Thunder Celtics Basketball

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski (17) drives against Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday in Boston.

During his preseason media availability in September, Oklahoma City Thunder Sam Presti said he would allow the league’s youngest team a chance to declare itself this season.

Despite ultimately losing to the top-record Boston Celtics, 126-122, it’s fair to say that the Thunder has declared itself as a team not to take lightly.

Against the Celtics, the Thunder were on the verge of pulling one of the biggest upsets of the young 2022-23 season by stealing a road game against the 2022 Eastern Conference champions.

But the Thunder’s youth was in full display in the fourth quarter.

Leading 96-89 heading into the final 12 minutes, the Celtics – behind the heroics of Marcus Smart – were able to outscore the Thunder 37-26 in the fourth quarter to secure their league-best 11th win.

Despite the immediate frustration of blowing a 15-point lead, the last week should encourage the Thunder as multiple players on the team have appeared to take the next step in their personal development.

Here are four thoughts from the Thunder’s 126-122 loss to the Celtics:

1. Gilgeous-Alexander outplays Celtics’ Tatum, Brown

In a game that featured two-time All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum and one-time All-NBA forward Jaylen Brown, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the one who stood out the most on the court at TD Garden.

After scoring 37 points in a 145-135 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday evening, Gilgeous-Alexander followed it up with an another 37-point performance against a much better Celtics team.

In 13 games this season, the 24-year-old is averaging 31.5 points on an absurd 53.9 percent shooting, 5.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds.

2. Pokusevski continues to develop

After spending the last two seasons experiencing ups and downs, Aleksej Pokusevski has found consistency. Before rolling his ankle, Aleksej Pokusevski was arguably the best player on the Thunder and found a groove against the Celtics.

Overall, Pokusevski finished with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, 14 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. This game marks the fourth consecutive start for Pokusevski and it’s hard to see him lose his starting spot with consistent performances like these.

3. OKC suddenly an offensive juggernaut?

In its first 10 games of the season, the Thunder ranked 20th in offensive rating at 110.6 points scored per 100 possessions.

Since then? They’ve averaged 132.8 points on 52.3 percent shooting and shot 43 percent on 35.5 three-point attempts in four games.

Those shooting splits are likely unsustainable, but the way the team finding is shooting with contagious ball movement is something that could be carried over in the long run.

4. Injury updates

{p dir=”ltr”}Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault had several injury updates before the game.

The biggest one involved No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren. After being spotted putting up shots without a walking boot before Sunday’s game against the Knicks, Daigneault said that Holmgren no longer needs it on at all times.{p dir=”ltr”}”His recovery is not behind or ahead of what’s normal. It’s going very well. You’re going to see him do more and more as time goes on. He’s doing a great job of it,” Daigneault said. “He should be really proud the way he’s (rehabbing) so far.”{p dir=”ltr”}Holmgren is still expected to wear the boot when he’s not participating in physical activities.{p dir=”ltr”}Tre Mann, who exited the Knicks game due to lower back soreness, is currently going through extensive treatment. It’s unknown how much time he’ll miss and Daigneault notes it’s a delicate situation where the team is trying to avoid making it worse.{p dir=”ltr”}As mentioned earlier, Pokusevski exited the game in the third quarter after a nasty ankle roll caused him to visibly be in pain. Pokusevski was able to return but notably looked a step slower.{p dir=”ltr”}Darius Bazley missed his third consecutive game with an ankle sprain.

Clemente Almanza is a sports reporter intern for The Transcript. You can reach him via email at calmanza@normantranscript.com or on Twitter @CAlmanza1007

Trending Video

Recommended for you