It was very clear from the beginning that the Thunder wanted to inflict their will inside on the Sixers with Embiid having those back issues the last two games. He did start, but the 20 points in the paint reflected the Thunder’s desire to pound the Sixers inside early. Oklahoma City shot very well from all over the court shooting 54% from the field in the first quarter building a lead to as large as 16.
Steven Adams only had two offensive rebounds in the first quarter but it felt like he had way more than that. The best team in the NBA in terms of offensive rebounds came as advertised grabbing four in the first 12 minutes. That plus the shooting gave the Thunder a lead as high as 16 at one point.
The Sixers closed the first quarter on a 10-2 run to end the quarter down by eight thanks in large part to JJ Redick’s one man crusade to keep the team from getting blown out at home on national television (10 pts, 3-4 FG).
The second quarter began with more good shooting and continuing to play catch up after a not so good first quarter (30.8% FG). It also included a nice return to the early 1990s style of basketball with Joel Embiid and Steven Adams going back-and-forth like Ewing and Mourning once did. (I loved the flashback, by the way.)
Defense was much better in the second quarter. The Sixers held the Thunder to 41.7% shooting and allowed 26 points. Westbrook and Paul George were a combined 7-19 from the field and only 18 points combined, but Adams was doing a lot of the damage (12 points, 6-9 from the field) with Dennis Schroder backing him up with 14 points off the bench.
The offense showed life in the second quarter as well in the form of Landry Shamet – who came into the game shooting fireballs going 3-3 from deep. That helped offset Jimmy Butler being 1 for 8 in the first half. Redick paced the Sixers overall with 13 points in the half followed by Embiid’s 10 points and Simmons’s nine points, nine rebounds, and four assists.
The entire third quarter felt weird. The Thunder couldn’t really take control of the game only making seven of their 18 attempted shots, but the Sixers couldn’t do much, either missing 10 of their 17 attempts. No one had a particularly dominant quarter, but somehow, the Thunder extended their lead to 88-79 at the end of three quarters.
Going into the fourth, the Sixers continued to hang around and not allow that nine point lead to end the third get any worse. They took the lead at 97-95 with just under six minutes to go in the fourth on a Ben Simmons lay up, and the see-saw began from there. A Paul George three with 5:00 to go gave the Thunder the lead back at 100-99 and started a 7-0 run that gave OKC a 105-99 lead.
Fast forward a bit to the last two minutes of the game which was just crazy town. Jimmy Butler and Terrence Ferguson traded three point buckets to make it 111-107 and a Butler jump shot made the Sixers deficit two. George sank two more free throws to make it 113-110 with under twenty seconds. On the ensuing possession, Westbrook fouled Embiid attempting a three (Westbrook’s sixth foul). Embiid sank all three to tie the game at 113.
Then, something magical happened.
On the Thunder inbounds play, Simmons and Mike Muscala trapped in the back court leading to a desperation heave that was intercepted by Jimmy Butler at half court. Butler finished at the hoop, and the Sixers led by two with seven seconds left. What happened next? Paul. God. Damn. George.
Paul. Em. Eff’ing. George!
Of course, this happens, right? The Sixers are on the cusp of beating a team for only the second time in 19 tries lets this one slip through their fingers. Looking back, it was a nice out of time out play designed by Billy Donovan, so props to him, I guess.
This loss just stings because the win was RIGHT THERE.
Embiid finished with 31 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Simmons had 20/15/9, and Butler despite his horrific start finished with 18. Redick poured in 22, and as it has been, the bench was non-existent with only 20 points. For the Thunder, George’s game winner gave him 31 points total, Westbrook finished with 21/10/6, Steven Adams finished with 16 and 9 rebounds (7 OFFENSIVE). Dennis Schroder had 21 off the bench for OKC.
This one hurts, folks … and it hurts even more because I was at the arena to witness the crushing defeat.