Rare event as OKC Thunder lose to Celtics in clutch time – grades

FEBRUARY 9: Kemba Walker #8 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball against the OKC Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
FEBRUARY 9: Kemba Walker #8 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball against the OKC Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
FEBRUARY 9: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball against the OKC Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder faced a tough test versus the Celtics ultimately succumbing to one of the top teams in the NBA. Player grades offer up the goods.

In the rare matinee event, the Boston Celtics were in town to face the OKC Thunder for a Nationally televised game. The pre-hype for the match lived up to its billing.

For whatever reason, regardless of the roster or how often these teams experience complete personnel changes the crew from Boston always results in a battle with the Thunder that invariably goes to the wire. Sunday was no different and the result was a one-point loss to the team many consider among the top five in the league.

Boston has endured injuries to their core often with one of Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown or Gordon Hayward sidelined particularly since Christmas. At least one of that core hasn’t been dressed lately and as one star returns, another exits. In the tougher matches, Boston has tried to have them all on the court and perhaps in a nod to their respect of the Thunder all four were back today despite the uncertainty of Walker, Brown or Daniel Theiss being fully healthy coming into the game.

112. 18. 111. 149. Final

The game started with both sides feeling each other out and removing their preferred styles. The Thunder knew the Celtics would want a faster pace and to drive the paint so made a point of holding up the Bean Town crew in transition, while clogging the paint.

The strategy paid off as Jayson Tatum failed to score in the first quarter and the majority of Kemba Walker’s early point tally came at the charity stripe.

The resulting effect was the OKC Thunder held an early 32-28 lead after one frame and continued that assault to take a 61-52 point edge at the half.

Coming out of the break the Bean Town crew adjusted and capitalized on the frame the Thunder struggle the most and erased the nine-point deficit quickly to knot the score at 84 entering the final frame.

OKC Thunder fans were confident — after all this squad is known as the Clutch Time Killers so the thinking was all the team had to do is get to those final five minutes within five. But, while it’s great to know you’ve got that tool in your back pocket and the confidence to use it — it’s equally dangerous to rely on that especially versus a top tier club.

On this day the clutch prowess didn’t work in OKC’s favor. Kemba Walker hit back to back 3-pointers down the stretch to give Boston a padding edge. Clutch master Chris Paul did his best to take over and came close to pulling it off. But, a series of missed bunnies and turnovers (one by Marcus Smart on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) allowed the Celtics to retain their lead and take the one-point victory.

It was a tough loss that could’ve easily gone the way of the Thunder if just one of those bunnies had dropped. Ultimately, it went the way of the Celtics and the Thunder got a great idea of precisely how close they are to the upper echelon — they are in the mix.

With that, let’s move on to our player grades.