In a barometer game for the Oklahoma City Thunder, they flexed their muscles against the defending Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics but came up just short.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander dropped his ninth 30-point game of the season and assisted on 21 points, but a 41-28 run through the final 14:30 of the game bolstered the league-leading Celtics to their 11th win of the season.
The reality is OKC shouldn’t have been in the game at any point. The Celtics are the best team in the NBA, playing the youngest team in the NBA at home. MVP candidate Jayson Tatum scored 27 points, but it took him 23 shots to do so. He was 1-of-7 from 3. Jaylen Brown carried the load, scoring 26 points on 53% shooting, and Marcus Smart played a lead role in Boston’s comeback, scoring 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter with numerous clutch defensive stops.
Though OKC lost, like a few other games they’ve lost this season, there’s a lot to smile about following an excellent performance.
OKC scored more than 120 points for the fourth-straight game due to the contributions from a very deep cast of players. Last season, it was Lu Dort, SGA, and a bunch of young, raw talent. This year, SGA, Dort, Josh Giddey, a weirdly impactful Aleksej Pokusevski, Tre Mann, Jalen Williams, and whoever else wants to seemingly pop out of nowhere to be a major contributor for a game.
Dort scored 21 points and was part of the reason Tatum had such an inefficient night. Williams looks more comfortable as a supporting cast member for OKC, scoring 14 points, six rebounds, and two assists on 6-of-9 shooting. One game after recording his fifth-career triple-double, Giddey scored 16 points and pulled down seven rebounds and four assists.
The star of the show, however, was Poku, who is so much better than anyone expected him to be less than two years after being drafted as an extremely raw player. Well, nearly two years shy of his second NBA anniversary, Poku faced his mentor, Al Horford (who played for OKC in 2020-21), and outplayed him, scoring 16 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks.
“Poku had Horford tonight, which, it’s a great contrast,” Mark Daigneault said. “We obviously had Horford when Poku was a rookie. If you told me that two years later Poku would be playing 37 minutes and guarding Horford … I would’ve checked to do a sobriety test.”
Fourteen games into the season, it’s evident that the Thunder will be competitive this season, and they’re (at least right now) trying to win as many games as possible. I expect them to win many more games than expected this season, thanks, of course, to their “next man up” mentality and deceptively stout supporting cast.