Celtics fall to Thunder 105-104

Oklahoma City's Chris Paul passes the ball off against Daniel Theis during the first half. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

BOSTON (AP) — Dennis Schroder stripped the ball from Kemba Walker and scored on a layup with 8.5 seconds to help the Oklahoma City Thunder rally to beat the Boston Celtics 105-104 on Sunday night.

Chris Paul led the Thunder, who overcame an 18-point first-half deficit, with 28 points and seven assists. Schroder added 27 points and six assists as OKC won its third straight.

The Thunder played without leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who sat for the first time this season with a hip bruise that he suffered in their win at New York on Friday.

Boston had a chance to win the game, but Jayson Tatum was short on a fadeaway. Walker rebounded, but was unable to get off a shot as time expired. The Celtics have lost four straight at home.


Gordon Hayward led the Celtics with 24 points. Tatum had 19 points and Marcus Smart added 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Boston took a 100-99 lead with less than four minutes to play when Smart found Tatum with a no-look, behind-the-back pass for a layup.

Paul was fouled by Smart a few trips later and hit a pair of free throws to put OKC back in front.

Smart lost the ball on a drive to the basket on Boston’s next trip and Paul extended the Thunder’s lead to 103-100.

Daniel Theis got a dunk out of a Boston’s timeout. Smart kept alive a loose ball on the Thunder’s next possession to help start Celtics’ fast break, which ended up in the hands of Tatum for a layup to put Boston up 104-103.


Hayward returned for the Celtics after a two-game absence because of a right knee bruise. But Jaylen Brown missed his third straight game with a right hamstring strain.

Oklahoma City has been one of the hottest teams in the NBA since Christmas, playing themselves into the middle of a crowded fight for playoff seeding in the Western Conference.

Boston entered the day looking to get back on track after a rash of injuries.

OKC handled Gilgeous-Alexander’s absence well early, leading by as many as eight.

But its defense fell apart during a big second-quarter run by Boston. The Celtics built a 63-45 lead late in the period, but got sloppy over the final 1:08 of the half as OKC closed with a 7-0 run to stay within striking distance. It ignited a 43-23 run by the Thunder.



Thunder: Bench outscored the Celtics 41-17. … Used 12-0 run in the first quarter to take a 28-20 lead.

Celtics: Tatum was whistled for a technical by referee Eric Lewis with 7:07 left after he slammed the ball to the ground in response to being called for an offensive foul. … Robert Williams briefly went to the locker room early in the fourth quarter after landing awkwardly while battling for a rebound. … Outscored the Thunder 37-23 in the second quarter, going 6 of 11 from the 3-point line.


Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he is mindful of managing the usage of Gilgeous-Alexander, who ranks 11th in the NBA in minutes per game (35.1). He played in all 82 games as a rookie last season.


“There’s been some games where I think I probably could’ve done a better job with him. I think here of late his minutes have been somewhat reasonable,” Donovan said. “We’ve had some games against some tough opponents where his minutes have gotten up around 38, 39, which in my opinion is too much for him. … So I’m definitely mindful of where he’s at.”


Thunder: Host Utah on Wednesday.

Celtics: At Indiana on Tuesday, beginning a stretch of seven of nine on the road.

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