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Moses Brown’s record-setting performance not enough, as Thunder stumble to Celtics 111-94

With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (plantar fasciitis) and Al Horford (rest) out for the long-haul, the short-handed Thunder gave the Celtics a run for their money — but ultimately fell 111-94. Oklahoma City dropped to 19-26 with the loss, undisputedly snatching the 13th seed in the West after weeks of being knotted with the now 20-25 Pelicans. Boston with the win has reached the horizon line, sitting at an even 23-23 through 46 games.

The Thunder found their stride right out the gate, torching the Celtics to a 14-2 run in the opening five minutes. Oklahoma City maintained a double-digit lead for the better half of the period, sourcing their success by holding Boston to a paltry 34.6% en route to a 25-21 first quarter lead. The Thunder honed in from three to surface their shots (4-of-11 3pt FG) while shutting the Celtics down to a 1-of-11 void from distance.

Mark Daigneault looked to his young guns to fire the second quarter — inserting forward Josh Hall back on the floor for his first NBA action since February 1. Despite Daigneault searching for a flurry of options — this quarter was all Moses Brown. Brown churned out video game numbers in the period, utilizing his 7-foot-2 frame to suffocate Boston’s small-ball lineup to the tune of 14 points, and 12 rebounds (4 off.) Brown’s overwhelming presence coupled with 8-of-11 made team free throws, barred the Celtics off of any advantage, carrying a 52-47 lead at half. 

Moses Brown topped Wednesday’s record performance, reaching a double-double   8 minutes, 11 seconds into play. Not only did Brown notch the second fastest double-double in Thunder history, the 21-year-old topped Wednesday’s personal-best of a double-double in 13 minutes, 15 seconds. Brown forced Stevens to deploy Tacko Fall into the mix at the sunset stages of the half but it was far too late, as the big man dropped 17 points (6-of-6 FG) and 19 rebounds — setting a new franchise rebound record in a half.

Oklahoma City’s second half started exactly as how you’d expect — a Moses Brown posterizer. Lu Dort headed to the locker room a minute inside the period, clashing with Jaylen Brown’s elbow in an effort to steamroll inside off a headfirst drive. The Thunder didn’t let Dort’s absence clog up their offense, building a double-digit lead a mere possession later; but two Jaylen Brown triples erased the mini-run before it could come to its fruition. Oklahoma City’s lead wavered around six for a good chunk of the quarter, but it came with some highlights. Aleksej Pokusevski submitted his SportsCenter big midway through the third, faking a pass before bisecting two defenders on the left wing before soaring in for a one-handed sledgehammer. Pokusevski appeared bothered by his right knee on the other end, forcing the Thunder into a new playstyle, while opening the door for the Celtics. Boston bullied Oklahoma City’s small-ball lineup, using Brown and Poku’s absence to claw right to the basket for high quality looks. The Celtics shaved down the deficit to 3 with four to go; however, the Thunder’s pristine 4-of-9 three-point shooting in the quarter placed them up 80-76. 

In the final period’s onset, Brad Stevens replicated every G-League coach in existence, congesting Brown with two white jerseys — it paid off. The Celtics rattled off a 12-2 run highlighted by two Luke Kornet triples, inflating the spurt to a 19-2 run. Oklahoma City attempted to combat Boston, but nothing shook them as they snowballed to a 26-8 run, and the victory.

The Thunder kept this game close, and actually led the game for the majority of the contest — their 17-point collapse really won’t tell you the whole story.

Moses Brown as aforementioned has placed his name in the record books for the second game in a row. The 21-year-old feasted on small-ball center’s in Robert and Grant Williams to the point Brad Stevens sprung Tacko Fall into action for spurts in this game.

Brown tallied two career-highs in his first ever 20/20 game, posting 21 points (8-of-10 FG) and 23 rebounds in 32 minutes. Brown’s 23 rebounds at this games ending point matched a franchise record placed by Steven Adams against a Willie Cauley-Stein-led Kings in 2018.

“I just wanted to come out and set the tone with my energy. Just knowing how to get the space and knowing how to box out, utilizing my size,” said Brown.

Brown finished the night with 5 dunks and 3 putbacks, with one play being a two-handed putback off a miss.

Theo Maledon sat right on the doorstep of a career-high Saturday, drenching Boston with 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting, just one digit shy of his career-best. Maledon led the team with four made triples on the night, while also falling second-in-line behind Brown in rebounds — he snagged 8.

“He is playing calm and easy…He is playing great,” said Pokusevski.

Aleksej Pokusevski had a night of his own against Boston, boasting a career-high 5 assists to cater his 8 point outing. Pokusevski’s point total didn’t come easy, the 19-year-old converted 3 shot attempts; however it still took 10 tries to get there. Pokusevski’s aforementioned third quarter slam highlighted the 7-footer’s performance, and his block and steal made him a versatile option the whole game.

“We ran a play, and I was just going for a layup and I felt good about a dunk so I went up there,” said Pokusevski on his highlight jam.

Kenrich Williams and Lu Dort rounded the roster with 12 and 10 points respectively. Williams’ 5-of-9 outing came from all three levels (2-of-4 3pt FG), while Dort was on pace to harbor twenty before his injury — he is currently placed in concussion protocol.

Josh Hall‘s return to the lineup appeared rocky with 1-of-5 shooting, but the 20-year-old’s athleticism to hang-glide in layup attempts gives off the effect Daigneault wants to see more.

Next up, the Oklahoma City Thunder (19-26) will take on the Dallas Mavericks (23-21) at the ‘Peake.

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