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May 29, 2024

Thunder Stun League-Leading Celtics in Down-To-The-Wire Thriller

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Jan 3, 2024

The Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off a shocking 127-123 victory over the Boston Celtics last night in a down-to-the-wire thriller. The Celtics came into the contest with the NBA’s best record at 27-8, while the Thunder have been one of the league’s most pleasant surprises this season. However, Oklahoma City showed they are a force to be reckoned with as they handed Boston just their third loss in the last 19 games.

Gilgeous-Alexander Dominates with 36 Points

The Thunder were powered by an MVP-caliber performance from guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who went off for 36 points on efficient 12-21 shooting. He consistently broke down the Celtics’ defense all night with his smooth drives to the basket and arsenal of crafty finishes. Alexander also pitched in with 8 assists and was the clear leader for the young Thunder squad.

His backcourt mate Josh Giddey turned in his best game of the season as well, posting a triple-double with 16 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds. Second-year forward Jalen Williams also shined, adding 27 points of his own.

On the Celtics’ side, Jayson Tatum led the scoring charge with 34 points and veteran big man Al Horford notched a 21-point, 14-rebound double-double. Newly acquired Kristaps Porzingis poured in 29 points in one of his best games since joining Boston. However, the rest of the team failed to match the output of Oklahoma City’s balanced attack.

Key Player Stats

Player Points Rebounds Assists
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 36 4 8
Jayson Tatum 34 7 3
Kristaps Porzingis 29 7 2
Jalen Williams 27 2 2
Josh Giddey 16 10 14

Furious Celtics Rally Falls Just Short

The scrappy Thunder led wire-to-wire for most of the contest before Boston stormed back in the fourth quarter. Down 11 with just over 3 minutes remaining, the Celtics turned up the defensive pressure and ripped off a quick 10-2 run capped off by back-to-back Jaylen Brown threes to cut the lead to one.

After the teams traded buckets, Oklahoma City clung to a 125-123 advantage with 12 seconds on the clock. Boston intentionally fouled Thunder forward Kenrich Williams, who uncharacteristically missed both free throws to give the Celtics new life.

Head coach Joe Mazzulla drew up a play for Brown, but his step-back three over Lu Dort bounced off the rim. Dort secured the rebound and iced the game with two clinching free throws, snapping Boston’s six game win streak.

What This Means Moving Forward

The loss knocks the Celtics down the standings a bit, although they still own the NBA’s top record by a healthy margin over the next closest teams. It certainly raises some concerns about their ability to close out tight games against elite competition.

As for the plucky Thunder, this marks their fifth straight victory as they continue to establish themselves as a dangerous playoff team out West. With young cornerstones Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey leading the way, Oklahoma City has all the pieces in place for a special run over the next decade.

The win also further complicates the Western Conference playoff picture. Heading into last night’s action, the Thunder were tied with the Phoenix Suns record-wise for the #6 seed. Both teams seem destined for the postseason, but the order in which they finish could have major implications on their first round opponents. Oklahoma City matches up particularly well against upper echelon teams like Memphis and Denver, so they will likely be hoping to climb into that #5 slot if possible.

What The Players and Coaches Had To Say

After the game, coaches and players from both teams weighed in with their initial reactions.

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum kept it simple:

“Tough loss. We didn’t get the stops we needed down the stretch. But hats off to OKC…they played great tonight.”

Head coach Joe Mazzulla elaborated on the loss:

“I love the fight we showed to battle back, but we needed that fire earlier in the game. We let them get too comfortable and didn’t match their intensity from the jump. We’ll learn from this one.”

Meanwhile, Thunder coach Mark Daigneault praised his young squad’s poise:

“Our guys stepped up and made winning plays when it mattered most. Staying aggressive on offense and getting stops on D. Couldn’t be more proud of the growth I’m seeing.”

And star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander made it clear this Thunder team still has bigger goals:

“This was a big win for us tonight. But we’re far from finished products. It’s all about getting better every day.”

The two teams won’t have to wait long for a rematch, as they are scheduled to square off against each other two more times over the final few months of the regular season. Based on the wildly entertaining show they put on last night, circle those dates on your calendar now.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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