Player grades: Short-handed Thunder suffer 135-100 loss to Celtics

As Payton Pritchard converted the driving layup in the final seconds, it put the finishing touches on OKC’s worst loss of the season. The short-handed squad couldn’t dent Boston’s near-impeccable home record.

The Oklahoma City Thunder — without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams — stomached through a 135-100 loss to the dominant Boston Celtics. The 35-point margin tied for the largest loss of the season for OKC.

“We were able to keep the game in a decent spot for a long time on a night where we didn’t shoot it great,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said about the loss. “Which is all you can really ask for. You just wanna hang around long enough where the game can turn potentially… I thought we did that well tonight but we never got the flurry.”

The Thunder had a strong start and finished the first quarter with a manageable 30-23 deficit against the Celtics. The deficit grew in the second quarter as a 31-point frame by the Celtics saw it put OKC in a 61-47 halftime hole.

Coming out of the break, the Thunder cut their deficit to 10 points in the opening minute of the third frame. OKC eventually cut it to a seven-point deficit with a little under 10 minutes left. A pair of Isaiah Joe free throws cut its deficit to five points with less than five minutes left in the frame.

Alas, this proved to be the closest the Thunder were to the Celtics on the scoreboard the rest of the way. A 36-point third quarter by OKC only made it a 93-83 contest after the first three quarters. Boston suddenly went nuclear in the fourth quarter as a 25-7 run gave it a 28-point lead with six minutes left.

After putting up a respectable fight for the first three quarters, the short-handed Thunder couldn’t overcome the Celtics’ second-half scoring flurry en route to a blowout result. They let go of the rope in the fourth quarter as Boston outscored them, 42-17.

The Thunder was limited to 43% shooting and went an ugly 5-of-24 (20.8%) from 3. They went 25-of-28 from the free-throw line. They dished out 21 assists on 35 baskets. Six Thunder players scored double-digit points.

Josh Giddey had 17 points and six rebounds; Chet Holmgren was limited to 11 points and seven rebounds. Lu Dort had 15 points and five rebounds.

“They leave two pretty big holes on both sides,” Giddey said on overcoming the absences of Gilgeous-Alexander and Williams. “It gives opportunity for other guys to step in. We don’t try to change the way we play.”

Meanwhile, the Celtics hit on all cylinders on offense. They shot 54% from the field and went a sizzling 17-of-40 (42.5%) from 3. They went 18-of-19 from the free-throw line. They collected 33 assists on 50 baskets. Seven Celtics players scored double-digit points.

Kristaps Porzingis led the way with 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting, 12 rebounds, five blocks and four assists. Jayson Tatum finished with 24 points on 7-of-15 shooting and seven rebounds. Jaylen Brown had 23 points on 9-of-20 shooting with 15 points in the final frame.

OKC has now dropped a pair of critical games in this gauntlet back-to-back. The two consecutive losses put it in a tough spot for its first-seed aspirations.

The Thunder will now continue this lengthy five-game road trip with the hopes that either Gilgeous-Alexander or Williams will return relatively soon. Even though the undermanned Thunder fought admirably, it’s evident they need their top two scorers back to square off against fellow title contenders.

“We’d rather be at full strength always but there’s an opportunity in every game,” Daigneault said. “The opportunity right now is to stretch the minutes of some guys and get them some significant run. Also, see guys in different roles and stretch their roles a little bit…

“There’s gonna be circumstances down the stretch of the season, into the playoffs and moving forward where teams really try to take out our guys that are our main creators… It’s gonna force other guys to be aggressive, to be confident and these types of games help them to kinda build that muscle.”

Let’s look at Thunder player grades.

Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire