After 9 straight fourth quarter points from Louis Williams to put the Sixers up 5 with less than a minute left, all signs pointed to the Sixers knocking off Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant was not having that.
The next possession, Durant to the ball to the basket and created contact (good no-call) and hit an impressive floater than not many NBA players could make. The Sixers countered with an Andre Iguodala iso play that predictably ended horribly.
Thunder ball, 12 seconds left, I wonder who's getting the rock? The Sixers knew it, the fans knew it, Tobias Funke knew it; the ball was going to Durant for the tie. Russell Westbrook got the ball at the top of the key off the inbounds and Durant came off a screen that Dre plowed through. With his freakishly long reach, Durant quickly let the shot go despite Iguodala being all up in his business (I'm told this is a good phrase) and got nothing but nylon.
Despite the quick 5 point surge to tie the game, the Sixers still had 6.5 seconds to work something out and get a bucket for the win. Iguodala got the ball at the top of the key was determined to get to the cup. Unfortunately, he was a little too determined. Westbrook broke away from Thaddeus Young to get in front of Iguodala and successfully drew the charge. There was certainly an opportunity for Dre to dish it to Thad before plowing into Westbrook, who probably prematurely left Young on the block, but he didn't and overtime was coming.
Overtime turned out to be just as sloppy on the offensive side of the ball as the last couple minutes of regulation were for the Sixers. Only 4 points were accrued during those final minutes including 0 free throw attempts despite being in the penalty throughout. Too much isolation dribbling, sloppy passing, and careless decision making on the Sixers' end allowed the Thunder to escape with a victory despite having a less than impressive offensive overtime themselves.
The story of the game for the Thunder was clearly their duo of Durant and Westbrook. Westbrook was using his quickness, strength, and athleticism to get by Jrue Holiday or any other defender at will. To cap off his already terrific night, Russell hit the dagger in overtime to put the Thunder up 5 with under 24 seconds left. Jrue did exactly what he was supposed to do on that possession (which was to give Westbrook some room and force him to shoot rather than get to the basket) but Westbrook came out on the winning end.
Durants final statistical line was that of an NBA superstar (and not just because he scored over 20 points!). 34 points on 26 shots along with 16 defensive rebounds and the clutchest (word?) form of 3-pointer you could see during a regular season game rounded out his great evening. Unfortunately for Sixers fans, he was not added to the Igoudala Victim List tonight. That is no knock on Dre's defense though. Giving up 4 inches and what seems like a million inches (exaggeration) in length (Jay Bilas loves it), Iguodala did all he could to try to contain the NBA's highest scorer. He had a hand in Durant's face all night and limited his ability to get out on the break as much as you could hope for. This was just a night of great offense overcoming great defense.
I won't lie, this loss stings a little more than the blown losses earlier this year (with exception to the collapse in Orlando). With that said, there were some bright spots in this game. One of those things being Holiday's offensive production. Holiday was hitting just about every open jumper he was given and was finding teammates in rhythm throughout the entirety of the contest. A few nifty along with a couple crafty plays allowed Jrue to total 22 points and 8 assists. His defensive effort was certainly there but Westbrook was just too much for him. In addition, Jodie Meeks had his jumper working early on. Meeks connected on 3 of his first 4 triple attempts and also had some nice takes to the hoop (what?!?!) in the second half. The Jodiac Killer was also getting his rebound on, coming up one board shy of tying his season high of 8 (can anyone guess how many he had?).
The Sixers put forth an excellent effort but faltered yet again when it came down to the wire. Over the past few weeks, it appeared they've broken away from their early season blown game ways but playing a close on against one of the NBA's top teams will certainly turn that around quickly. Overall, an excellent effort tonight that certainly has gone noticed throughout Philadelphia. The crowd was absolutely rocking tonight as it was the first time in a while that I could hear a "Let's Go Sixers" chant clear as day on my TV without hearing it played over the PA system. As long of a way that this team still has to go to achieve the ultimate goal and also win games like these against top teams, it was certainly exciting to see these guys give it all and almost come away with an enormous victory.
Player of the Game: Jrue Holiday
And just for kicks, check out Dre's vicious throwdown on Serge Ibaka in the first half after the jump.
PS: We set a new world (okay, Liberty Ballers) record with over 740 comments in tonight's Game Thread. The previous record lasted just 3 days. We're doing big things. Way to go best friends!