The Thunder’s best quarter of the season ended with an eight-point lead over the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.
Quarters two through four, however, saw Boston take Oklahoma City to school in a 96-83 loss before a sellout crowd of 19,136 at the Ford Center.
For a season excepted to be filled with lessons for a young Thunder squad, the veteran Celtics delivered the toughest test yet.
And rookie guard Russell Westbrook perhaps learned the most on this night.
Overshadowing Westbrook’s 13 points off the bench were the two ill-advised fouls he committed late in the first quarter, the first coming on a Boston inbounds pass underneath the Thunder’s basket. His foul two minutes later put Eddie House on the foul line.
Westbrook was immediately taken out of the game following the second foul with 1:38 remaining in the first quarter and did not return until 4:30 remained in the third quarter. By then, the Celtics had a controlling nine-point lead.
The rest of the Thunder found out the hard way what championship teams are made of.
Oklahoma City led 29-21 after a first period in which it shot 50 percent, made two 3-pointers and didn’t have a turnover while forcing the Celtics into three.
But Boston, despite playing in the second game of a back-to-back, then raced to a 15-2 run to take a 36-31 lead, capped by a Leon Powe layup with 7:18 remaining in the half.
The Thunder shot 5-for-23 in the second period and trailed 51-44 at the half. It would only get worse in the third period, as Oklahoma City missed 11 of 16 shots and turned the ball over eight times, leading to 11 Boston points.
"We took a difficult lesson because we had an opportunity with the start we had,” said Thunder coach P.