The Thunder have dealt with some injury adversity this season to be sure. Steven Adams, Paul George, and others have missed various games, and defensive stalwart Andre Roberson will miss the rest of the season.
But certainly not to the degree the Boston Celtics have. Injury struck in the first few minutes of the season with Gordon Hayward’s graphic compound fracture. All season, Boston has had to deal with various maladies, but they’ve succeeded for the most part with credit to their excellent coach, Brad Stevens, and their depth.
Their game against the Thunder Tuesday night was no different. Missing the aforementioned Hayward, Kyrie Irving (knee), Jaylen Brown (concussion protocol), Marcus Smart (thumb), and Daniel Theis (knee), the Celtics were down roughly one-third of their roster.
Which makes the Thunder’s loss in Boston all that much worse. Up by six points with less than 25 seconds left, missed free throws finally came to bite the Thunder in a very tangible way. The Thunder are second-to-last in the NBA in free throw percentage this season, and their 19-of-29 clip from the mark — plus three missed foul shots down the stretch — were enough to sink the Thunder.
Marcus Morris was the hero for the Celtics on the night, nailing the game-winning three with just under two seconds left to sink the Thunder. A Russell Westbrook three at the buzzer was unsuccessful.
This was a game that OKC should have won hands down, and, if not for some imploding down the stretch, would have walked away from the TD Garden with a victory to add to their tally. If the Thunder had just taken care of business from the foul line, the Celtics don’t hang around.
It was a rather ugly contest: both teams turned the ball over a combined 30-plus times, and missed 40 combined threes. The Celtics edged the Thunder in free throws made (knocking down 15-of-16) and rebounds (a +8 margin with 11 offensive boards), and it proved to be a fatal combination for OKC.
Russell Westbrook struggled to shoot the ball, going 9-of-21, adding eight boards, seven assists, and a steal to his totals. George, who knocked down five three-pointers, contributed nicely with 24 points, 13 rebounds, and a steal. Corey Brewer regressed to the mean a bit, going one-of-six from deep. Overall, though, Brewer was still very effective and active, tallying five boards, three rebounds, and two assists.
Steven Adams, who had a distinct advantage on the block against the beleaguered Celtics, was held to only seven shots — and only one shot in the final quarter.
For the Celtics, they were led in scoring by dynamic rookie Jayson Tatum. Tatum’s overall impact and feel for the game can’t be overstated, and the rookie filled up the box score with 11 rebounds, four assists, and a steal and a block apiece. Morris, who canned the game-winner, was their second-leading scorer with 21.
The Thunder fall to 43-30, while the Celtics improve to 48-23. Next up for the Thunder: they play the Miami Heat in Oklahoma City Friday night. The game tips off at 7 P.M.