Kevin Durant likes Philadelphia. He may say that about every city he visits that is home to an NBA franchise, but his fondness for the city (and hopefully the basketball team that plays in it) makes sense. Philly is the current home of Sixers assistant coach Jesse Wright, a "father figure" to Durant who he has known dating back to his one season at the University of Texas.
The chances Durant ever hits the open market this summer are slim, and the chances he would sign with the Sixers are even slimmer. But what's the point of living if you can't have an occasional dream? Maybe the Sixers wanted to showcase to Durant the solid young core they were building, or maybe they were just tired of being run over by other teams in the past few months, but they came out and gave Oklahoma City all they had. Well, maybe in the first half, that is.
Riding on the backs of Nik Stauskas's 13 points, Philadelphia found themselves down just six points going into half time, large in part to holding Oklahoma City to just 2-12 shooting from beyond the arc. For the most part, the Sixers played fun, watchable basketball.
Then the floodgates opened up. They started the third quarter on a 16-7 run and never really looked back, winning by a final of 111-97. Oklahoma City's size advantage over the short handed Sixers was the clear difference in this one. Philadelphia got outrebounded 63-36, which led to a ton of second chance points for the opponents. The Sixers did not have an offensive rebound until the 6:52 mark of the third quarter.
Oklahoma City also used their two-headed front court monster of Enes Kanter and Steven Adams to dominate the paint, leaving Nerlens Noel looking relatively helpless. The pair combined for 28 points on 12-20 shooting to go with 18 rebounds, and the team outscored Philadelphia in the paint 58-36.
Naturally, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook also made their impact felt. Westbrook scored around the rim with relative ease, and when someone did try to contest his shot, he simply dunked over them.
Russell Westbrook throwing it down over Jerami Grant!https://t.co/0Lom9gSNBy— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) March 19, 2016
He finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists. Durant added 26 points and 13 rebounds of his own, abusing the poor Hollis Thompson who really had little business covering him.
For the Sixers, Nerlens Noel finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds, but struggled to manage his own in the paint against the Thunder's giant post players. Nik Stauskas also set a new career-high with 23 points on 9-15 shooting, including 5-7 from beyond the arc.
Philadelphia may have been blown out in the end, but hopefully they showed enough fight early on that Kevin Durant wouldn't totally laugh in their face if the Sixers ever came calling. I can at least dream.