The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Philadelphia 76ers on the road, 117-115. In a back and forth game where OKC continuously stretched their lead only to see the Sixers catch up again, it game down to a final sequence which may go down as one of the more dramatic in the NBA this season.
After Joel Embiid (31 points, 11-19 shooting, 8 rebounds, 6 assists) was fouled by Russell Westbrook on a 3-point attempt (Westbrook’s 6 foul), the Thunder had 20 seconds to try and win the game. Then all this happened:
Paul “Swingin’ at the knees” George finished the game with 31, and 14 of those came in the 4th quarter on 4-7 shooting, 3-4 from three, and 3-3 on free throws. And OKC needed it all from him after surrendering a 9 point lead heading into the 4th, both at the free throw line (12-17) and the floor (11-16 shooting).
- Dennis Schroder was a baby’s breath away from becoming a major scapegoat in this torrid affair, as he got himself trapped against the sideline, leading to that horrible turnover that nearly cost OKC the win. That said, Dennis — despite still doing his “Dennis” thing of not really running any offense, was a critical component to the Thunder’s win, scoring 21 overall and 16 of those came in the first half.
- The Sixers are a different kind of team, far more physical than the Lakers and Hawks in OKC’s previous two losses, and it was almost as if it allowed the Thunder to regain their defensive posture. While the Sixer still shot a respectable 47% from the floor, 34% from three, and produced 39 free throws, it was nowhere near the defensive sieve OKC has been as of late. “Defense first” really matters to OKC.
- While Embiid got the best of Steven “Lumberjack” Adams statistically, it was a fun matchup to watch, as Adams was clearly juiced to go against the Cameroonian big man. This play, where as soon as he knew he had Embiid in front of him, resulted in a quick pivot and attack at the rim from 15 feet away.
- Speaking of lumberjacks, I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes by 76ers coach Brett Brown, on Steven Adams:
“I think that Steven is one of the elite players in the NBA...He’s one of my personal favourites...When you watch what he does and the commitment to the role that he plays, that is a man. And he plays with such a tenacity and a spirit.”
- Terrance Ferguson with some more clutch shot-making in this game, especially this one with under a minute to play, a key answer to a Jimmy Butler three seconds before:
Now let’s hope OKC stays focused and doesn’t get trapped again on MLK Day.