With Paul George sidelined, Oklahoma City wasn’t able to pull off another miracle finish, losing 108-104 to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Down 10 with 2 minutes to go, Oklahoma City launched a furious comeback to close the lead to 3 with a minute to go. In a moment that was emblematic of their season, however, they then allowed Mike Scott to get a wide open 3 pointer. The Thunder were able to get the lead down to 2 with 26 seconds left after a heads up defensive play by Jerami Grant, but burned their last time out in the process. After Philadelphia’s ensuing miss went out of bounds off Russell Westbrook, the game was effectively over, and JJ Redick iced it from the line.
The Thunder certainly missed George down the stretch, as they struggled to generate good looks, with Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder both settling for difficult long range jump shots. But George’s absence was felt from the start. The Thunder elected to start the game with Markieff Morris in his place, but that starting 5 was a disaster, quickly falling behind by double digits. The 76ers were able to pass the ball around the Thunder's defense with ease throughout the entire first half, and the Thunder struggled to generate good offense. Westbrook went 2-8 in the quarter. Dennis Schroder entering the game helped to free up the offense somewhat, but the Thunder still trailed by 11 to end the quarter.
The Thunder would spend the rest of the night trying to overcome that early hole. They went score for score in the second quarter and still trailed by 11 at the half, then narrowed that lead to 7 by the end of the third quarter. The Thunder’s offense was much improved in those quarters, with Jerami Grant in particular having a big game, finishing with 23 points on 10-17 shooting. Unfortunately, he had 20 of those points by the end of the third quarter, and only added 3 in the final frame, as Schroder and Westbrook went into gunner mode in the fourth quarter with unfortunate results. Westbrook continued to look excellent in transition and was speedy getting to the rim, but he finished 1-9 on his 3 pointers and 8-24 overall, while Schroder finished 4-15.
The Thunder were able to stay in the game and nearly come back despite their guards’ struggles because their defense was quite sturdy after the first quarter. The Sixers had some success when they strung together multiple passes in generating open 3’s and dunks, but the Thunder also forced them into 13 turnovers and were able to force them to use the entire 24 second clock and settle for tough shots multiple times. Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick both had poor shooting nights, going 9-20 and 3-13, respectively.
Tobias Harris, however, was on fire all night for Philly. He had 10 points in the first quarter alone and got hot again in the 4th as Philly held off OKC’s comeback attempt, ultimately finishing with 32 points on 11-19 shooting, including 5-7 on 3’s. He was patient yet decisive attacking on switches and also got a number of good catch and shoot looks courtesy of Ben Simmons, who finished with 11 assists (Both Westbrook and Simmons posted triple doubles).
Despite the lack of Joel Embiid, the Thunder struggled all night to finish at the rim, often more due to their own errors than Philly’s defense. Despite a number of things going well for OKC in the second half- Grant and Morris both getting hot, Steven Adams pulverizing the Sixers on the offensive glass (he finished with 8 offensive rebounds and 14 total), that inability to finish gimmes at the rim reared it’s head at inopportune moments. That and the early deficit ultimately were too much to overcome, and OKC has now lost 3 straight, dropping them into a tie with Portland for 3rd place in the West.
The Thunder will be back in action Saturday night in San Antonio.