This one had to hurt.
For most of Sunday night, the Boston Celtics did what they came to do and were in position to win the game.
But when the game was anyone’s for the taking, it was the game’s biggest star – Russell Westbrook – who snatched up the victory for his Thunder team who rallied in the fourth for a 99-96 win.
- Highlights: Oklahoma City Thunder 99, Boston Celtics 96
- Crowder fouling out 'a big blow' to Celtics' ability to defend down stretch
- Stars, studs and duds: 'Frustrating loss' for Celtics vs. Thunder
Boston had a chance to force overtime but Marcus Smart’s 3-pointer rimmed in and out as time expired.
Westbrook finished with 37 points, 12 rebounds and six assists which is an impressive for most NBA players.
But Westbrook isn’t your typical NBA player as he came in having tallied seven straight triple-doubles. The Celtics stopped that streak, but were unable to stop Westbrook when they needed to.
With the score tied at 94, Westbrook blew past Avery Bradley into the paint and the help-defender, Amir Johnson, was a step late getting to where he needed to be defensively.
The end result was a lay-up for Westbrook.
After Bradley’s potential game-tying basket was off the mark, he was able to force a jump ball between himself and Westbrook.
Westbrook easily won the tip and the Celtics, rather than foul immediately, allowed Oklahoma City to swing the ball around until they found Jerami Grant open under the rim for an uncontested dunk which would later prove to be the game-winning basket.
This will be yet another disappointing loss for the Celtics (13-11) which has now dropped two in a row and have lost two of the three games they have played without Isaiah Thomas who was out with a right groin injury.
Thomas said earlier that he was hoping to join the team in San Antonio.
His return can’t come soon enough as the Celtics struggled to find a go-to guy in the fourth quarter which is when Thomas has been at his best.
But you won’t hear the Celtics players or coaches talk much about who wasn’t there or who could have helped them.
Instead, they will lament the mistakes down the stretch that seem to becoming more than just a trend; but a part of who they are.
There was Jae Crowder, who was having one of his best games of the season, fouling out after scoring 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting.
There was a bad pass by Al Horford in the direction of Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier that sailed out of bounds in the final seconds of play.
Avery Bradley’s potential game-tying drive that was a tough shot, but in that situation should have been made nonetheless.
But as well as Westbrook played, his teammates came up with some clutch plays in the fourth quarter as well.
Boston’s Al Horford had his shot blocked by Stevens Adams with less than a minute to play. But the Celtics got a good defensive stop with Westbrook missing his next shot which was rebounded by Terry Rozier.
Semaj Christon came up with six of his nine points off the bench in the fourth quarter.
Those mistakes along with Boston’s bevy of self-inflicted wounds proved to be too much for the Celtics to overcome.
Boston led most of the game before the Thunder eventually tied the game at 71 only for the Celtics to respond with a 9-2 run that put them back on top 80-73 with 9:35 to play.
Oklahoma City continued to fight back and eventually tied the game on a 3-pointer from Westbrook that made it a 92-all game.
Moments later, Avery Bradley put the Celtics back up with a short jumper and followed that up with a steal.
That would be the last lead the Celtics would enjoy as the Thunder closed out the game with a 15-6 run for the win.