The Oklahoma City Thunder took their first step in a world minus defensive specialist Andre Roberson and left no doubt that life goes on in a huge 122-112 victory over a Philadelphia 76’ers team that has been as hot or hotter than the Thunder since the beginning of the year. Russell Westbrook’s 37 points followed by Paul George’s 31 led the scoring charge to extend the Thunder’s winning streak to season-best 8 games, but it was Steven Adams 20 pt, 13 rebound rebound effort that stole the show.
What is your initial reaction to tonight’s result?
The Thunder obviously came into this one with a lot of emotion. As both friend and teammate, Andre Roberson’s season-ending knee injury was not only a blow to this team’s ability to play great defense, but to its heart as well. After the game, Paul George talked about how every man needing to work together to pick up the slack and it was clear in the early going and throughout the first half the Thunder were pressing a bit in an effort to do that. Shots that had fallen lately weren’t going in, but the team hung in there and went into halftime only down by a single point.
Ironically, the third quarter, a quarter that has been troublesome for OKC at times this season, turned into the Thunder’s biggest of the night. Just seconds after Carmelo Anthony cut a six-point Sixer lead in half with a big catch and shoot 3, Josh Huestis fouled Justin Anderson and put the Sixers into the bonus with just over 6 minutes remaining in the 3rd.
Needing a spark to turn things around, the Thunder got it when OKC ran a nice offensive set culminating with Paul George driving and drawing the defense then connecting with former Sixer, Jerami Grant, for the wide-open dunk. On the Sixers’ next possession, Grant drew a charging call on Dario Saric. The nice offensive play followed by the solid defensive play by Grant ignited a 16 to 4 Thunder run to end the quarter and enter the 4th with a 9 point lead.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
After some halftime adjustments, the Thunder perimeter defense picked up their intensity and it allowed Steven Adams not only a chance to do better against Joel Embiid, holding the Sixers’ big man to just 10 points after scoring 17 points in the first half, but kept Adam’s foul-free the rest of the way as well.
Keeping Adams out of foul trouble in the second half gave the Thunder an extra 6 minutes of the Funaki’s exemplary board work, inside scoring, and bone-jarring screens that were keys to the Thunder’s 62 to 44 advantage in the paint and a huge reason OKC came away with the win.
R.K’s Round Table -
Thunder Wonder: Who else? The Funaki, Steven Adams, 20 pts, 13 TRB, 10ORB’s
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook and Paul George, the tandem scored 68 pts combined and have averaged 61.6 pt/gm in the Thunder’s last 5 outings.
Thunder Blunder: Alex Abrines, the young Spaniard still can’t find his groove.
Thunder Plunderer: Joel Embiid, the former Kansas star is the real deal. His size combined with the ability to score from anywhere on the floor makes the Sixers one of the scariest playoff match-ups in the East.
The Thunder travel to Capital One Arena for a rematch with the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, January 30th, at 6:00 p.m. cst. The Thunder doesn’t want to let up after an emotional win tonight and a relatively easy 9-point win over the Wiz-kids just days ago in OKC because Scott Brook’s boys are much better at home than they are on the road.
Hopefully, the earlier start will be to J.A. Sherman’s liking.
Give us your thoughts on tonight’s game in the comment section below.