The Oklahoma City Thunder entered Tuesday night’s contest against the Boston Celtics losers of 14 straight.
For their part, the Green had also failed to impress of late, dropping three of the previous four contests. Something had to give.
And for the first time this month, Oklahoma City wound up in the win column with a 119-115 victory at TD Garden.
No Jayson Tatum (scheduled day off) and no Kemba Walker (nursing an injury sustained Sunday against the Hornets) meant plenty of problems for Boston, as they trailed for most of the first half despite 15 turnovers by the opposition. Jaylen Brown and Payton Pritchard combined for 35 points in the first 24 minutes while the rest of the squad clanged away, making just 7-of-29 field goals (0-for-14 from behind the arc).
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City attacked the hoop, got Tristan Thompson in foul trouble, and encountered little resistance at the rim with Robert Williams (left knee soreness) out for a seventh consecutive contest.
After two-plus periods of staring at a deficit that occasionally swelled to double digits, Boston finally tied it at 71 on a Pritchard layup with 4:19 left in the third. The lead pinballed back and forth from that point, with the Thunder switching their strategy to swishing away from deep. It was tied at 78 after three.
Boston matched OKC’s marksmanship for a stretch, but the lead crept back to double digits midway through the fourth before a furious 7-0 Boston run made it a one possession game with just under a minute left. Pritchard drilled a three and full-court pressure produced a layup for Evan Fournier and a couple of free throws for Marcus Smart following another steal.
The Thunder weathered that storm, but a three-point heave for Jaylen Brown and subsequent OKC turnover with less than 10 seconds remaining made it a one possession game. The visitors put Fournier on the line; he made the first attempt then seemed to miss the second on purpose, with OKC securing the defensive rebound and the win.
Brown posted 39 points on 13-of-26 shooting. He also ripped down 11 rebounds. Pritchard chipped in a career-high 28.
OKC put five players in double figures, led by Luguentz Dort with 24.
Boston is now 32-30, stuck with Miami in a tie for sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Per Brad Stevens, Williams is expected back for tomorrow night’s rematch with the Hornets. Charlotte dispatched the Green 125-104 Sunday afternoon in the Queen City. Pregame coverage gets underway at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday night on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Talk hoops with him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.