The Sixers gifted fans with a stress-free victory to end 2022, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-96 on Saturday night to avoid their third consecutive loss.
Tyrese Maxey was an early scratch for this one. James Harden and P.J. Tucker were later ruled out alongside him, all due to injury management.
Despite that, the Sixers were able to get right to work against an Oklahoma City Thunder team that are the youngest team in the league both age and experience wise, quickly jumping out to a double digit lead. By halftime, the lead was 26 for the Sixers.
Though, given the team’s recent history of blowing leads, Sixers fans held their breath, just in case. Well, you can all exhale, they kept this one comfortable. The Sixers never let the opponents within double-digits as the clock wound down, and they will return to Philadelphia with a win to take into 2023.
Tobias Harris led the Sixers tonight with 23 points, shooting 58.8% from the floor and dominating in the paint early. Joel Embiid checked out with his first triple-double of the season with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. De’Anthony Melton and Shake Milton rounded out the Sixers’ effort with 17 and 18 points, respectively. The Thunder were led by Josh Giddey with 20 points.
Here are some instant takeaways from this one.
- Scoring distribution looked a lot better early for Philadelphia. All five starters had scored with over eight minutes left in the quarter, contrary to recent performances where it seemed only Sixers named Joel Embiid and James Harden were allowed to score in the first.
- With P.J. Tucker out for injury management, Matisse Thybulle got the start covering Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Gilgeous-Alexander was held without a successful field goal until after Thybulle, who also sank two threes in the first frame, was subbed off. Gilgeous-Alexander ended up scoring 14 points on just 4 of 15 from the floor for the game, as the slow start limited his total.
- What an aggressive start for Tobias Harris. He shot 4-for-4 from the floor and 2-for-2 free throws, grabbed four rebounds and had three assists in the first eight minutes of the game.
https://t.co/T7wQ9ivkKw pic.twitter.com/eLq4zos6s3— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 1, 2023
- Seeing the Sixers actually out rebounding their opponent is a breath of fresh air. Montrezl Harrell deserves a shout-out here, grabbing four rebounds (three offensive) within about seven minutes on the court. He also had this nice slam courtesy of Shake Milton.
dear rim,— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 1, 2023
we are sorry.
love, admin. pic.twitter.com/i9NUrGiw3w
- Embiid moved up in the Sixers’ history books during the second, surpassing Andre Iguodala for 9th place all-time total points for Philadelphia.
- The Thunder can’t seem to make a shot. At halftime, Oklahoma City was shooting 36.4% from the floor and only 58.3% at halftime. By contrast, the Sixers shot 55.1% from the field and 75% from the line in the first half.
- The Sixers are just bigger and stronger than this young Thunder team, and it’s showing in the paint. In the first half, Philadelphia outscored Oklahoma City in the paint 40-22. Surprisingly, it wasn’t just the work of Embiid, either. Even Harris dunked!
- It was a sloppy start to the second half for the Sixers, who allowed the Thunder to get not one but two offensive rebounds leading to a sunken triple in their first trip down the floor. Philadelphia also committed two fouls and a turnover within the first few minutes back on the court. Sixers fans know better than anyone how fast a few mistakes can snowball into a blown lead. Luckily, that wasn’t the case here.
- Joel Embiid may not have had his best shooting night ever, but remained productive as a playmaker and on the boards throughout this one. He finished the third well on his way to a triple-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists headed into the fourth.
no stopping the big fella. pic.twitter.com/3RtO4NYE6Q— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 1, 2023
- The Sixers never gave up the lead, but they never capitalized on chances to extend their lead. The Thunder continued to make sloppy turnovers and miss shots, but the Sixers kept allowing their young opponents to get offensive rebounds and second chances. This could easily have been a 30-40 point lead for Philadelphia if they capitalized on all the opportunities they were given.
- Former Sixer Isaiah Joe hit two from long range in the third for the Thunder. Do with that information what you will.
- De’Anthony Melton started the fourth by putting up a block on 6-foot-7 Kenrich Williams and followed it up with a triple down the other end. On the next possession, Melton took it downcourt himself and drove straight to the net for an easy layup. He finished this one with 17 points.
look at @DeAnthonyMelton go! pic.twitter.com/xdmg6rikYs— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 1, 2023
- Embiid checked out with his triple-double, 16 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, with about four minutes left to play. Chasing the triple-double may be the only reason he played at all in the fourth, especially as time wound down.
- Not a bad finish for the Sixers. They never were able to extend their lead very much but they never let the Thunder within 15 to close it out. Plus we got to see a little of Paul Reed.
- The Sixers end 2022, and their four-game road trip, with a well-rounded, dominant victory. They will take the court again in Philadelphia on Monday for a rematch against the New Orleans Pelicans.