it would go as far as it coming down to the last couple of possessions.”

Boston led 61-58 at halftime behind 18 points from Porzingis. Gilgeous-Alexander kept the Thunder in it with 17.

The Thunder got off to a strong start in the second half, and Giddey's deep 3-pointer gave Oklahoma City a 76-69 lead. It got so frustrating for the Celtics that Mazzulla was called for a technical during the third quarter. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting in the period to help Oklahoma City take a 98-86 edge into the fourth.

Oklahoma City started hot in the fourth. Jalen Williams took off on a fast break, cocked the ball back with his right hand and brought down the hammer on a dunk to give the Thunder a 108-90 lead.

The Celtics rallied late. Derrick White hit a 3-pointer with 41 seconds remaining to cut Boston's deficit to 121-119. Williams quickly responded with a short floater to push the lead back to four.

Porzingis was fouled with 15.2 seconds left, and he made both free throws to cut Oklahoma City's lead to 123-121.

Giddey was fouled with 12.1 seconds left. His first free throw rolled in and his second was perfect to put the Thunder up four.

Porzingis hit a shot deep in the left corner with 3.7 seconds left. It was called a 2-pointer because it was ruled his foot was on the line, and that was upheld upon review, so Boston still trailed by two.

Gilgeous-Alexander was fouled with 2.8 seconds remaining. With the crowd chanting “M-V-P!” he made both free throws to put the game away.

“Opened up a nice lead in the fourth quarter and they kept coming,” Daigneault said. “They’re obviously a really talented team. I thought we were a little sloppy on both ends of the floor trying to slam the door on that game, but then made big plays down the stretch and executed with poise.”