Thunder squanders 18-point halftime lead in loss to Celtics

The Thunder stood motionless as Kyrie Irving’s free throw bounced off the iron and into the open lane. When Irving rebounded and scored, the shortest player and only Celtics player in between a mass of blue bodies, the Thunder’s biggest early-season letdown was complete.

All preseason, the Thunder talked about its defensive aspirations, the quest to be No. 1 in the NBA. It’s (very) early, but the potential to be defensively dominant was evident in the Thunder’s 101-94 loss the Celtics on Friday.

That potential was also missing for most of the second half of Friday’s collapse.

“I think we kind of let up a little bit,” Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony said. “… kinda let up on the intensity level we had in that first half coming out in the third quarter.”

Paul George led the Thunder with 25 points, and his leaning 3-pointer cut Boston’s lead to 97-94 with 38.1 seconds left, but that was after the Thunder squandered an 18-point halftime lead.

It was also after Irving started cooking. Irving paced the Celtics with 25 points, his putback in traffic a microcosm of the Thunder’s drastic change from halfcourt terrors for two quarters to stretched and broken by the Celtics’ offense after halftime.

The Celtics entered as No. 1 in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions (95.1). The Thunder was right behind

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