OKLAHOMA CITY- The last two times the Boston Celtics have visited the Chesapeake Energy Arena, they’ve turned big first half deficits into victories.
Sunday afternoon, the Celtics extended the streak to three.
Erasing a nine point lead, Boston topped the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-111.
The loss snapped Oklahoma City’s four-game win streak, and dropped them to 32-21.
“We weren’t able to finish well enough in some crucial situations,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after the game.
The most notable of those moments came with 17 seconds left in the game.
Down three points, Oklahoma City denied Gordon Hayward at the rim.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander took control for the Thunder, but before he could put up the potential game-tying shot, Celtics guard Marcus Smart sealed the win with a steal.
“[Smart] made a great play,” Donovan said. “Give him credit.”
Chris Paul said there’s no need to talk to Gilgeous-Alexander about the late turnover.
“There ain’t no discussion,” Paul said.
Oklahoma City failed to take advantage of the Celtics mishaps throughout the second half.
With three minutes remaining, the Thunder played Danilo Gallinari into a one-on-one matchup in transition for him to miss the contested lay-up. Immediately on the other end of the floor, Boston star Kemba Walker drained a contested three.
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Jayson Tatum led the charge for Boston out of the half, scoring 12 points in the third quarter alone to give his Celtics a 32-23 advantage in the quarter. Tatum had posted just 7 points on 2-of-6 shooting in the entire first half.
“I thought to start the third, [Boston] kind of regained some momentum,” Donovan said.
“That third quarter really allowed them to certainly get some control of the game.”
Thunder guard Dennis Schroder said sometimes good players simply have bad halves and heat up out of the locker room.
“I mean it’s the NBA,” Schroder said. “The NBA has a lot of good players and he’s one of them.”
“He’s an All-Star.”
The fourth quarter belonged to Walker. Scoring 10 points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting, Walker made the big shots late to push the Celtics to the win.
Turnovers also played a role in the Boston comeback.
Even though the Celtics only forced one more turnover than Oklahoma City, they outscored the Thunder 21-7 in the points off those turnovers.
“Listen, when you turn the ball over it’s always going to be difficult,” Donovan said.
“We didn’t have a lot of turnovers,” he said. “They did a really good job of capitalizing.”
Despite the loss, Thunder players said they were focused on taking lessons from the loss to prevent it from happening in their next time out.
“I learn from every opportunity, especially every failure,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.
Paul echoed the sentiment.
“Like we said all year, we try to learn and win at the same time,” he said. “We’ll bounce back.”
Oklahoma City will have a chance to rebound from the loss when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night.
The Thunder will look to close out their four-game home stand with a win before hitting the road again.
Tip-off against the Spurs is scheduled for 7 p.m.