It’s still just over a week into the season, but the Oklahoma City Thunder might already be approaching panic time.
The Thunder coughed up a 16-point halftime lead Thursday night and lost 101-95 to the Boston Celtics, falling to 0-4 for the worst start since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. The Celtics shook off a horrid shooting start and closed the game on a 16-1 run.
Paul George hit a pair of free throws to put the Thunder ahead 94-85 with 4:22 left. Oklahoma City then missed its final 10 shots from the field, limited to a single free throw the rest of the way.
“We’ll be alright, it’s early,” said Russell Westbrook. “There’s no need to panic. Obviously we’re not starting the way we wanted to, but we’ll be OK. I will make sure of that.”
Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris each hit two free throws, before Kyrie Irving hit a short jumper and Tatum made two more free throws to pull Boston to 94-83. After Steven Adams made a free throw for the Thunder, Irving made a driving layup to tie it at 95.
Out of a timeout, Morris then buried a 3 to put Boston up for good at 98-95. Boston went 3-of-4 from the foul line in the closing seconds to seal the win.
Oklahoma City’s lack of shooting, a major preseason concern, cropped up again in crunch time Thursday night. The Thunder came into the game shooting 39 percent from the floor as a team and 36.3 percent from 3-point range.
The Thunder shot 39.4 percent against the Celtics, including 7-of-28 from long range. George scored a team-high 22 points, but shot 7-of-22 from the floor and 2-of-10 from deep. Russell Westbrook had 13 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists, but was 5-of-20 overall and missed all five of his 3-point attempts.
The Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers are the only winless teams left in the league.
“There’s 78 more. For us, it’s one game at a time,” George said. “Tomorrow, we’re going to bury this game once we look at the film, and get ready for Phoenix. Just take it one day, one game at a time.”
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The ending was all the more dispiriting after the Thunder started so well. Oklahoma City raced out to a 50-34 lead at the break, holding Boston to 31.8 percent shooting in the first half and 0-of-11 from 3-point range.
The third quarter was a complete role reversal.
Gordon Hayward sank a 3 on the first shot of the third. Boston proceeded to hit eight more 3s in the frame, shooting 58.3 percent from the floor and 9-of-14 from long range.
Al Horford scored 11 points in the third, including three straight 3s in a 40-second span to cut the Celtics’ deficit to 70-64. Morris made a driving layup in the final minute of the quarter to give Boston its first lead of the game at 74-73 heading into the fourth.
Boston outscored Oklahoma City 40-23 in third quarter.
Tatum led the Celtics with a game-high 24 points. Morris had 21 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, Horford added 19 points, and Irving had 15.
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