During a weekend where billions of dollars were pumped into the U.S. economy, we all received something for free tonight. Unfortunately for Sixers' fans, the five minutes of extra basketball that was played at the Wells Fargo Center ended with the Oklahoma City Thunder escaping Philadelphia with a 116-109 overtime win.
All things considered, the Sixers performed about as well as one could expect them to against a potent Thunder squad that has its eyes on a return trip to the NBA Finals. There is no such thing as a good loss, but the lessons that the 76ers can take out of this game will eventually lead to a few wins later in the year.
For a team that has struggled at getting out of the blocks this season, the first few minutes of tonight's game were completely out of character for Doug Collins' crew. The Sixers made eight of their first 11 shots against the Thunder and actually led midway through the first quarter.
The air would be let out of the balloon soon enough: Oklahoma City closed the quarter with an 11-2 run and finished the opening session with an eight-point lead.
The seesaw went the other way in the second quarter as the Sixers' went into halftime trailing by a single point thanks to the efforts of a trio of wing players. Evan Turner (9 points), Jason Richardson (9) and Thaddeus Young (8) combined to score 26 of the Sixers' 28 second-quarter points.
Both teams played well in the third quarter, but neither Philadelphia nor Oklahoma City were able to put the game out of reach in the fourth. The Sixers had nine separate possessions where they could have taken the lead in the final period, but failed to capitalize on any of them.
That said, when the Thunder had the ball with 3.4 seconds left with the game tied at 98, Thaddeus Young (who had 29 points and 15 rebounds on the night) did a fantastic job at denying the inbounds pass to Kevin Durant (who finished with a game-high 37 points), and the Thunder weren't even able to get a shot off.
Overtime is typically the sandbox of superstars, so it was no surprise that Russell Westbrook (30 points, nine assists) and Durant each knocked down clutch 3s in the extra session to help put the game out of reach for the Thunder. And with those shots, the stark reality of the NBA reared its head once again.
It's no mystery: It's difficult to contend in the NBA without a transcendent talent. And when a team without one happens to face a team that has two of them, it often takes a Herculean effort (or a special set of circumstances) to pull out a victory in a close contest.
To their credit, the Sixers left everything they had out on the floor tonight. They actually moved the ball pretty well for the majority of the game, recording 31 assists on 45 made baskets. And while they were more aggressive at trying to get to the rim, they weren't able to turn that into trips to the charity stripe. On the night, Oklahoma City was 32-for-37 from the line, while Philadelphia was a mere 12-for-17. Durant (15-for-17 from the line) attempted as many free throws as the entire Sixers' team combined.
Evan Turner played like a man who still has a chip on his shoulder following his skirmish with Durant this past February. Confidence is a hard characteristic to judge from afar, but Turner was clearly more assertive than he's been perhaps all year: His 17 field goal attempts were two shy of a season high.
Some of that was perhaps borne out of necessity. After Jrue Holiday picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter, Turner (who also did a fantastic job of guarding Westbrook) inherited most of the ball-handling duties.
After a promising first half for Holiday (four points, 10 assists), the Sixers' lead guard simply couldn't get going after picking up two early fouls in the third quarter. While it's heartening that the Sixers nearly beat the Thunder despite a subpar effort by Holiday, the team simply won't win many games when it's best player scores only six points.
With the Phoenix Suns heading to the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, there won't be much time to dwell on tonight's proceedings. The Suns have the worst defense in the NBA (103.2 PPG) and also lack a superstar - hopefully, tomorrow will be a bit easier.
Injury update: Jason Richardson. After scoring 13 first-half points against the Thunder, Richardson re-injured his ankle again:
Per Doug Collins: Jason Richardson sprained his ankle (again) which is why he didn't return for the Sixers tonight.— Kami Mattioli (@kmattio) November 25, 2012
Player of the game: Thaddeus Young. The former Georgia Tech star had 29 points, 15 rebounds and four assists on the night, and played pretty decent defense to boot.
|Final - 11.24.2012
|Oklahoma City Thunder